Recognizing a Learning Experience
A few weeks ago, I was talking to a young lady who used to work at the firm but is now training to become a cop. We keep in touch, and I’m something of a mentor to her. Recently, she applied to a position at the sheriff’s department, and part of the application involves an agility test that includes carrying 50-pound weight and climbing over a six-foot wall. In order to pass, you have to finish within two minutes and thirty seconds. She clocked in at around three minutes, failing the test.
“Don’t use the word fail,” I told her when she called me to break the bad news. “You didn’t fail; you learned. Most people are never able to get over that wall, but you did. You know you can do it. Now you can practice and train and improve for next time.”
I’d like to think my advice helped her. She’s a good person, and I know she’ll make a great cop. Before we got off the phone, she said, “That’s the great thing about talking to you, Ramiro. You don’t ever seem to be down.”
It’s a nice compliment, but the truth is I do get down sometimes, just like everybody else. But I don’t stay there. I look around, find a reason why my life is pretty darn good, and I look ahead to what I need to do next. No matter what knocks me down, I know how to get back up.
I’ve told my kids that failure is okay as long as you learn something from the experience and go at it again. My whole life has been a series of learning experiences. Back when I wanted to get into law school, I learned what I needed to score on a test called the LSAT. This is an incredibly hard test, and if I wanted to have any hope of passing, I needed to take a class just to prepare. When I looked into it, I discovered that this class was pretty expensive, especially for someone like me who was paying my own way through school.
The only way I was going to afford that class and pass the LSAT was by working extra hours and saving up. At the time, I was working as a contractor for Compact Computers. I started working extra hours, but every time I got close to having enough for the test, something would come up. My car would break down or a big bill would come in.
I decided I just had to work even more to get over the hump, but Compact had a rule against working over 60 hours in a week. I broke that rule so many times, a supervisor started escorting me out of the building whenever I reached 60 hours. So, then I got a brilliant idea to start working for another contract company to get those extra hours. This new company also put me to work at Compact but in a different division. I was able to work 60 hours in one division, and an extra 20–30 hours in the other.
Yes, this was exhausting. At one point I came home, knelt down to take off my boots, and fell asleep right there by the front door. I didn’t wake up until morning. But it was worth it. I was finally able to save up enough money to take the class that helped me pass the LSAT and get into law school.
There have been countless times in my life when I could have given up after “failing,” like when I couldn’t afford the LSAT class or when I struggled to save up enough money. But instead, I looked at the situation, figured out what I need to do, and put in the hard work. Moving past failure isn’t easy, but I will always say that it’s worth it.