Career and Work Uni Life

Using failure as fuel to succeed

In another post I shared how challenging it was for me to opt for a career change after 30. Now I want to talk to you about some important lessons I learned in this journey.

Since I decided to change my career and study information technology, there were countless times I considered giving up because the challenges seemed too difficult to overcome, or because I saw myself as inferior to the whole group. The first time I had algorithm classes, I remember thinking  ‘I will never learn this!’. It was my desire to stand up from my chair and leave the classroom immediately. But I reminded myself that the reason that brought me to that class was exactly the challenge, and challenges are like that; they take you out of your comfort zone, leave you with butterflies in your stomach and force you to discover new skills and new ways of approaching problems.

Now, when I look back, I am happy I did not give up at that point. In contrast, I decided to spend more hours studying and doing exercises that could help me understand the content with which I was struggling. It was not easy, I made lots of mistakes and the codes that I developed were far from clean codes. 

But I tried to be compassionate to myself, I embraced all my failures and appreciated even my small achievements because they contributed to building the strong foundational knowledge I have in algorithms today. I applied this persistence to all other courses that I faced difficulties with throughout my studies. As a result, at the end of 2020 I received the Griffith Award for Academic Excellence, which places me in the top 5% of students across the University.

The initial challenge in my first algorithm classes, along with many other challenges throughout my academic journey taught me important lessons about resilience that I would like to share, especially with those who might be feeling frustrated, demotivated and hopeless about a certain course:

  1. Effort equals reward

The rule is very simple: when you persist and are not afraid of making mistakes, you will be rewarded.The moment that you realise that you are able to overcome difficult challenges, this will give you confidence. The truth is, every small win will serve as fuel for the next big challenges. 

  1. Be compassionate

 look at yourself in the mirror and say “Don’t be too hard with yourself. It’s ok not to be perfect. It’s ok to fail”. We are afraid of failing; but think what would happen if, when you were a kid, you stopped trying to walk after taking the first step and falling. You would not be walking today, right? So why would it be different with other difficult moments in your life? Embrace your failures as part of the path to success, be patient and compassionate about your struggles. You will get there! 

  1. Having a mentor

Having a mentor in the field that you want to work in is an experience that can motivate you, help bring some professional focus and also give you new perspectives of your career path. In another future post I will talk more about my experience with my mentor from Cisco. If you are excited about finding a mentor too, a good way to start is by the student mentoring programs offered by Griffith University.

  1. Don’t compare yourself with others

Each of us have our own unique life experience and you should focus on your trajectory, instead of following the steps of others. It’s good to have people you look up too, but be careful where you put yourself compared to them. Be humble but try to avoid constantly looking at your inspirations from down to up, this might impose some barriers to your development and leave you always in the position of creature (vs creator).

  1. Try to find your way of learning 

Each of us have our own way of learning something. Personally, I learn better when I write, draw and make schemas. I also learn by doing, and by making mistakes and trying to fix them. Another thing that motivates me to learn is when I feel challenged. So, what’s your way? Don’t expect that your lecturer will know the best teaching method for the whole class. It is a very subjective matter and you should be the designer of your own learning experience. This is a very important skill nowadays.

  1. The feeling of being a pro might never come (accept that!)

Remember that in the world we live in today you might never feel like a pro at anything. The world is changing too fast and you will face learning challenges throughout your whole life. Don’t be surprised if the knowledge that you acquire today might be totally useless in future. That’s very likely to happen and that’s totally ok too. Therefore, your focus should be on becoming a good learner and preparing yourself to constantly feel comfortable in an uncomfortable zone. That’s the new trend. 

Finally, the message here is that resilience is about overcoming challenges in a way that is healthy and that makes you stronger than you were before. So, don’t beat yourself up when you fail or don’t get things the first go. In contrast, be compassionate, persistent, surround yourself with positivity and inspirational people and try to find your own way of learning, knowing that learning how to learn is the skill that we will need the most in the job market in future. In fact, that’s already happening.


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