What would success be without failure? Without struggles we would never learn. It has taken me a long time to fully grasp this mentality, and some days it still feels very far away. Just as looks can be deceiving, so can success. No matter what anyone tries to tell you, success is not a final destination. It is a journey that we each must take. Part of the journey involves inevitable "failures," or at the very least a little baptism by fire. The gift of failure is learning how to navigate through any future difficulties.
I grew up in a chaotic environment that often times hindered my ability to stay focused in school. After barely surviving high school, college was at best an afterthought. With school not seeming to be my strong suit, success in a "real career" still seemed like that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: enchanting and enticing, but forever unattainable. After high school I decided to move out to Colorado where I could do what I loved while I was working. Snowboarding saved my life in so many ways. Snowboarding gave me work, it gave me confidence, and it brought me pure joy and peace. Snowboarding had always been my passion, but for three years it became the sole focus of my life when I was invited onto an Olympic feeder team.
Advancing through the levels of snowboarding, I was able to redefine myself and find new talents to focus on. I traveled. I made new friends and slowly began to feel capable of reaching for my dreams. I felt my self-imposed limits start to melt away as I used every opportunity that crossed my path as a way to reinvent myself.
After the team, my next goal was to finally finish college. For years I had been struggling with my desire to attend art school. Was this a cop out? Would art school be perceived as "good enough" by those around me? I knew this was my dream, and with a new-found courage, I applied to the school of my dreams. I was excited to tell my supportive friends and family after months of preparing my portfolio that I had been accepted.
I decided to leave competitive snowboarding for good and moved to New York. I dove into school that fall semester with six classes. Before long, I found my confidence dissolving. Each new assignment brought more doubt and an increased sense of being entirely overwhelmed. Being accepted to Parsons was a dream come true, but in the beginning there were days where I was paralyzed by the conviction of impending failure. There were days I left class wondering if success in this school required some natural talent I did not possess. During those first few weeks I realized my greatest struggle in school, and coincidentally on the Olympic feeder team, had nothing to do with what I was actually capable of, but what I thought I was capable of.
It did not matter what career path I chose, because if I was still giving power to my negative self-talk and self-doubt how could anything change, including me? Being able to embrace your greatest dreams, means you will eventually have to conquer your greatest fears. I can no longer give into those fears, because they are the chains that can keep me from true success. I have realized that as soon as I bow down to fear of failure, I am automatically agreeing that I am not capable of my own vision. I am discounting my own truth and dismissing my own authenticity.
As a communication design student, I have learned some important lessons regarding communication and success. Both are intensely personal and lend themselves to a lifetime of evolution. Each new challenge brings with it a life lesson. Creative projects can quickly become overwhelming when you become your own worst critic. When self-doubt takes over, the struggle begins to feel insurmountable. There is truly nothing to be gained from self-abuse. In order to break this cycle I have been forced to learn the art of being honest yet kind with myself. We need not put ourselves down when fear rears its ugly head. Thoughts have power. They will either bring you closer to your goals or push you farther away. What you hear, from yourself and others, often times becomes your truth.
Snowboarding provided me with a team of people who truly believed in me. That was where I began to believe in myself. Their kind words gently nudged me towards the person I am today. I have learned that no matter what your story is, where you have come from, or what you have gone through, there is a reason for all of it. I have looked back over the years and wondered why I sometimes failed to deliver kind words to myself when so many others were cheering me on. Believing in my abilities is an integral part of obtaining true success. Without believing in myself, I can never reach the fruition of my own potential. I am convinced there is no greater gift we can give ourselves than to go after our goals with the belief that we can and will succeed.