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Pass or Fail

by | Dec 27, 2016

How much value do we place on our education, degrees, title, status or roles? How closely related are these titles to our self-worth? I’ve never thought of a connection or about how much emphasis was placed until I had to.

I registered to take an exam and at the end of the survey where I described how I thought the testing center was amazing but the exam was based on memorization rather than actual knowledge and application, I saw my results on the next screen. It wasn’t a percentage, it was the word “Fail”. I stared at the words for a few minutes and tried to digest the new track record. That was my first time failing an exam. While I could just forget about it, surely my husband would ask me about it as soon as I entered the door. I would have to tell him that I didn’t pass the exam but what was most important was what I have to tell myself. I could not internalize a computer generated grade as the sum total of my life or who I am.

I’m not not a failure, I failed an exam. Huge difference. Exams don’t dictate who I am, certifications certify but they don’t qualify me. God qualifies me. God qualified me.

At one of my son’s visit to the pediatrician, the doctor told me that she had a miscarriage at 5 weeks pregnant. While she was not physically showing and did not have a deep connection with the fetus, she was already excited and in expectation. What surprised me was the fact that she didn’t say it nonchalantly but she said it without shame or guilt. I commented on the fact that I thought it was very healthy that she could speak so openly about it because bottling it up is truly a silent killer. We started talking about how certain things like miscarriages, infertility and postpartum depression are more dreadful than it has to be because few women talk about it or seek help.

I shared my own news of the exam results with a few people after I left the exam and before the end of the day, I had come to terms with it. I didn’t realize how much healing there was in talking. It takes away the shame and allows you to put it into perspective.

It was then I realized that life was a series of exams and we get a pass or fail grade but because it continues, we get an opportunity to retake the exam if we choose to. Sometimes the test is in grace, kindness, gratitude, forgiveness and other times, it is a literal test.

Whether it’s an undesirable outcome in your career, relationship, health or some other area; don’t make it bigger than it is, just determine the next step (whether you want to try again or change course). This is not the end unless I want it to be. I can diligently study next time and retake the exam instead of trying to cram 600 pages of content two days before the exam. I can accept that it’s just a pass/fail grade and move on and reconsider my course of action.

A final note, what do the following have in common?
409 detergent, Bill Gates, Henry Ford, RH Macy, Michael Jordan?

* Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and his first business failed. Look at him now
* Henry Ford tried 5 times before being successful
* RH Macy tried 7 times before making it and I spend a lot of my paycheck in Macys now!
* KFC’s chicken recipe was rejected 1009 times before being accepted! Thomas Edison made 1000 attempts at the light bulb. Persistence is key
* Churchill lost every election for public office until becoming the prime minister at 62 years of age. It’s never too late
* Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting before completing 800 pieces which now bring in millions
* Stephen King got rejected 30 times and he is a bestselling author now
* Michael Jordan missed over 9000 shots, lost almost 300 games and we know his story of success

What do they have in common? They tried over and over and over until they reached the desired result. Your desired result does not have to be a specific target, it can be an attainable goal. So maybe you don’t have to retake that particular exam, but your goal is still success so define that and keep going.

End 2016 with a bang and move into 2017 with renewed perspective and resilience and make it a great year!