Failing into the Right Path
Three weeks into the fall semester of my junior year I dropped out of my university’s business school. It was one of the greatest successes of my educational career. While most people would consider dropping out of school to be a failure, I was able to turn this experience into something much more positive. By the end of the next academic year, I will graduate with my Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Educational Studies, and a shortly after I’ll receive my Master of Arts in Leadership Development. It’s safe to say I’ve found the right path for this stage of my life, and the “failure” that brought me here taught me many important life lessons.
Do what makes you happy
The three weeks preceding my drop out were the least happy I’ve ever been in school. I actually dreaded going to class, and as someone who planned on working in school administration, that fact terrified me. I recognized that I was unhappy, but I thought I needed to just push through until graduation. I was in the mindset that I was supposed to suffer through the next few years for a payoff that would serve me the rest of my life. But college isn’t something you should have to suffer through, it’s an experience that should be enjoyed! Remembering this helped me to make the decision to drop my business major. As soon as I did, something magical happened: I rediscovered my love for education. I was actually happy to go to class every day again. I was able to focus on my new major and the classes that I enjoyed. When I let go of what I thought I was supposed to do and embraced what truly made me happy, my entire quality of life improved.
Step outside your comfort zone
I was terrified of committing to such a major life change. My hand was literally shaking as I signed the paperwork. I was more than halfway through my business coursework, and all I could think about was what I would be losing if I didn’t continue. It would’ve been much easier to be passive and stay on the path my life was following, but I discovered that you’ll get a lot more out of life if you play an active role in your own decision-making. “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” All life changes or transitions, if they are important to you, should challenge you and even scare you a little bit. But, they should also excite you, and that’s what makes the change worthwhile!
Lean on your network
While the decision to drop out was ultimately mine, I couldn’t have made the choice or executed it without relying on my personal support system. My friends, classmates, and mentors all helped me think through my options. I must have called my parents at least a dozen times before making my final decision. It wasn’t an easy change, but the faculty gave me advice and were able to work with me to plan out the rest of my undergraduate career. Without relying on all of them, I could not have executed that program change. It’s important to lean on the people around you to help you when you’re struggling, propel you forward when you need a push, and celebrate with you when you succeed.
Take advantage of ‘opportunity cost’
I did actually take something away from my time in business school and that was the concept of opportunity cost. It is the economic theory that for every decision you make there’s something you give up by missing out on the alternative. If I had stayed in the business program, I never would have freed up space in my schedule to do more of what I wanted to do. I took elective classes that I was interested in, I took on leadership positions in extracurricular activities and organizations that I valued, and most importantly, I was able to add a minor in Leadership Studies. Those classes ended up being some of my favorites of my college career, and resulted in me applying to and being accepted by a 4+1 program for a MA in Leadership Development. It is like the Taoist theory of the paradox of letting go: “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.” Sometimes we have to be willing to let go of what feels comfortable in order to get greater rewards. When one door closes another always opens, and what lies beyond the second door may be far greater than you could have imagined.
There are plenty of important lessons to be learned if you live your life with your mind open to finding them. Even a failure isn’t really a failure if you can learn and grow from it. Who knows what you can accomplish if you’re not afraid to fail. Embrace the idea of change and the opportunities are limitless.
Challenge yourself a little bit every day. Start small and enjoy the opportunities that come your way! Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Wake up early
- Start a journal or blog
- Talk to somebody new!
- #unplug for a day
- Learn something new
- Pay it forward
- Volunteer for a cause you care about
- Try a new recipe
- Set a daily goal
*Meet the Author*
Morgan has been working with Leadership Inspirations for one year. He is a student at Chapman University studying for a B.A. in Integrated Educational Studies and an M.A. in Leadership Development. When he’s not at school, you can find him at Disneyland, at the beach, or hanging out with friends around LA and OC.