It was the fall of 2012. I looked down at my Mathematical Statistics Final and felt butterflies in my stomach. I had been studying all night the past 3 nights,trying to make up for my procrastination throughout the semester. But as I looked down at the problems, I felt no sense of what to do or where to start.
The anxiety started to swell up and doubt started to pour over me. Two weeks later, I was staring at a 43% on the exam and a D in the class. I ended up with my lowest GPA that semester. The lowest point in my entire academic career. 4 years later, I look back on that time as a turning point.
I want to share my realizations that took me from failing student to university leader.
1. Let Go of Your Ego
“When you let your ego control your thoughts, everything you believe becomes an illusion” – Rusty Eric
I finally had to be brutally honest with myself. Originally, I coasted through school, not fully engaged. I believed I could pick it up easily. I thought I was special.
But a failed semester is anything but special.
One of the things that changed drastically shortly after my semester was the realization that I was being driven by my ego. I was more concerned with what party I would go to next then what I wanted to become as an individual. More concerned with what people thought of me than ensuring my academic success. I was being distracted by things I was comfortable with. I realized my ego had shielded me from seeing my flaws because I was afraid of being vulnerable. Knowing that I had to work longer and harder for good grades, skip parties, and sacrifice. It wasn’t something I was willing to accept because it proved I wasn’t special. My ego couldn’t take it.
I was being distracted by things I was comfortable with. I realized my ego had shielded me from seeing my flaws because I was afraid of being vulnerable. Knowing that I had to work longer and harder for good grades and skip parties, was a tough pill to swallow. It wasn’t something I was willing to accept because it proved I wasn’t special. My ego couldn’t take it.
But my lowest GPA sure gave me the tangible proof I couldn’t ignore anymore.
I finally realized I needed to accept my flaws and shift my focus. When you let go of that kind of attitude, you allow yourself to grow. You start taking different actions, doing things differently because you’re open with yourself.
You’re no longer mentally rigid. I am here to tell you to let go of your ego and allow yourself to be vulnerable because this is the path to personal development.
2. Go Out and Get It
“Strong Convictions Precede Great Actions” – James Clarke
A lot of times, individuals wait for permission to do things. Whether it’s from friends, parents, or colleagues. They allow social influences to determine their trajectory in life. Shortly after my failed semester, I went back to school determined to create something.
I knew I had to make my own way and create my own success. I didn’t know what to do, or how I could make an impact. But as I reflected and explored different avenues, I decided to start a student organization.
I didn’t know how I didn’t know who would want to join or if anyone would be interested. But I knew that I would make it work no matter what it took.
And this brings me to my point, it’s the conviction you must foster. The success conviction. No matter what happens, find a way to do it and sprint towards it.
My realization that a true conviction leaves you without even the thought of failure changed my life. Along with this, comes a sacrifice threshold. What are you willing to sacrifice to stay true to your conviction of success?
For me, it was late nights, early mornings, missed parties, tons of meetings, constant brainstorming, networking, and execution. I never stopped thinking about ways to better the organization. Sound familiar?
Entrepreneurs face the same challenges. But there’s a deeper distinction I’d like to make. Even if your business fails, or if you fail, you have to start from zero again. Then pivot to something entirely new. The conviction shouldn’t go anywhere. You must have a conviction to foster your success conviction.
Don’t let doubt creep into your head about your ability to take massive action. You are the business, not your product or service but you. People create things in this world, so bank on yourself and never doubt that you can make the climb.
3. Don’t be Afraid to Ask
This ties back to both tips 1 and 2. I was afraid to ask for help because I was afraid to feel vulnerable. But I knew that someone somewhere could help me. And I knew it would allow me to take massive action and sprint towards my goal a whole lot faster.
On the academic side, I asked every professor to meet after class, or classmates for help. And TA’s for tutoring.
On the organization side, I asked my professors if I could pitch the class on my new student organization, or if I could come to entrepreneurship club meetings even though I wasn’t in business school.
I asked entrepreneurs from the city if I could pick their brain. I even asked the president of our University if he could connect me with someone who could help. They all said yes. So I kept asking.
If I hadn’t, I truly believe I wouldn’t have done well the rest of my academic career, and go on to found my first student organization (which went on to win one of UC’s most prestigious awards.). I wouldn’t have founded a TEDx chapter and enabled great minds to inspire students, faculty and alumni.
My life wouldn’t be the same as it is today if I didn’t have the courage to ask and the persistence to keep asking. Just think about how many people are in the world today. I guarantee someone out there has just the right expertise you need to move toward your goals and the willingness to help. Just ask.