Tailored to You

The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

While rolling my clothes into the suitcase for the youth trip, I pondered new ways to persuade the school to accept my idea. I had used reasoning and humanitarian appeals, and nobody was signing on to my envisioned LGBTQ club. What more could I do?

The next day, I woke to raindrops softly splashing the window. I checked my phone, finding another disappointing email. The club I had hoped to establish was rejected once again. I propped myself against the wall by my bed and glared at the ray of light struggling to shine through dark rain clouds, wondering why my club idea was rejected for the third time.

When my church mates and I arrived at Awanita, a kind of dorm built for church retreats, we ran, swam, zip lined across the woods, climbed trees, rode horses, and walked in the mountain air. After two days of pure, natural freedom, we were exhausted. On the final day, four hours before returning home, I, as leader of our group, asked to stay inside to play various card and board games as bonding activities. Our pastor, who assumed that we teenagers were tired from long nights on our smartphones, refused. Baffled by his supposition that all teenagers are obsessed with technology, I reasoned that it was impossible to enjoy our smartphones late at night because Awanita had disabled all cellular data and WiFi. I added that physically playing 16 hours a day was something that we didn’t do every day as students, so it was natural that we were worn-out. Although we collectively utilized logic, he refused and ordered us to play outside. Disheartened by the thought of dragging our carcasses across the lake for disk golf, we slowly got up, muscles aching and bones creaking.

Suddenly Brad, the oldest son of the pastor, broke the silence in his blunt, broken Korean: “Father, we are more likely to praise the Lord if we stay inside because we will be unhappy if we go outside.” Immediately, I thought, “what does praising the Lord have to do with playing?” I saw a sparkle in the pastor’s eyes as he replied, “Well if you say it like that, you can play inside.” As the pastor left the room, I looked around the room in disbelief and saw similarly confounded faces.

The next day, I awoke to the cacophony of snores that filled the rattling van; we were heading back to boring suburbia full of salty life dilemmas. I thought about my rejection email, and I was suddenly dismayed; even more confounding was Brad’s argument, echoing in my mind. Even though I had used every logical argument I could think of, I failed where Brad had succeeded. His argument didn’t make sense to me at all: there was no connection between playing and praising God whatsoever. Then I figured it out: although playing and praising were unrelated in my mind, to my pastor, our praising God while being happy was an important goal.

This epiphany helped me understand what I had to say to convince my principal. The reason he declined my idea was that I only supported my views. I made appeals that I thought were valid, such as that students should have basic knowledge of LGBTQ issues before going to college because modern society values these beliefs. But those reasons didn’t persuade the principal, so I had to appeal to his particular views about extracurricular programs and his goals for the school. When I got home, I frantically typed another proposal explaining the reasons this LGBTQ club should be created and focused more on its potential benefits for the school, like how similar clubs in other schools attract students, which matched perfectly with my principal’s goal to make a bigger school.

A few days later, a notification pinged on my phone. This time it was good news.

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