Youth Perspective: What is failure?

Joel, from Mentor USA’s Youth Advisory Committee, has written this month’s Youth Perspective article in which he reflects on failure and shares how he did not let a setback get in the way of his will to succeed and fulfill his goals.

12 April 2022 | Youth Advisory Committee

What is failure? I know, this is a deep and packed question that everyone has a different answer to, but do you ever fail if you never give up?

Coming into this semester of college, just my 2nd one, I came in with a lot of energy, ready to go: “Man, let’s get this A, these classes are easy, so let’s go.” I got this. The first math exam fails. Yes, I was not joking about all this energy, all this hype that I put into this to fail right away made studying feel like a waste of time now. Safe to say, I was crushed after this. I was so disappointed that I felt like giving up, and I did for the next few weeks. Now let me add a few things I could have done better that I want to be taken away from this: don’t put pressure on yourself. We get enough of that from just our lives. Everyone is always adding pressure to everything that we do, and for you to add that more on to yourself will kill you when you tell yourself “A or bust”. If you don’t get that A on your first try; it’s not going to feel the best, but it’s best to give yourself some leeway and allow mistakes in your life as it’s the only way to grow. One time is one time, one exam is one exam. It’s not the end of the world. Get back up and keep going like you never even lost a step.

This is the key; it’s about how you respond after (failure) that matters.

- Joel Ukpelegbu, Mentor USA Youth Advisory Committee Member

Now, I wish I could say I did that, so what happened after? For the next two weeks, I did not do a thing because I was sad and wanted to give up, so that’s what I did. Because of the pressure I put on myself, I felt like a big failure. Keep in mind no one added on to this feeling but myself. I did this to myself, not my mom, dad, brother, sister, friends, no one but me. It did not matter what anyone else said or how anyone else was doing. I came in saying I wanted to do something, so if I did not leave doing that, what does it matter, right? But after those two weeks of feeling like crap and making myself feel that way all over failing ONE exam, I just started getting ready for the next one. I mean, what was I going to do? Fail again? (No). So, I studied a lot, like a lot, and this is the key; it’s about how you respond after that matters, and I got an 89 on my next exam. Now, it was not an A, but I still let myself win, and as long as I do that again going into this last exam (and I will), my 1st exam grade will be dropped, and I will be getting my A. Wow, who would have thought after all that in some way I still got exactly what I was looking for and got what I worked for? I’m glad I failed because if I did not, I would have never learned this lesson.

I feel like this applies just past school, we are all so quick to give up on ourselves, and it’s normal in this world, not about rebounding, no – people don’t look at that in this world, you fail, and they will write you off as a failure. DO NOT give in to that though. Let’s prove everyone wrong – you got this, I got this, we all do. When more people can learn how to fail, we will start seeing that failure only exists when you give up, you can never fail if you keep going.

Mentor USA Youth Advisory Committee
Joel together with parts of the Mentor USA Youth Advisory Committee during a meeting in Washington D.C.