This I Believe

John - Ann Arbor, Michigan
Entered on January 24, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

My experiences…

“John, you need to learn how to fail and make mistakes.” – My Dad

Shocked by his words, I didn’t know how to respond. What compelled my father to say this to me before heading off to college? I had always lived a life that was very safe. I had never made any major mistakes or failed miserably in life. My past record was not due to my amazing abilities, rather, it was my crippling fear of failure that determined my decisions and held me back from taking risks.

Throughout my Dad’s success both professionally and personally, he experienced numerous failures and setbacks, but he recognized the importance of those moments, and he wanted to portray that reality to me in that conversation. As I go through college now, I have experienced many setbacks, tears, and heart-break, but I’ve also grown and developed during those times of adversity. Those very lessons, and the ability to persevere through it, have equipped me to take on the bigger challenges I face today. Reflecting on my experiences and that night with my dad, I realized this truth: in order to succeed, there must be failures.

October 31, 2006 was a day where people were out trick-or-treating or going to Halloween parties, but I was in tears and embracing the hands of the woman who had just lost her son…and my best friend. Andy was serving the marines in Iraq when he was shot in battle and killed. I will never forget the repeated images of his lifeless body lying in that casket, the months of sleepless nights, and my continuing denial of his death. But in the midst of this pain and death, miraculously I was given new life. I recognized how fleeting life really is and that chasing after money, fame, and all the other riches of this world was, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly Meaningless! (Ecclesiastes 2:1) (this is coming from one of the richest, wisest, and most powerful men during the Old Testament!).

Here, in the face of death, I realized what my life was meant for: touching the lives of people. I desired to be used for a greater purpose. Amassing wealth and living a comfortable life didn’t interest me anymore because none of that matters when I pass away; what does matter is that one person is better off for knowing me. Through that painful time, I learned another truth: in order to have a meaningful life, there must be an awareness of death.

…have led me to believe that paradoxes drive this world. Trying to skip the bad in order to experience the good is impossible, because you can’t have one without the other, why? Because no matter how hard I try, I can’t deny the fact that through my failures, I have become a better man, or that through sorrow, I am now able to fully experience joy. Embracing these very paradoxes has been a turning point in my journey because now—in the midst of life’s struggles and pains—I know that I am being refined and prepared to do and experience the greater things of this world and beyond.