Learning from failure


I’ll be 50 years young in the fall and am in my second year of the program. Starting back to school was a pretty daunting idea for me. It’s been several years since I’ve had to study and write papers so I wasn’t sure I could actually do it. I challenged myself to work hard and try to finish the program with a 4.0 or as close as I could come to it. So far, I’m on track to do just that; however, the course I just completed (my 7th) not only served as a great learning experience about IMC, it also served as a learning experience for dealing with potential failure.

I’ve typically done well throughout all of my classes. My goal is always to get full points for the weekly discussion questions and not having many points taken off for the weekly papers as well as the final papers. In the class I just finished, however, I had a major blow when I received a grade of 4 out of 15 on one of my weekly papers. I was truly devastated because this wasn’t what I was used to and wasn’t what I expected out of myself. I even cried when I got the grade and was embarrassed to tell anyone. I felt like I had failed myself and let the people who support me down. Not necessarily because of the grade, but because I had made a major mistake when writing the paper. I didn’t pay close enough attention to what I was doing and was hurrying to get my paper written. I was tired, a bit overwhelmed and just wanted to get it out of the way. I chose the wrong type of research paper to discuss resulting in the low score.

I talked to the professor about how disappointed I was in myself and got some great encouragement. I also talked to some of my support system and, after a couple days, realized it wasn’t the end of the world. I needed to just take a step back and a couple days off from school work so I could get back on track. I hadn’t really taken a total break from studying and school in over a year and I was just burned out. Luckily this happened on a week when there wasn’t a paper due on Monday so it was a little bit easier to do, so I took the entire weekend off from school. I didn’t read or write anything for two days other than checking the discussion board to see if I needed to respond to any classmates from the weekly discussion responses.

Why am I sharing this experience? I have a feeling that most of us who are in this program are overachievers and put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do well. I am definitely one of those people. What I learned with this (and hope you can too) is that sometimes we need to give ourselves a break. We need to step back, take a break and let our minds and bodies catch up with where we are. Getting a low score on something isn’t the end of the world in this program. It’s the way we learn about the program and about ourselves. It’s definitely a wake-up call that maybe you need to change something, whether that be how you’re doing your research, needing to ask more questions of the professor about what they expect or want, or just taking a little breather from school. Be sure to listen to yourself during this process and know when you need to take that step back. It will make you a better student and give you better insight on what to do or not to do next. By the way, I learned from my mistake and was still able to get an “A” in the class.

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2 Responses to “Learning from failure”

  1. Debra McGaugey Says:

    Hello Pam:

    Thank you for your post. We must all be perfectionists in this IMC program, because I share your passion for not only doing well, but also for reaching full understanding of our profession and applying it in my daily work life as a marketing and communications director. The fact that I’m also in my 50s adds to my need to succeed at all costs.

    But I will learn to relax more and “learn from failure.” For example, it’s only been three weeks in my first class and I have already missed a weekly assignment deadline. I wasn’t following the due dates as closely as I should and just let it slip. When I realized my error, I was personally devastated. I couldn’t believe it and was saddened by the mistake. But like you, I remounted that horse, turned the assignment in anyway, and jumped back into the fray with responding to classmates’ posts. I received an 8 out of 10 on the assignment, largely because I was determined to come back better and strong. I still feel a little sting of not getting a 10, but the good news I am back on track and ready for more. It was a lesson well learned.

    As IMC students, a common thread throughout these posts seems to be to plan your course of study well, understand it will take a high level of commitment and be sure to build in time off just for you.

    Keep up your good posts, Pam, and everyone. It’s great hearing from actual students.

    (And Pam, you know your name is shared with a famous tennis player. She’s working as a commentator right now at the U.S. Open. Tennis fans, unite!)

  2. plshriver Says:

    Hi Debra,

    Thanks for sharing your story, I think it helps all of us to know that we aren’t alone with things like that and that we can get back on track! Thanks also for responding to let all of us know that the information we are sharing is relevant and useful.

    Wishing you continued success in the program.


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