Failing Successfully | Teen Ink

Failing Successfully MAG

January 27, 2009
By Candace Moberly BRONZE, Berea, Kentucky
Candace Moberly BRONZE, Berea, Kentucky
2 articles 0 photos 7 comments

My day in the sun had arrived – my magnum opus would be revealed. I had just delivered a memorized speech that I had labored over for weeks, and I was about to learn how the panel judged my performance. The polite but sparse audience leaned forward in their folding chairs. A hush fell across the room. The drum rolled (in my mind, anyway).

The contest organizer announced the third-place winner. Alas, the name was not mine. Then he read the second-place winner, and once again it was not me. At last, the moment of truth came. ­Either I was about to bask in the warmth of victory or rue the last several months spent preparing. While neither of these came to pass, my heart felt closer to the latter.

Losing is a part of life, and I have dealt with the emotional baggage that travels shotgun with it on more than one occasion. However, it was an indescribably underwhelming feeling to drive 200 miles round trip, get up obscenely early on a freezing Saturday morning, and yet still finish fourth out of four contestants. After Lincoln lost the 1858 Illinois Senate race, he reportedly said, “I felt like the 12-year-old boy who stubbed his toe. I was too big to cry and it hurt too bad to laugh.” Oh yeah, I could relate.

I had spent many hours in front of a computer and in libraries doing research for the Lincoln Bicentennial Speech Contest. As I pored over several biographies, one notion stood out: Lincoln was handed many sound defeats, but he never allowed them to (permanently) hinder his spirit or ambition. While I believe many history lessons can be applied to modern life, I hadn’t considered “the agony of defeat” as a historically valuable learning experience. I never dreamed I could relate to Lincoln! A president no less, and the greatest at that. I thought “failing ­successfully” was a very appropriate topic, given the many letdowns Lincoln experienced, and so this became the title of my speech.

After not placing in the first year of the speech contest, I really wanted to compete again. Lincoln had been the epitome of persistence, so I was not going to give up on a contest about a historic individual who did not give up! I reworked my speech for the following year, and while I did not come in last, again I did not place. Some days you’re the dog, and some days you’re the hydrant, and this was ­definitely a hydrant day that brought me down for a while.

I couldn’t accept the fact that I had failed twice in something that I had worked so hard on, until I contemplated the individual whom I’d spent so much time learning about. Never mind the lost prize money (ouch, major) and praise (ouch, minor) – I had learned, really learned, about a great man who had experienced failure and disappointment, and had many chances to give up. We remember Lincoln because he didn’t take this route; he didn’t throw lavish pity-parties, and he persevered to ­become, according to many, the greatest American president.

While I did not earn monetary awards as a result of this contest, I did gain a new perspective. Through learning about Lincoln, I discovered that I can fail successfully, and that it is possible to glean applicable wisdom from the lives of those who have come before us. Now, whenever I’m faced with a setback, I remember what Lincoln said after his unsuccessful 1854 Senate race: “The path was worn and slippery. My foot slipped from under me, knocking the other out of the way, but I recovered and said to myself, ‘It’s a slip and not a fall.’”

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This article has 75 comments.

Davidhoebbel said...
on Jan. 13 2010 at 1:32 pm
This was very good.

DaveyWavey;] said...
on Jan. 11 2010 at 8:17 am
I thought that this was a wonderful article. The imagry was very vivid. I imagined myself in your place, and I am glad that you won in the end.

on Jan. 8 2010 at 3:39 pm
sasssgirrrl22 PLATINUM, Pearl River, New York
27 articles 0 photos 266 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Giving up is not a part of my vocabulary."
"Don't let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game."
"Truth be told I miss ya, truth be told I'm lying."

luv the writing style. gr8 perspective, also. niice

69blair69 said...
on Jan. 6 2010 at 8:21 pm
the irony is that he placed first in this out of thousands

itsk8 BRONZE said...
on Jan. 6 2010 at 9:35 am
itsk8 BRONZE, Oradell, New Jersey
2 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." --Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

your outlook on your situation indeed makes you triumph as a human being of great understanding--the ultimate area where we must all aim to be at. it was very eye-opening & uplifting, especially because of how you provided a lot of imagery to your readers. thank you so much!

Emmalee SILVER said...
on Jan. 5 2010 at 10:56 am
Emmalee SILVER, Rayville, Louisiana
9 articles 14 photos 65 comments

Favorite Quote:
Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. - John Lennon

Wonderful. :)

on Jan. 3 2010 at 10:28 pm
Candace Moberly BRONZE, Berea, Kentucky
2 articles 0 photos 7 comments
I really think you captured the essence of the piece. Thanks for the feedback!

Meera said...
on Jan. 3 2010 at 5:22 am
Fresh and vivid- it's interesting that this person's "failures" were related to the competition in the first place. Nice!!

on Jan. 2 2010 at 10:27 am
Nice job! I love your writing style. You were so vivid, and that is always a great thing to realize when reading a story.


on Dec. 31 2009 at 10:08 pm
Simply incredible. As I was reading, I absorbed the crisp, vivid words that reffered to so many losses, but yet, you win anyway. Just the sound of the intelectual story line was awesome, and the way you put it was complex, so the reading of it made me want more.

The losses count as winning, and yet by winning, you might as well have lost, though the feeling of victory was empowering, the taste of winning tought you nothing. : )

Stina said...
on Dec. 30 2009 at 4:00 am
This is a great essay! I enjoyed reading it and the point you have come across is totally brilliant and is something all of us most learn while living in this cruel world. You are definately a talented writer, but something I felt while reading it was that it was a bit cold somehow... very black and white and sort of rehearsed in a way. While learning the art of writing this is something important, but to totally capture an audience you need to be a bit spontaneous too! :D

on Dec. 26 2009 at 3:42 pm
BroadwayBaby92 GOLD, Punta Gorda, Florida
19 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Some women choose to follow men, and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you're wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn't love you anymore."
— Lady Gaga

WOW! That's all I can say. Truely, an amazing article and I loved every bit of it! I think it was really good how you wrote about not winning the contest but how you didn't really "lose". Can't wait to read your articles to come!

on Dec. 25 2009 at 1:33 pm
Candace Moberly BRONZE, Berea, Kentucky
2 articles 0 photos 7 comments
Thank you so much! Your feedback means a lot!

on Dec. 25 2009 at 12:57 am
SerenityMine BRONZE, Not Saying, California
2 articles 0 photos 156 comments
This is a truly well-written and engaging piece of art! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. :)

on Dec. 13 2009 at 3:32 pm
Writedancelove&live GOLD, Redding, California
12 articles 2 photos 66 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much."
"Karen: If you're from Africa why are you white? Gretchen: Omg Karen, you can't just ask people why they're white."

Love it! I really liked the beginning where you explain that 3rd and 2nd arent you, but you never actually state that 1st isnt either. Please dont ever stop writing.

If you could, please check out some of my work. Thanks!

on Dec. 3 2009 at 3:13 pm
Candace Moberly BRONZE, Berea, Kentucky
2 articles 0 photos 7 comments
That's the first time in a while I've heard that. Now that I'm in college my writing never seems to be good enough. I'm just learning how to take it to the next level. Thanks for the feedback!

on Dec. 3 2009 at 11:24 am
I really enjoyed reading your essay. You are a spectacular writer!

on Dec. 2 2009 at 8:38 am
Candace Moberly BRONZE, Berea, Kentucky
2 articles 0 photos 7 comments
Thanks! I actually used this last year, and I was accepted to the school of my choice, where I am now!

Niki said...
on Dec. 1 2009 at 10:54 pm
You did a wonderful job hooking the reader. Very descriptive language, excellent use of personal knowledge and strengths. I hope you get into the school you are seeking!

TragicMoose said...
on Nov. 29 2009 at 8:06 pm
I disagree with algie completely. This was superb, and without the quotes, this piece loses some of its value.