Standing in front of a crowd of his peers, Jasper Pearman ’18 prepared to read his “This I Believe” essay, delivering a pointed message about the importance of failure and the unseen dangers of success. There are numerous traditions that ninth graders at IMS take part in, but none is more personal, courageous, and inspiring than the reading of these essays.

Below is Jasper’s essay: 

Have you ever let the fear of failing get the best of you? I have. Many times in my life I did not try something because I thought I would fail. A lot of these thoughts of failure came from comparing myself to others. Most of the time I would compare myself to others that are better than me and think, “I’ll never be that good,” or “I would definitely fail if I tried to play with that team.” And a lot of times, I gave up because these comparisons were so discouraging. I told myself I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t until I learned something from failure that I truly understood what the experience meant to me. After the experience I started thinking.

I wondered why I was, and other people were, so afraid of failure, and I began to consider the connections between achievement and failure. I realized that one reason people were so afraid to fail could be the issue of false praise. False praise is when a product is valued beyond what it deserves. For example, when a child shares a piece of their art work, and automatically the adult says the finished product is great or even amazing, even if the finished product is not very impressive. Doing this over and over again only familiarizes a child with the feeling of success, without ever acknowledging their effort. And if a person becomes over-accustomed to the feeling of success, it becomes like an addiction in which that person cannot cope with anything less.

Failure is something that writes the road to success; it shows us where we need to improve. We can take what we learn, use it effectively, and continue to move forward towards our goal. However, learning from failure isn’t as easy at it sounds. Sometimes it takes days, months, even years to succeed. And it’s at this point where most people give up. But when you give up, that’s when you have truly failed, because as long as you can learn from your failure, you haven’t failed at all.

The journey of one of my favorite authors, J.K. Rowling, demonstrates this point. Rowling went through failure multiple times before she succeeded. When she first thought of the idea of the famous Harry Potter series, she was on a train to London, and she had to write her ideas on napkins because she didn’t want to waste paper. She was recently divorced, and had an infant daughter. She was having trouble finding a job and was living on welfare. When she finally got the first book down, she sent it to 12 publishers. All of them declined it. One of them didn’t even return the folder that she sent it in, because it was too big to send in the mail. It wasn’t until she sent her manuscript to Bloomington, that someone finally accepted the book for publication.

J.K. Rowling persevered despite failure, and likely came out with more pride and fulfillment than she could have ever expected. Later in her life, she was quoted as saying, “You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all.”

But J.K. Rowling isn’t alone: Steve Jobs got fired from Apple before he created the world famous iPhone. Henry Ford went bankrupt before becoming the father of modern transportation. Abraham Lincoln lost 8 different political races before he became one of the most known presidents of the United States. Harrison Ford was told that he would never make it in the movie business, and now starred in Star Wars and Indiana Jones, some of the most popular movie series in American history. Michael Jordan got cut from his schools varsity basketball team as a sophomore, and was ready to give up basketball, but he persevered through failure, and changed the game of basketball. He’s still one of the most popular Basketball players in the world..

These are only a few examples of people using failure to their advantage and improving on their goals. Learn from the mistakes failure may bring. It will make you a better person. The wall of failure only grows if you let it take control. So, don’t be afraid to take risks, and don’t be afraid to fail. This I believe.