My Biggest Accomplishments, Failures and Lessons for 2008

I was reading an article called How to Write the Book of Your Life. It talks about an metaphorical book of life, where we write the story of our lives into the pages. This idea is not new, but it can be quite profound. It made me think: what if I made a book with my biggest accomplishments, failures and lessons for each year of my life? Wouldn’t that become such a useful thing to have years down the road – for understanding myself as well as helping my children understand me? Perhaps I could even do it once a season and have 4 a year.

Well, I have lots of these crazy thoughts everday and I’ve learned that the key is to get started with them right away, so I start now with my biggest accomplishments, failures and lessons of 2008.

[ACCOMPLISHMENTS]

Made executive director of Gumball Capital
Being the ED of Gumball has been an incredibly rewarding and educational experience on leading intelligent strapped-for-time student volunteers towards something important. I believe that people who run volunteer organizations are the ultimate leaders because the people involved can leave any anytime with little to no negative reprecussions.

Returned to competition after my knee injury
My knee injury has been and continues to be a huge factor on my physical well-being, but I am very proud of the fact that I was able to recover from such a grueling injury to compete again in the 2007-08 season on the parallel bars – and nail my routine at Day 1 of NCAAs.

Finished my honors thesis in Ethics in Society
Writing this honors thesis was a serious struggle, but one that I am happy I chose to undertake. It happened only because I was extremely disciplined in getting something written every week to show my adviser. And I still had to do some rapid editing in the last few weeks of school before I was given full approval. But I think it has some interesting ideas and its still the longest thing I’ve ever written (70 pages).

Graduated from Stanford with a Bachelors of Science
I almost don’t want to call this an accomplishment – but still, I guess getting a degree from Stanford should be in this list of accomplishments. This one has been four years in the making – I’m not particularly proud of it because I expected it to happen. There was no way I was not going to graduate in four years.

Named a team captain for 2008-09
I’m very proud of this one, because I was the kid who was always screwing up in freshman year. To have gone from setting the record for being 47 minutes late to practice to being elected one of the leaders of the team by your peers is something I’m grateful and honored each day for.

Celebrated a one year anniversary with my girlfriend
I’m definitely a long-term relationship type person, but it’s still wonderful to have found someone that I was attracted to and compatible with and stayed with that person for a whole year.

[FAILURES]

Rejected from the Harvard 2+2 MBA program
I was really excited about this program for college juniors where you would go to HBS after 2 years of work. I realize now that my essays showed a lack of maturity, my career goals were weird, my accomplishments weren’t impressive and I didn’t get good letters of rec. It was still an esucational experience and one that has made me more committed to B-school in the future.

Rejected in becoming an RA
This was a bummer because I really wanted to live with undergrads in my 5th year as a masters student. But I also realize now that I wouldn’t have had time to be a good RA and the staff were right for having rejected me.

Stepped down from co-chairing Cardinal Council
I was elected to be the co-chair of our student-athlete advisory committee around May and was excited to take on this leadership role. I met with our staff advisers and co-chair several times over the summer. But later on, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to make this commitment while trying to do a billion other things. So I had to ask to be “let go”. It is an embarrassment to me, because I had to go back on my word. I made a commitment to this organization that I would take on these responsibilities and carry them through to completion and I failed.

Messed up my routine and failed to win NCAAs
Even though I was able to recover from my knee injury and compete again, I was not able to perform when my team needed me the most – in the finals of NCAA championships. I nailed the first day of competition – and then really tried to repeat that performance … and failed. We lost by .45 points, and I fell – losing .8 pts. While other people messed up as well, I was supposed to be the veteran, the experienced one who knew what he was doing, and I still screwed up.

Failed to get a post-grad job
While I’m still in the job search, I consider this a failure because I told my parents for years that I could easily get a high-paying job if I wanted to. And for the first 4 years of college, this was true – I know plenty of people who got well-paid management consulting gigs. I tried to get one too while the US economy crashed – but that’s no excuse. I didn’t prepare enough and didn’t show up as well as I could have in my interviews. But overall, this failure isn’t so bad because percentages don’t matter in job searching – you only need to land one good gig.

Broke up with long-time girlfriend
It might seem a little odd to say that ending a relationship is a failure – I guess it all depends on perspective. But I guess that even if it works out for the best, it is still a failure to make the relationship work.

[LESSONS]

Life is not a Hollywood movie
I was so dissappointed when our team lost the NCAA championships. We were so sure we were going to win – we were ranked number one all season and I was a senior and the meet was at Stanford. It would have been a hollywood ending. But obviously, life is not a movie. Bad things happen to good people and vice versa and you have to be prepared to deal with that and never moan that “it’s not fair!”.

Being persistent and positive will open a lot of doors
I learned about this when I was working at my summer job – calling Stanford alumni and urging them to give to the endowment. Its not a glamorous job and you get a lot of hangups and angry callers. But I learned that the best way to defuse the situation and get a gift is to stay positive, relaxed, and keep a sense of humor. I remember one caller who told me right off the bat “I just gave birth to septuplets so I really can’t give anything!” But I just stayed cool, asked her about her children, her time at Stanford and gave her great reasons to give – and she eventually did gave $25. Maybe you don’t think that was in her best interest, but the lesson here is this – never stop pursuing your goals with humor and positivity and you are more than likely to succeed.

Understanding your roots gives depth to your commitment and character
I went back to China this summer for four weeks, the longest time I’ve spent continuously with my family (a story/lesson in of itself). I’ve spent lots of time with my mom’s side in the past, but this summer I got to spend more time with my father’s mother (who was in the late stages of Alzhiemers and rarely spoke when we visited her in the nursing home) and visited the rural area where my father spent nearly a decade of his youth working. Understanding where my family has been and where it has come to and where I am headed gives me great courage, conviction and gratitude as I pursue my dreams.

Understanding your strengths is so important
I’ve had numerous opportunities to study my strengths this past year – using personal interviews, DiSC and MBTI assesments as well as the Clifton StrengthFinder test. These things have really helped me recognize what I’m good at – bring a variety of ideas and information together to mobilize people towards something while keeping their individual interests in mind.

Please support this site by sharing:

Jason Shen

Jason is a tech entrepreneur and advocate for Asian American men. He's written extensively and spoken all over the world about how individuals and organizations develop their competitive advantage. Follow him at @jasonshen.

Related Posts: