I had grown up hearing from my father that “fortune favors the brave”; he attributed all of his success in life to it.
But prior to May of last year, I had never been outgoing. I kept to myself. I lived in my own personal safe zone where nobody could embarrass me and I couldn’t embarrass myself. I was the type who had more fun playing Halo on a Friday night than spending time with people. It took a lot of strength from inside me to put my name on the ballot for student body president last spring. Although I had never heeded my father’s words, I figured I would be brave for the first time and run for office.
I went to the activities office and got my petition to run. Timidly, I asked teachers and peers to sign it. As I was about to turn it in, I hesitated. “You can still back out” I thought to myself. Finally, in a rush of adrenaline, I turned in my form and sealed my fate.
It wasn’t just turning in the form that took courage; so did campaigning. I had to talk to people I had never seen before. I printed clever stickers with embarrassing and somewhat stupid phrases on them. I dealt with the constant pressure that comes with a popularity contest of such magnitude.
However, none of these things compared to the fear I had about giving a speech in front of the entire school. It would have been more appealing to swim in a tank full of sharks than speak at an assembly.
Writing a speech was next to impossible. Every word had to be chosen perfectly, or else I would come off as stupid. To say I was stressed would be an understatement.
I didn’t sleep the night before my speech. I was too nervous to even attempt to calm myself down. In my mind I was attacking myself: “What have you done?! How could you get yourself into a situation like this?!”
I drove to school with only a goodbye kiss on the cheek from my mother to comfort me. Even “Lose Yourself” by Eminem couldn’t get me pumped for what I was about to do, so I drove in silence. At school I sat on the stage, listening to my opponents’ speeches. I told myself it was time to man-up: sometimes, you’ve just got to do something and not think about it.
Upon taking the podium, the butterflies finally left my stomach. I knew I had gotten into a situation I couldn’t back out of, so I decided to just suck it up. An overwhelming calm came over me; I was ready to be brave. I gave my speech and to my delight the crowd did laugh at my jokes. They applauded loudly throughout, and I received many compliments afterwards. The great reception I received gave me complete confidence that I would win the election.
On election day a different story unfolded. I lost badly. There wasn’t even a run-off between the top two candidates. Shocked, any confidence I had temporarily faded. I was blinded by the positive feedback from my speech and thought I had the school in the palm of my hand, only to be told I definitely did not. The experience was humbling.
I had been brave, yet fortune did not favor me. But after this crushing defeat, I discovered I was no longer phased about speaking to strangers. Talking in front of large groups was easy. In the back of my head I just kept thinking, “It can never be worse than talking in front of 2,000 people. It’s not like I’m losing a school-wide election.” Even though I had lost my election, I still had delivered a great speech.
Failure is an amazing tool. The lessons learned from getting rejected, hurt or downtrodden define who you are and are extremely beneficial to your well-being. Even though I lost my election, I discovered something new: that I had it in me to face my fears.
It is important for everybody to get out of their comfort zone every once and a while and challenge themselves; do something that they would have never dreamed would be possible for them, even if they end up failing miserably at it. It is astonishing how much can be learned about yourself by failing at a task. Be it trying out for a sports’ team, confronting somebody who has wronged you, or even running for an elected position, even if you fail, you will learn valuable lessons and discover things about yourself you never knew.
My father had said fortune favored the brave, but after my defeat at first I thought this statement was a lie, but I have realized fortune has favored me in other ways. My pain was only temporary, but the lessons I learned lasted forever. Failure was necessary for my eventual success. If I had never tried and failed, I would have never discovered my true potential.
By Alex Burnam
Below is a video of Alex Burnam delivering his speech during the election: