If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going.


There are kids that are cool and generally liked. I was not one of them. I had a dream, this fantasy of being an elected leader – and the other kids thought that was really weird. Consequently, they didn’t vote for me.

Not for first grade president, third grade trash monitor or fifth grade secretary. I never got elected. My track record followed me into high school, and by college – I should have just given up. But my ninth attempt to run for student government was successful – no I didn’t get trash monitor. But I did get to be student body president representing 31,000 voters at my university. Some might say I was bound to get lucky. Others (I can only hope) will zero in on the lessons learned.

When moving down the unbeaten path from college unknown to a launching a campus wide effort, three things sell votes – a  structured team, an iterative gameplan and flat out execution. Beyond my hazy recollection, the campaign in itself was a marathon filled with uncertainties, chutes, ladders, crushing setbacks, $1000+ budgets and inevitably turning in my worst academic performance ever. But this post isn’t about sunny dispositions and reminiscing about the good old days (the campaign story will be forthcoming). Elections are first won by not losing control. Let the other aspiring student leaders maintain their aura by pretending to be the next JFK; you can focus on a first principles approach.

Perseverance, above all is the one main factor we can control. As Rocky Balboa once alluded to, “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” Additionally, don’t take yourself too seriously. I’ve found humor a great way to alleviate the pain of failed initiatives, debate debacles and campus rumors (anyone remember #juicycampus/collegeacb?). In all seriousness, it’s clear there exists a vast gulf of randomness and uncertainty between creating the next Linkedin or Anthony Weiner campaign (see #epicfail). Successful people in every field are part of a universal subset of the populace- a demographic that just about never gives up.

As author Leonard Mlodinow once wrote, “A lot of success in life by means of a career, investments or business are a function of randomness as much of a function of skill, preparation and hard work.” Moreover, in every failure there exists a level of personal pain that can be eased over time. The path to recovery starts with seeking objective feedback from believable parties, identifying which deep-seated harmful behaviors/mental models are detrimental and distilling out the lessons learned (pursuit of absolute truth). I call this kicking the hangover after hitting bottom. Said differently, embracing short-term failures as a step towards long-term success allows oneself to be free and approach the game of life the way should it be played. So the next time you don’t get called back for that audition, get dinged in your job interviews or rejected from graduate school, remember this quote from JFK:

“Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly”.


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