I've always been the kind of person that enjoys recognition. I still have my medals from kayaking in the 4th grade stored in a memory box at my parents' home. As a child, I relished in these rewards and recognitions-such as obtaining the high honor of having a sticker attached to a test, rewarding my academic prowess. The highest honor of all: finding my A-grade project or test on the refrigerator. The 98% on a science test gleamed over the kitchen reminding all who passed by (most specifically my brothers) that I excelled as a student.
I come from a long line of intimidating, and high academic achieving individuals in my family - a double specialty doctor of a grandfather, a hotshot lawyer of a father, aunts with master's degrees in Spanish literature, and published poets. My family excels in the world of academia, and so I followed suit as an overachiever and sought out the same recognition as a student. That recognition, and acceptance from my family, drove me to continuously pump out A+ papers, maintain an impressive sticker collection, and define my success by a percentage on an exam.
But as I reflect upon my academic/professional career, I realize that the pivotal learning moments that truly shaped me were not displayed on the fridge. I didn't receive a colorful "Way to Go" on the top of any page, but what I learned would have a lasting impact.
Flashback to 8th grade, when I donned braces, uneven eyeliner, and sparkly lip gloss, that's when I experienced my first business class. During the class, we were given an assignment to run a fictional hat company called Mac Cap. As part of this project, we completed activities related to supply and demand, inventory control, and pricing.
As the leader of our business endeavor, I significantly over ordered our stock and had to mitigate the damage it caused on our budget. We were immediately operating at a high deficit, and our recovery from being in the red (and from last place in the class competition) was slow and frustrating. As someone who hates making mistakes, I had to quickly learn to take ownership of my mistake-which resulted in rebuilding trust with my teammates. I immediately dialed down on the scale of fictional production of hats, and began to scrutinize risk a little more heavily.
We ended up with a successful grade on the project, but the importance of this grade pales in comparison with the valuable lessons I took away from the experience. I learned how to learn from failure, the importance of patience, the pros and cons of risks, and most importantly, taking responsibility for my actions. This experience stayed with me throughout the rest of my educational career - college, business school, and even while completing my MBA. I still remember those hard-learned lessons to this day as I build my career. I remember that experience more than the science test on the fridge.
As Aristotle said, "For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them."