Bounce back
October 20, 2013
October 20, 2013

If DLSU will introduce a course on FAIL101 in the near future, I will volunteer to teach the class and share learning key points from past mistakes and previous decisions in life. Perhaps my failures mirror the ongoing experiences of my fellow Lasallians: Having three 0.0’s in my transcript, producing half baked projects, and spreading myself too thin in organizations and student activities resulting in zero achievements.

But those failures changed my perspective in life and proved not every endeavor I take will yield to outstanding results. Not that I justify my busyness in the production of The LaSallian issues but I lose my focus on important issues in college.

In his book Failing Forward, John Maxwell articulates it best: “The only way you can get ahead is to fail early, fail often, and fail forward.”

As we assess what went wrong in a particular experience, we will know how to respond the next time we face the same situation until we reduce the risks of failing. Don’t get me wrong. I embraced college failures as they have changed me and help me move forward.

A failure may bring out the best in us. Depending on how we want to treat it, we can either choose to be better or bitter. Corporate executives today prefer to hire personnel who have been through failures, because they know these people can manage crisis well and react to unexpected situations.

John Maxwell quoted Harvard business school professor John Kotter saying: “I can imagine a group of executives 20 years ago discussing a candidate for a top job saying, ‘This guy had a big failure when he was 32’. Everyone else would say, “Yep, yep, that’s bad sign’. I can imagine that same group considering a candidate today saying, ‘What worries me about this guy is that he’s never failed.’”

To those who are about to finish their degrees, you are already beefing up your resume with your achievements – most are activities you did in your organizations. Back in the days, there’s too much glorification we put on this sheet of papers as if we uplift ourselves that we are the best fresh graduates ready to roll out to the companies.

But when a headhunter asks us: How do you respond to failures?

Moving to the corporate world, I was hired as an account manager in a public relations firm. As a social media strategist for the company, my arrogance drove me to deliver my best to the clients we are serving. But it ended up as a recipe for disaster: I lacked attention to details and mismanaged most of the accounts I handled. The CEO got disappointed with my management skills and my tardy behavior.

One of my co-workers pointed out: “Get away from English as you wrote the worst marketing plan and communications strategy.” As I resigned from the company, I carried with me the brutal fact that I’m still a toddler in PR. After all, what is a mechanical engineer doing in a PR firm?

When I decided to immigrate to Hawaii, I focused on continuously honing my writing skills with the end point of bouncing back from failure.

There was a video contest my friend and fellow Lasallian joined: the CNN YouTube debate on Climate Change. Zeroing into the effects of climate change, our five minute video bested 1,000 entries from around the world. Writing the script for the documentary video, I made clear our advocacy to reduce the impacts of global warming.

We were invited by United Nations in Copenhagen, Denmark and our video was part of CNN’s special program aired to millions of people.

That’s how I bounced back from failure when someone told me to get away from English.

As a petty officer in US Navy, I immediately rose to ranks and assumed leadership positions. But I have encountered more failures than milestones. Being late at work and not following instructions may seem to be small mistakes but if combined together, they are like snowballs that hit my performance at work.

Recently, I failed one of the biggest inspections in our division. As a supervisor of preventive maintenance, I missed the passing mark by one point because I failed to properly document a paper work on our maintenance book. If there’s one thing I learned from this inspection, that’s to pay attention to details.

Here’s the key: the earlier we understand how to bounce back from failure, the many times we will touchdown to the base of success. With the accumulation of failures I have, there are key learning experiences that I carry out to the next level of trials.

What makes me proud to boast about my failures? Simply put, I find my identity in Christ. Imitating the same attitude with Apostle Paul, Jesus reminded him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Remember, experience is not the best teacher. Evaluated experience is. Bouncing back from failure is an evaluated experience.


Paul Garilao was The LaSallian EIC from 2005-2006. As assistant oil king on board a USS Blue Ridge, Garilao manages fuel transfers and boiler chemistry. Based in Japan, Garilao is married to Tefanee and has a son, Timothy.