By Monica Marcelis Fochtman, PhD

Congratulations on your graduation from MSU! This is a big accomplishment that you should take the time to celebrate. Remember to thank the people who helped you along the way, too. Graduation season brings with it lots of advice about the unlimited possibilities available to you post-degree. It’s true- adventure awaits and it is up to you to take advantage of it. But there is something else out there that is equally important and perhaps even more motivating.


You’re likely asking yourself why I wrote an advice column for eager young professionals about failure? Stay with me. I’ll get there, promise. Our culture celebrates “overnight” successes. We crave and reward instant gratification. Entire industries- beauty, cosmetics, diets, gyms, luxury cars- are built on our fear of failure and our unwillingness to expose our scars. But some of the world’s most beloved entrepreneurs, writers, and athletes were all failures and we can and should learn from them.

Oprah Winfrey was told she didn’t have the star power required to be a news anchor. Walt Disney was fired for lacking creativity. J.K. Rowling was rejected by 12 publishers before someone signed on to Harry Potter; Dr. Seuss was rejected 28 times. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Abraham Lincoln lost eight elections.

Failure is a normal part of life and evidence that you are trying to learn something new. Recovering from failure requires resilience, what neuroscientist and researcher Angela Duckworth calls grit (her book of the same name is worth the read). Try. Fail. Get back up and do it again. Watch how people around you fail. Watch how they react. Pay attention to how they respond when you fail. Find a squad of people who will tell it to you straight- when you succeed and when you don’t.

So, go, fail. A lot. It’s where the magic happens. Go Green!


Monica is an adviser, consultant, writer, and advocate with over 15 years of experience in higher education administration. She has worked at different institutions throughout the Midwest and has coached as well as mentored leaders and young professionals throughout her career. She earned her Ph.D. in Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education from Michigan State University in 2010. She lives in Okemos with her husband and two sons and is a volunteer and leader with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation in her spare time.


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