“Success is most often achieved by those who don't know that failure is inevitable.” - Coco Chanel
No matter how many inspirational quotes tell us otherwise, Notre Dame students tend to think failure isn’t something we’ll experience first-hand. Like many first years, I came in without a lot of experience being told “no.” At ND, we boast our statistics - most of our students were varsity athletes, top of their class, leading organizations, excelling at service. It’s all wonderful and impressive until we are all thrown into the same pool, competing for the same things, and we have to learn to be a little humble. Rejection is a part of life, and learning to handle it with grace, grow from it, and bounce back quickly is much more important than padding one more thing onto your resume.
Freshman year, I struggled in my science classes. Sophomore year, I worked on a startup that went nowhere. Junior year, I wanted to serve my beloved Lyons Hall as an RA and senior year I wanted to be captain of my dance team. This is only the tip of the iceberg, because some days I was being told “no” a lot more than I was being told “yes” and it got frustrating and disheartening. It took a while to realize it, but that’s actually a good thing.
You can’t fail if you never try. Sure, you might be a shoo-in for one opportunity, but how likely are you to apply to things you think you have a 1% shot at? You will get a lot of bad news, but you also just might surprise yourself and land a dream opportunity. What seems like a long shot actually might be a perfect match for you.
I also learned you can’t do it all. If I was an RA, I never would have had enough time for my thesis. If I got every job I applied for, I would be working non-stop in several different cities. I’m known to keep myself aggressively busy and get over-committed and over-involved, and if every opportunity panned out, I wouldn’t have been able to commit to doing anything well.
The absolute most important lesson though, is to work hard and stay humble. In such a competitive pool, you’ll have to fight to succeed. When you don’t, you’re going to have to learn that you didn’t deserve it, and someone else did. Adapt, improve, bounce back.
Your time at ND won’t be something you can just coast through. You’ll work hard, study harder, and sometimes you will get bad news. What I can promise you is that it will make you stronger, more humble, and ultimately, more successful. Just ask CoCo.