The three F’s of success

POINT OF VIEW - Jadin Zam S. Doctolero - The Philippine Star

We’re putting a close to our university lives at a time when many of us have already gotten a taste of what many people like to call “the real world.” I’m sure we have here those who’ve already finished their board exams or those who, by now, are working professionals supporting their families or taking on bigger responsibilities. We owe it to our Lasallian education for helping us reach this far and for making us the achievers we are today.

But what exactly is it from our experience here in DLSU that got us this far? For some, it could simply be that desire to learn or to achieve great things. For others, it could be passion for their organizations and wanting to make the most out of their university life. In my case, as I look back on my own experience here in DLSU, the answer came in the form of three F’s, the three F’s of success I learned that got me this far.

First is failing forward. During my freshman year, I ran as an independent candidate as president of my batch. Remember the frosh campaigning in purple? Yes, that was me. Then, during my sophomore year, I ran as college president of the Gokongwei College of Engineering. For anyone who ever experienced participating in DLSU’s general elections, you know that it’s not just any decision you can make. The amount of time and effort you have to dedicate to the elections is no joke. And so, losing both times was indeed a disheartening experience.

But little did I know that that would open doors of opportunities for me. With the extra time that I had, I decided to apply for a short-term program in Japan on my third year just to experience what it’s like to be outside the country for the very first time. Fortunately, I got accepted and my experience there forever changed and redirected my college life. With my performance as a student in Japan, I was again sent by DLSU to a public speaking competition in Indonesia. And it did not stop there. A whole slew of international opportunities came my way, so much so that I probably burdened my professors with a pile of excused absence forms. Nonetheless, in each one, I found myself growing and gaining new learnings and experiences that I wouldn’t have acquired had I not lost the elections.

In other words, failure is not an endpoint but more of a redirection to something better in store for us. You failed the board exam? Try again, strengthen on tough subjects and you may be a topnotcher next year. You failed your job interview? Well, that company may not be the right one for you, and the better fit is just out there waiting. And in each failure, it’s important to find that opportunity to improve or learn from our mistakes. That’s how we set ourselves up to fail forward.

However, in failing forward, it’s natural to encounter even bigger barriers. After all, the world we live in can be cruel and unforgiving. Many things are simply beyond our control. That leads me to my second F, which is forgiving the unforgiving. Around the time I was in high school, we had several financial challenges. My dad had a stroke, making it difficult for him to continue his regular work and leaving my OFW mom to support the family. In fact, when I was deciding which school to take for college, I could not choose a school like DLSU if it did not offer a full scholarship. It was simply beyond what we could afford.

That’s why, instead of resenting our current situation, I learned to accept it and work hard to get scholarships. Eventually, my hard work paid off when I got offered the Gokongwei Grants. Without it, I wouldn’t be here right now. For that, I offer my sincerest gratitude not just to the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation but also to the organizations who helped me complete my high school, bachelor’s, and master’s on full scholarships.

So, what does forgiving in an unforgiving world really mean? The dictionary defines forgiving as giving up resentment, but more than that, for me, it’s channeling your emotions to do something more productive and to control what you can control, whether it’s first focusing on your mental health especially during this time of pandemic, using your power to vote to elect better leaders or planning to achieve something big in the future. In any case, when we choose to be on the forgiving side, our eyes can better see the endless possibilities ahead, empowering us that we do have that capacity to improve our current situation.

And on that note, let us not choose to be the unforgiving ones to ourselves. We can be our own worst critic, but we need to accept that as humans, it’s natural to make mistakes. It’s also natural to get tired, stressed or depressed, so forgive yourselves and take that time to pause and refuel. After all, it’s hard to struggle to succeed when we are also struggling from within. Ang hirap, di ba?

Once you’ve prepared yourself to fail forward amidst an unforgiving world, that’s when you start forging your own future, the third and final F of success I’ve realized. You know, ever since we started as frosh in DLSU, there’s a sort of pre-determined path laid out for us for some reason. You finish your degree, then take the board exams, then get a job – something like that. As a student, I saw myself in this too – that after graduation, I would take the boards, probably aim to be a topnotcher, have the word “engineer” before my name, then get a job closely related to chemical engineering.

However, in my isolation during the numerous quarantines we had, I began to realize that this path isn’t really for me and maybe I’m meant for something else. I’m sure you guys have had those kinds of thoughts too, whether it’s regarding your course or maybe your love life. Around that time, I decided that my long-term goal will be to work in a different field and maybe in a different place, and so instead of preparing for the board exams, I was studying something entirely different, something more useful for me in this road less traveled. On top of that, I got accepted to a job that didn’t require me to be a licensed engineer. And that, my friends, is my current picture of success.

Does that make me any less of an engineer? Does that make me any less of a Lasallian achiever for God and country? To be honest, I don’t think so. My point is we don’t have to be scared of going against the norm just to prove ourselves. We’re the ones forging our own future, so we have every reason to define our own version of success. What’s important is that our success has a greater meaning to it and is contributing to something bigger than us. We are still Lasallians, after all.

But no success story exists without struggles. As St. Catherine of Siena would say, “Nothing great is ever achieved without enduring much.” I, myself, once dreamt of graduating with a 3.9+ GPA. I didn’t know if I could do it. I was not as smart and as fast as my peers, and I was not as privileged as you are. I had to consistently, consistently, consistently work hard for six long years. A bachelor’s student by day and a master’s student by night. And after enduring that much and everything in between, I finally made it happen. And I believe that you too can realize that future you want to forge as long as you trust in yourselves and remain consistent.

Fellow graduates, the road ahead is unprecedented and unforgiving. But we’re here today with our heads held up high, ready to face even bigger challenges and to make our impact in our own respective fields. We will definitely stumble along the way, but we will fail forward and learn from our experiences. Yes, we will struggle to succeed, but we will forgive our shortcomings and find new ways of doing things. In so doing, we can forge a future where we can take pride in our own successes.

Guided by our Lasallian values and virtues, we can also build a future where everyone can dream of success in the same position we are in now. It’s simply a question of how willing we are to use what we have to make conditions better for others and to provide them with opportunities that they alone cannot access. I look forward to that future we can build together, a future that truly begins here.

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Jadin Zam Doctolero is a Gokongwei Grants scholar and a graduate of Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Chemical Engineering, summa cum laude from De La Salle University. He is currently working as product supply manager/process engineer at Procter & Gamble Philippines, Cabuyao plant.


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