Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Failure and Success

Here’s how I ended up in law school: I lost a bet with my dad. I told him that if he helped me finance a small business and it doesn’t work out, I’ll study law as a back-up. He agreed. The business failed, so I found myself taking an exam. Obviously, I got in.

Please don’t read too much into what I’m about to say, but I’m really not accustomed to failing. I’m one of those people who never had to try hard to excel. And in those few instances where I really did my best, I usually came out on top. The fact that the business failed wasn’t that big of a deal for me because, at least this was what I thought; first, I didn’t really try, and second, I felt that if I really tried, it would have been successful. I figured, whatever, it doesn’t count.

Besides, I really had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and lawyering seemed as good a job as any.

When I started, I thought it was going to be a piece of cake. I’m sure that the other 249 students felt the same way too. Which was why we were all so shocked. At the end of the first year, almost 50% quit, or got kicked out.

Here’s the thing. The first lesson law school teaches you is how to handle pain. Mind-numbing excruciating pain. Physical pain, in the form of headaches and ulcers because of sleepless nights and skipped meals due to non-stop studying. Psychological pain, because the professor will make you feel like an idiot for every mistake you make, and you’re bound to make a mistake each and every day. Emotional pain, because each day is a battle between your sense of worth, and the constant pressure to do better. In law school, there is a tendency for you to be defined by your grades. The school will not look at you as a person who is artistic, or interesting, or charming. It can only see you as that guy who failed Obligations and Contracts, or that girl who got a perfect score in Negotiable Instruments. It’s very difficult for a normal person not to question his significance when every day they give you a number as a yardstick for your value. “Here, you’re 74, the guy who almost passed."

There’s a reason why half of the first batch of law students leave or get kicked out; not everyone can handle it.

“Sleep is for the weak,” one professor said, and we believed him, at least when we were freshmen. We never slept. We had no choice, there was too much that needed to be read, or written, or understood. Each morning I woke up wanting to quit.

But I didn’t. Which surprised me to my core. How can the perennial quitter, that guy who never failed because he never truly attempted anything, stay the course for something this difficult? It was mind-boggling.

But this is where it gets weird: the more difficult the course got, the more I wanted to finish it. It became an obsession. Every morning I woke up thinking “fuck I want to quit,” and then I’d change my mind right after. Against all odds, it became a dream. I plodded on, with 3-4 hours of sleep, a couple of Red Bulls, and a Venti Caramel Macchiato everyday. I was miserable, but I wanted it so badly the idea of failing was unimaginable.

It came with a lot of sacrifices. My then-boyfriend broke up with me. I fought with my friends. I barely saw my family. My social life was practically nonexistent. And my already short temper was made even shorter. Every day, I blew up for no reason at all. I almost lost my best friend.

And why sacrifice so much? Why would I put myself in a situation where I could fail in the truest sense of the word? Why would I put my heart and soul into something so badly that I sacrificed so many other things that were also important? Why would I do that?

The answer was simple: Because I wanted to, and it was my dream.

The idea that one can achieve something significant or important in one’s life, grabbed me. So I took a chance. I’m still taking that chance. It’s very possible I will fail, but I will make sure, at least to the extent of my capacity, that it will not be because I did not give it my all.

There are successful people, and then there are successful people. I want my success, if I would be given the opportunity to reach it, to be defined by the idea that I took a risk, and won. That I poured my heart into something I really, truly thought was important, and I managed to come out on top. I don't want my success to be an accident. Success, without the real risk of failure, is not success at all.


  1. in the words of Bill Cosby In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.
    seems to me that is what is happening herer.

  2. you'll never know how much this post touched me. im on a crossroad right now, and this piece blew me away..thank you fickle cattle. ive always been a fan.

    btw, ive always heard from my paralegal and law school stude friends about obligation and contracts and negotiobale instruments to be a pain in the neck...

  3. It shouldn't be easy to achieve great things. And only truly great people will appreciate them.

    I am very similar in that I hate to fail. I'll admit I have not always taken the difficult road by choice, but once on it I am bound and determined to survive it.


  4. I share the same attitude. I rarely lose because I pick the games I play. But every once in a while, something comes along and the risk makes it worth trying.

    This post motivated me. :P I'm in the middle of academic hell right now; I can't even blog. But reading this energized me. :D

  5. you have such a gift for writing.
    and i love it.
    thanks for visiting the blog!


  6. Well said and a lot of good points! Good for you for earning your success!


  7. I plan to take up law, and your stories scare me. But fuck it, I *will* make it through law school.

  8. I am always terrified of failing, and that is why I never try either. Maybe I will try harder at the next thing I do.

  9. What an inspirational post! I loved the part where you spoke about being the guy who never failed because he never truly attempted anything - and also where you said you want your success to be defined by how you took a risk and won. Big hugs, The Empress

  10. Good writers write. Great writers confess.

    So, nice confession. Great, actually. Outstanding.

    You successfully touched a deep-rooted fear of my own: try hard, try harder, try hardest, fail.

    Instead, I prefer to, like you with your small business, dabble in it, maybe fail, maybe succeed, but retain that luxury of saying I didn't try hard enough, and rely on the fact that I have an easy time of almost and barely succeeding.

    Such a dirty line to walk, isn't it.


    What an inspiring post. What else can I say, and I'm not one to be at a loss for words.

    - Eric

  11. Law school sounds really hard, and depressing. No one should ever be brought down because they made a mistake. We ALL make mistakes. That's why we have erasers on the back of our pencils. Hell, they even made them on pens (even though those suck and get ALL over your finger, haha). All you have to do to succeed (in my opinion) is just try your very best, be able to love and let love go, and just be yourself. That's success. Once again another one of your lovely post made me think a lot, and blew my mind away. I think its somewhere in Mexico =)

  12. My own experience studying and instructing Chinese medicine was similar, with the added challenge of that strange set of symptoms known, unofficially, as the 'medical student syndrome', a strange state of being where each time a new medical condition (western or Chinese) was introduced, students would 'come down' with the same said symptoms and seek refuge at the acupuncture or walk-in clinics at lunchtime.

  13. isn't it funny that the things we love the most almost always seem to be what is most difficult for us? Maybe it is because we can never truly love something until we realize we have to work at it.

  14. This is sort of happening to me but I haven't decided to go into law school yet. I feel that getting into law school without REALLY wanting it, would put a couple of years of my life to waste. It's a good thing it turned out great for you though. Good luck! :)

  15. di ako pwede maging abugado..abugago pwede pa..hehe..*wink*

  16. I'm glad that you stayed on . . .

    All the best with life.

    Joy always,

  17. I have high regard for people who are persevering and who don't give up easily. Good luck! I hope you ace law school!

  18. "I don't want my success to be an accident"

    wow! this one struck me, and I totally agree with you!:) Good luck and God bless on all your endeavors:))

  19. haha, i was going to write a comment then it ended up becoming a rather long rant, so i posted it on my blog. all that's left to say is, congratulations with getting it over and done with!

  20. Great Post.

    I don't think I'd be able to handle law school. I'm much to weak. I'd soon give up.
    I love to succeed, I don't always enjoy the hard work to get it, but in the end it's usually always worth it.

    'Laziness may appear attractive, but only work gives satisfaction' -Anne Frank


  21. I didn't really finish reading(I'm making some articles for a company, deadline 5 hours lol) ...

    but you seem awesome! thanks for reading my blog and for the comment ^_^

    (Now to Advertise my blogs)

  22. Hi, i love reading your post, i din't know that law school is so hard to study, nowonder lawyer makes so much money. Anyway, you have make it so far, and keep working hard toward what you want in life. Gambatte and stick to your strong value/believe and i am sure you'll achieve what you want someday :-)

  23. you must be someone who loves challenges. :)

    i also wanted to be a lawyer at some point in my life. good thing the desire disappeared...i love sleep too much. :)

  24. Hello I'm Kelly Ryu. I only just saw your comment on my karaoke post and so i decided to check yours out.

    This post has just made me realise how much I want to get into architecture. Thanks!

  25. Congratulations on completing the Bar exams! It's been 18 years since I graduated from the law school at Dela Costa (not from the fancy new campus you depicted), and I have never for a single day regretted all the hard work that it took for me to become a lawyer. It has been a fantastic 18 years so far, and I wish you the same success. Go for it!

  26. Was it that I flubbed your gender that you deleted my comment? You said boyfriend, and there were no other indicators from the first post I read. Sorry, duder.

  27. They say that the best things in life are worth fighting for and your success at law school is an example of this. Your success is no accident.

  28. Oh my gosh, I love this post so so much!!!!!

  29. @Becca: I hope so. :-)

    @anteros: They are. And thank you for your words.

    @SD: Great things shouldn't come easy. Otherwise, what's the point?

    @rz: Completely agree. :-)

    @Brooke and CBG: Thanks!

    @Ela: There's the spirit. You'll need it. ;-)

    @amber: I understand the feeling. But sometimes the objective makes the risk worthwhile.

    @ranter's: Thanks empress.

    @eric: thanks eric. Appreciate that a lot.

    @talia: Law school, I believe, requires that from its students because the profession isn't easy, and, I think, it's the process the use to weed out those who are really doing it because the want to from those who are only doing it on a whim or because they were forced to do it.

    @Catharine: sounds a lot like hypochondria. Crazy.

    @miranda: I think that's true.

    @faith: good luck for you too. law school can be great, you just have to want it I think.

    @toffer: hahaha. hey, you never know.

  30. @susan: I'm glad I did that too. Thanks.

    @Tetcha and krizia: Thanks. :-)

    @shockresist: Where? In your lj? Wait, I'll add you, I have an lj account as fickle cattle.

    @Ali: I think you can probably ace it; I don't know if you'd want to though, that depends on you. :-)

    @janice: Thanks!

    @kg: Hahaha. Me too. Which was such a sacrifice.

    @ryu: no prob. Thank you too.

    @glb: Thanks! Another atenista! Wohoo!:-)

    @chris: I don't think I read the comment you said I deleted. I didn't delete any comment recently actually. I'm sorry if it didn't show. Maybe you can post it again? Sorry for the hassle.

    @gabrielle: I agree. Thanks.

    @liz: Aww. Thanks liz. :0)

  31. My friend is a lawyer. She could have easily written the part of this post about what law school teaches you .... pain, sleep is for the weak, etc... her stories are similar to yours.

  32. i was a law student at ateneo as well, and i became part of the 50% demographic when i was in second year. you are right, if the heart is not there, it wont work. i remember telling my classmate and friend one day that upon waking up, my mind and heart has decided to leave. i just couldn't endure living someone else's dream.

    congrats on becoming a lawyer, im sure you'll do well

    Francis of Behind the Thick Framed Glasses



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