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Failing as a step to success

Raymund Li’s Valedictory Address, UP College of Business Administration Graduation 2010
Guest speaker Mr. Ramon del Rosario, President Roman, Dean Echanis, other esteemed officials of the University and the College, distinguished faculty, beloved parents and fellow graduating students, a pleasant day to you all! In graduation ceremonies, most people share stories about how hard they have worked to reach their dreams. But I guess I’d like to share how much I learned from what some of my friends would jokingly call a losing streak.
When I started joining competitions in third year, I imagined it was all going to be smooth sailing. I thought there was no way we were going to lose. First, our teams were composed of brilliant, gifted individuals. Second, we worked together so relentlessly and refused to settle for anything less than first place. With such talent and preparation, I thought losing was simply an abstract possibility, a one in a million chance. Then the concept of defeat finally materialized. I lost three, or more, consecutive times on different turfs. There were no excuses and it became frustrating. I’d often doubt myself whether I was good enough, or whether we’ve put in enough time and effort.
I believe we all go through these same experiences in our college lives, maybe in different contexts but mostly with similar impact. When we entered UP, people told us that it meant belonging to the cream of the crop. And then, when we attended our GE classes, our classmates told us how they cannot wait to shift to BA. All these just build our ego and confidence in ourselves. Right then, we start seeing the failing score across our student number in our first BA subject while going over the giant X marks with unconventional green or purple ink on our case reports. Even though we are the only ones who see this, we still feel like a failure as if our time and efforts have gone to waste.
Surprisingly, recovering from these experiences can be uncomplicated with the right people. This is the first lesson that we can see in failing. We learn to appreciate the importance of the people around us. For me, the losses made me feel my mom’s concern when she cooked my favourite sinigang almost every night. My friends lent their ears to every rant I had about those defeats while the faculty remained supportive despite it all. Within our teams, we’d always share the feeling of losing and getting over it, like spending an overnight to forget the PANA loss, or wishing there was another round at FINEX so we could get even. In our academics, we begin to appreciate our professor spending consultation hours to help us hurdle our next exam, finish the very final draft of our systems design or case analysis. When our events or projects do not go as planned, our friends’ presence and support make us feel much better. Or, sometimes, we are just thrilled and excited with the warmth of home at the end of a difficult semester.
And with these support groups, it’s been easier to understand the second lesson we can take away from failing. Never give up. Three words that are so easy to say, but so difficult to do I guess. After losing consecutive times, I felt like I was the common element through those defeats and wanted to quit our last IRC competition. But then I thought, that meant not being able to redeem myself or the university. After all, at the bottom, there really isn’t anywhere else to go but up. This is no different from the continuing struggle BAA students undertake even when we need a 90+ to remain in the program. Or, when we undergraduates just keep churning out feasibility study ideas or revising our drafts even when they result in dead-ends, hoping that something finally works out. Or, maybe that means fighting for every subject when we are running for Latin honors with 24 units in our final semester. For graduate students, the balance between family, work and school can be so challenging, dropping out seems tempting. Sitting here today though, means that you continued exerting efforts to submit case studies or reports after endless editing and revisions and finally passed the much-dreaded comprehensive exams. In the end, if we dedicate ourselves towards our goals, we can surprise ourselves, achieving things we never thought possible.
Finally, our failures tell us that they really are just a part of the learning experience. And, this is why schools are the perfect environment for them. For me, losing in competitions taught me that it’s never really over until the fat lady sings, meaning less overconfidence and continued resilience despite establishing a huge lead. Some organizations whose events have not been so successful in the past could probably realize that focusing on projects is as important as valuing the people who drive these initiatives. Our group activities, even though they result in long discussions sometimes ending in intense personal disagreements, teach us the value of communicating ideas effectively and managing team dynamics in order to be successful in the work place. Even our internship and summer work experiences are not about being perfect. After all, if our learning environment does not provide us with a venue to fail, then we will have had no such experience to draw from when we deal with failure in the real- world, where these will only become tougher.
Some of us are already experiencing this as our career options might be falling short of our expectations, but our first job will not define who we are. It’s how we use our fresh-out-of-college experiences to build relationships and to still achieve the goals that we have set.
All these learning experiences wouldn’t have been possible without a number of people we’d like to thank today. Our deepest gratitude goes to our overworked and underpaid professors who have dedicated themselves to this often unrewarded vocation. Vocation. Not job. Because a job pays financially. Thank you for sharing your lives with us, so that we can add value to this nation just as you do every day you come to class. Rest assured, you will not be forgotten. I’d personally like to thank Sir Dave, Ma’am Dani and the rest of the 201 folks for being our second family. To our dear parents, my parents Ramon and Susan, thank you for all the support, whether financial or emotional. Thank you for being there even as we are no longer as cute as when we were born and even if we come home in the wee hours of the morning from meetings. To the spouses and special someone’s, thank you for being everything that your partners need you to be – a listener, adviser, fan and best friend. And, to the Filipino people, thank you for sending us to this prestigious institution. We owe you our education and vow to repay this in our own ways.
To our PhD, MS Fin and MBA graduates, congratulations for reaching another milestone in your life. To the BA graduates, your graduation blues and mixed emotions are certainly not unwarranted. To my co-BAA graduates, WE ARE FINALLY HERE: The day we’ve all been waiting for since our first 6 hour exam. My fellow graduates, as we leave the safety of college and move to face the reality of life, may we never forget the education that the University, our professors and our parents have shared with us. Maraming salamat po at mabuhay ang mga iskolar ng bayan!
Raymund is from Xavier School Class of 2005. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of the Philippines, Class Valedictorian of the College of Business Administration. He also received the UP Gawad Chanselor Para sa Natatanging Mag-aaral 2010, “the highest, most prestigious University award given to students who have attained a certain level of accomplishment, maturity, and wisdom; successfully combining academic excellence with extra-curricular achievement and leadership”. 


June 2, 2010 @ 3:48 am

Great job! Kudos.

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