Donations to Discovery

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Part 1: What do you do.... When You've Failed at....


First of all I don't believe in absolutes.... so no one fails at everything.

I think that's a double negative.... but hopefully you understand.

But there's probably some people out there that believe that about themselves and may learn something from my own experiences at failure.

You can call them Mistakes or Failures... it's kinda interchangeable for the purpose of this post.

Couple of notes about this post before I get started:
  • This is not a pity party about my life.  It's a relatively objective assessment of what I have and haven't accomplished in my life and is intended to be a learning experience for myself and my readers.
  • Because of the somber and somewhat depressive theme and tone of this post, I have given careful consideration in writing it.  I realize that some people who don't know me may label it the random ravings of an unstable or egocentric man incapable of dealing with the normal rigors of life and his existence in a society we all struggle with.
  • IMHO, the best approach to digesting the information in this post is the same approach to dealing with me in person..... just take it at face value.
So, how do I approach the monumental task of documenting the failures in my life?

Let's try chronologically..... for the vocabulary challenged.... that would be in order of occurrence.

Next, I'll select the failures that have had the greatest impact on my life.

I've talked about these events or decisions before...


They are decisions made in your life that have long lasting and far reaching impact on your life.

I could go all the way back to childhood but I'm not sure I had control of a lot of decisions then and feel it best to start in the era of young adulthood....

Which for me begins at age 16.

Quick background on Failure #1....

I went to grades 1 - 4 at a Public Elementary School, but grades 5 - 8 were spent at a very small parochial school based on a decision by my mother.... God rest her soul.

Also, I grew up being directed to follow a strict Seventh Day Adventist doctrine which included no "pleasure" activities from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown including playing and athletic activities.

The combination of the SDA Church School and the restrictive weekend schedule resulted in my not being able to participate in "normal" athletic activities in grades 5 - 8 when those skills would normally be developed in preparation for High School.

I did go to a Public High School, but was grossly under equipped to handle the social and interpersonal skills necessary in that environment due to the rural location of our home (no kids around) and the 4 years spent in a school with grades 1 - 8 and a total student count of 22.

Long story short, I started taking the bull by the horns when I was a Sophomore in High School and decided to run track and do Spring Training for Football.....

I followed up by playing on the JV team my Junior year and was prepared for a starting position at Fullback my Senior Year.

Unfortunately, I had to take on a near full time job my Senior Year of High School to be able to buy a car and elected not to play football my Senior Year.

That was a decision I regret to this day.....Was it a Failure?

Yes, I failed to recognize at an early age the importance of Gaining Experiences over Gaining Wealth.

It was a very good season for Forest Park High School and they had a chance to win district for the first time in many years.

I would like to think I may have had an impact on that season and know for certain that the experience of being on that team that year would have been something I would have remembered for the rest of my life.

This was a Mistake I made and a Failure I experienced many times in my life.

I've seen this written many times but feel it is one of the Most Important Truths in Life.

When you suck in that last breath, will you be thinking of how much money you made and all the things you bought with it or the relationships you made and the monumental things you experienced?

Failure #2 -

That same Senior Year of High School, I met and began dating my True First Love..... I'll just call her Vicky G.

She was beautiful, intelligent, athletic and of high moral and ethical character.... I hadn't a clue why she was interested in me but she was.

We were inseparable throughout our Senior Year.  Come the end of that summer, she had made her plans to go off to Baylor in Waco Tx and I, of course, poor boy that I was, was lucky to have a small scholarship that would pay half the first semester at the hometown school, Lamar University.

I was broken hearted when she left, listening bleary eyed to Air Supply and Little River Band night after night.  A week later Vicky G called me and said she had returned to Beaumont and enrolled at LU.

This was a turning point in our already serious relationship because she professed her love for me and I for her and from then on, it was a foregone conclusion we would spend the rest of our lives together.

We dated for 3-1/2 years and then, somehow, decided that, since we had each only dated one other person, we should date others "to be sure" we were right for each other.

Needless to say, that ended our relationship.  It is a Decision and a Failure I still think about to this day.

What was the failure?

To realize that First Love can be True Love and that True Love is to be Treasured and Protected.

Failure #3 -

Also my Senior Year of High School, there was a Job Fair at my High School.

A little filler info here to help with this one.... I love the Outdoors, Wildlife, Hunting, Fishing, Hiking, Backpacking, Exploring.... anything having to do with Nature and the Great Outdoors... I started hunting with a .22 caliber Benjamin Pellet gun when I was 7 years old  and often went into the fields surrounding my house and came back with doves, quail, rabbits that we cooked and ate.... So I was definitely Outdoor boy.  In High School, I often guided the Rich Kids from Forest Park on duck and goose hunts on the leases their dads had but had no time or interest in taking them on.

Second, I was a pretty smart kid.  The 4 years in Parochial School had set me back too far to challenge the upper tier of High School graduates but I made straight A's in High School.... never made a B.... just didn't take enough advanced classes.  Had a good balance of knowledge and talent between Liberal Arts and Math and Science and scored well enough on my first SAT taken when I was a Sophomore to get me into any State funded University in Texas.

So I went to this job fair in the High School Cafeteria the fall of my Senior Year.

Texas Parks and Wildlife had a table set up to the left.  I alway wanted to be a Park Ranger or a Game Warden.  So I went to the table and asked "How much money does a Park Ranger make?"

The answer: $12000

Now this was in 1979 but even back then I knew that $12000 wasn't gonna make it for me.  Hell, I was making almost that much working 35 hours a week at an Auto Parts Store.

So I walked over to the Lamar University College of Engineering table set up on the right and asked them the same question.

The answer: $24500

And so I made probably the Worst Decision of My Life.....

I became a Chemical Engineer instead of a Park Ranger.

What was my failure?

To have the Courage to Follow My Passion and Dreams vs Follow My Incredible Desire to Reverse the Poor Upbringing I had experienced.

Failure #4 -

My Senior year of College, 1984, marked the historical low point of employment for Chemical Engineers.... Literally.

It had never been that bad before.... It has never been that bad since.
Out of 43 in my graduating class, only 17 got jobs and 16/17 of those had one offer and that was with the company the student had co-op'd or interned with.

Probably because I was the Valedictorian of my Chemical Engineering Class and the Male Valedictorian of the Graduating Class of Summer 1984 with a 3.92 GPA (I made 2 B's in 156 hours of College), I got 3 offers.

One was with Anderson Clayton Foods in Sherman Tx for $24,500.

One was with Dow Chemical in Freeport Tx for $28,200.

One was with Texaco Chemical in Pt Neches Tx for $28,700 but they had cancelled my co-op program scheduled for 5 semesters after the 2nd semester which left me in a scramble to pay for college and expenses during the last 2 years of school.  So they were out. Period. No way I was gonna work for a company that couldn't keep their promise to me.

So, I had a decision to make between Anderson Clayton Foods and Dow Chemical.

I went to my on-site interview with Anderson Clayton Foods at their HQ in Dallas Tx.  The job was for a Production Engineer at a Seven Seas Salad Dressing Production Facility in Sherman Tx.  It was a relatively small production Food Grade facility made of stainless steel, i.e. a clean and nice place to work (not a chemical plant). The folks that interviewed me were very nice and almost apologetic because they realized they couldn't compete on pay with the larger petrochemical companies.  It was like a family environment.... I could see right off..... and Dallas was a different place from the Gulf Coast of Texas....I was very tempted but the starting pay offered at Dow was nearly 15% higher.

So I picked the Dow Chemical job in Freeport Tx.

Huge Mistake..... I hated the job and the work atmosphere from the very beginning but the job market was very thin for the first couple of years so I stayed.

I saved my money and begin buying rent houses.... cause all I could think about was getting rich and getting away from Dow Chemical.

Another failure in life propagated by the importance placed on Money vs a less lucrative Opportunity that appealed to my Happiness.

Failure #5 -

For the first 3 - 4 years of my career as a Chemical Engineer, I worked very hard in my spare time on buying and remodeling rent houses and getting them rented out to create cash flow and future capital appreciation.

During that time, I looked for other opportunities to make money outside of my chosen vocation - the vocation I selected which I hated.  See Failure #3.

Long Story Longer, I got involved in the Stock Market without any formal training or experience.  I was successful for a while, but then started taking bigger risks with more leverage and ended up leveraged up and on the wrong side of the Crash of 1987.

I ended up in debt with a big loan to pay off that took up my discretionary income for 4 years.

This was a very dark time in my life.

This is an example of how one mistake leads to another.

The failure here was....

My discontentment with my chosen career caused me to get involved in a risky business where I had no formal training which resulted in me losing money I didn't have to lose.

See any pattern here?

Depressed yet?

Don't be.

These 5 failures all happened a long time ago and they shaped the person I am now.... for good or bad.

In Part 2, I'll pick up where Part 1 left off and talk about failures in marriage, parenting and my most recent failures.

Won't that be interesting?

I can hardly wait.

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