I messed up. Royally. I could see it in their eyes and hear the emotion in their voices. I had thrown away my future. A future that up until the day before seemed so promising. I had dropped out of college as an 18-year-old junior.
My father said not to call him again until I re-enrolled and got my act together. My mom cried. Then she gave me a hug and said she’d love me and believe in me no matter what. But I saw how badly she was hurting. College was not just my dream. My going to and finishing college was their dream, too.
We were all scared, and rightly so. My parents were raised to believe that a college degree was the key to a successful career. My parents had sacrificed so much for me to go to college, and now I was—in their view—throwing it all away. To them it didn’t matter why I left school, but just that I left without finishing. Couldn’t I wait until graduation? Maybe take a year to go “find myself”? But no, I was going all in to chase some silly dream.
And they were right.
The conviction I felt to chase that silly dream scared me and inspired me. Everything else felt less important. Seventeen years later, I look back and think I was crazy. Naïve. Wide-eyed. Who drops out of college to write a book and start a business while sleeping on a floor? I’m lucky my parents didn’t drag my butt back to school. But instead they wisely let me struggle, fall and rise based on my own efforts.
You’ve faced a similar situation. You were confronted with a big life choice and made a decision. Even if you chose not to act, you still made a decision. In those moments of candid courage when we battle the emotion of public failure and personal insecurity, we are the one thing so many of us try not to be: We are human.
I share my story and the emotion around it because—in spite of all the success and adventure I’ve experienced since I left college—I sometimes question whether I made the right decision in that dorm room years ago. Most people who read my books don’t know I dropped out of college. Technically I didn’t graduate from high school, either. I guess I’m a professional non-completer. There. I said it.
But what I’ve learned and what I propose you consider is that being public about our setbacks, failures and uppercuts to the chin makes us real. Sharing our mistakes and insecurities helps people to identify with us and feel more connected.
Anyone can boast about success. It takes candid courage to publicly share the tough times between your high points, the less-than-stellar experiences that made you who you are. Sharing how you survived gives you depth and humanity—all of which draws people to you like a magnet.
Will you join me and share a setback or struggle you’ve faced in the comments section? Let’s be vulnerable and human together. Let’s show the world we have candid courage.