Sequence, Failure and Resilience…

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Delivered to a group of high school students in an auditorium.

When I was 17 I spent my first days at the United States Military Academy at West Point, rated by U.S. News & World Report as the #1 most difficult undergraduate institution to gain admittance to for 2004. When I was 20 years old I very irresponsibly got my girlfriend pregnant, jeopardizing my entire appointment to USMA, and culminating in her eventual miscarriage. Two years later at the age of 22 I was married and subsequently deployed to Ramadi, Iraq for 12 months to secure the 2nd national Iraqi election. At the age of 26 I went through a divorce from my wife and deployed to Afghanistan for my second deployment. That same year I wrote and published my first book, a memoir. At the age of 27 I received a DUI after I began drinking very heavily. That same year I wrote my second book, a collection of poetry, and at 29 I wrote my third book, also a collection of poetry.

Why did I tell you all of that? Specifically, why did I tell you the unflattering aspects of my condensed history? Because to have only told you the flattering components of my story would be deceiving and it would be a betrayal to the complexity of my own life experience. My life sequence (which to the exact) will not be any of your life sequences, is mine and mine alone, but I own it all. I own the highs and I own the lows. That’s okay, and to share only the peaks of my life experience would be incredibly disingenuous.

Let me tell you something. Sequence is crap. We’ll come back to that in detail. But sequence is crap, and the preposterous exultation of sequence is killing youth, it’s killing adults, it’s killing ambition and creativity and happiness. Life is not formulaic. That’s point one. We’ll return. Point two — we don’t focus on failure because in some way — whether by vocal or subliminal direction — we create conditions where all people feel that failure or mistakes or shortcomings are scars to be ashamed of. That is false. It’s false for a thousand reasons, but mostly it’s false because the ultimate success is not the promotion or the A+ or the graduation or raise or diploma or completion of the project. The ultimate success is resiliency. The ultimate success is being able to take your mistakes and spin them into experiences that yield growth. The ultimate success is being able to take those experiences that others view as failures and leverage a mindset that creates the gold of positive perspective.

Let’s return to sequence. I firmly believe that sequence is bullshit and I have no problem saying that to your face and in front of your teachers. But understand what I mean by sequence. There is a progression that is necessary — a road — that must be followed to achieve success in any realm. However, the idea that there is a singular sequence to life that is formulaic and must be rigidly adhered to in order to achieve success is supremely damaging.

I strongly believe that rigidity kills creativity, and if I had to choose one of the greatest assets you can take forward with you into life (aside from resilience) creativity would be right up there. Because at its height, in its purest form, creativity is the ability to see the world that hasn’t been realized yet, and it has a striking connection to optimism because you need to be able to derive creative solutions to obstacles when they arise.

Will and creativity are the cornerstones of resilience. You have to have the will to overcome problems, and you have to possess the creativity to negotiate them.

As young people you have so much time and opportunity ahead of you. You have time to exist outside the lines, to kill the sequence, to work hard on your own progression in order to achieve your dreams. Douse that path with a great deal of resilience and you have all it takes to win on your terms. Excuse me when I say this, but eff the construct. Eff what has been built for you and definitely eff the prescribed sequence for you to be successful. It works for some, but it doesn’t work for all. Work hard in school. Work hard in every endeavor presented you, but never limit yourself to a single path, and chase down your dreams by creating your own world.

Roman Newell

Graphic Compositions:
by: Darlene Carroll

Graphic work can not be accomplished without the incredible resources made available to this Author and his team.
THANK YOU to the following artists for the gift of their artistry and generosity in sharing their beautiful artwork, photography, and fonts.

Background Imagery:
o. Maret Hosemann — Pixabay
o. Lars Nissen — Pixabay
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o. Cattu — Pixabay

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