Bryan Fink – Murray State University
I was sitting on the edge of my bed, prepped, packed and almost ready to drive to meet my student manager and the other students who would be driving together to Nashville for sales school. So many thoughts were racing through my mind, the same thoughts I had already had countless times since I first heard about the Southwestern Advantage Program. “I’m gonna fail, I’m gonna lose money, I’m gonna look like an idiot because I am the only one of my friends dumb enough to believe that I could do this”. The knot in my stomach was wound so tight, and the idea to stay home and wait tables for another summer was so tempting, I completely forgot about how the Southwestern Advantage Program had been around for 157 years, or how many kids were already so successful at it, or how much money I could make and the skills I could learn. It was at the most important crossroad of my developing life, either stick with a safe and comfortable existence at home, or take a chance and reach for something more.
The first time I heard of the Southwestern Advantage Program, I was sitting at my computer in class working on a poster design when a little yellow stack of surveys was getting past around the room. I took one and read of a great summer job that offered wonderful pay, the chance to travel and meet new people, and learn valuable skills that would help me in the job market. After waiting tables for two years I was bored of doing the same thing again and again and thought this was at least worth checking out. I filled out the survey and within a day got a call from a man named Benji Graybeal, a confident sounding man from Idaho who was recruiting Murray State students to be apart of a summer job program. I met with Benji the next day to hear more and sat through an information session with other students from my campus. The second I heard that the job involved selling books door-to-door I was so angry that I had wasted the time to come out and hear about it, but still I listened to what the program had to offer and by the time the meeting was over and the uninterested students had left, the money and experience had, for the moment, won me over.
My ability to make decisions was not very well developed back then. I struggled week in and week out with if this was what I really wanted to do or not, and what I didn’t realize at the time is that all my doubt came from the fear of failure. Had I known at the time that the next three summers of my life would enrich me with more friends, ability, and money than I have ever had before, I would have saved myself a lot of misery and started studying my sales talk, but life doesn’t come with a guarantee. Sometimes we just have to take a leap of faith and believe in ourselves and what we can do. That summer I struggled, strained, and sweated in the muggy mountains of North Carolina and when all was said and done my worst fear became a realization, I had failed. I didn’t hit my goals, I wasn’t eligible for the company-wide incentive trip to Mexico known as the sizzler, and I got beat by a lot of my fellow student dealers, many of whom I thought I was a lot better than. It didn’t matter that I earned $7,000 dollars in ten weeks, or learned more about myself, and others, and life, or that I had just completed the hardest summer job a college student could do. In my eyes I failed, but through the Southwestern Advantage Program I learned that sometimes we have to fail before we can succeed, and I was determined to do better.
I came back a second summer just as nervous and just as scared as I had been the first time, only now I had my own team of students to manage in our organization, and the weight of responsibility that came with it. I practiced and studied all school year and the work paid off. I doubled my income from my first summer, beat a lot of the students who had beaten me, and won the incentive trip to mexico. I came back a third summer and did even better! After three summers of selling, influencing lives, and building my business, I have earned over $50,000 for myself, helped countless families with their children’s education, and gained the confidence and motivation that I will need to start my own graphic design company in the near future. I look back at all that I have accomplished and see that I never really failed in the first place, I just took the first necessary step to succeed.
The fear of failure is something that we all have to deal with for our whole lives. Give in and it will keep you from achieving so much of what you can do, or rise above it and believe that success can happen for you if you are willing to pay the price. As I sat on my bed dreading the negative possibilities, I looked at myself in my mirror, took a deep breath, and told myself “action cures fear”, then walked out the door.