I went to high school back in Suffern, New York, thirty-three years ago, with two friends. Two friends with very different lives. Two friends with vastly different life experiences. One friend was confident and the other was not. One friend built a three-page resume and the other couldn’t spell the word resume. One friend lived with love and humility. And the other lived with fear and ego. One friend was incredibly successful and the other not so much.
My successful friend was not just an Eagle Boy Scout, but the youngest Eagle Scout in the history of his scouting troop. In high school he was Senior Class President, state and national D.E.C.A champion, participated in the school musicals, captain of the Suffern High School ski racing team and was the star place kicker on the varsity football team. When he graduated his classmates voted him, “Did Most for Suffern High School” in the yearbook superlatives.
In college my successful friend gave the commencement address at his graduation. He was voted by his classmates and university faculty as “Most Outstanding Student Leader.” He was President of his Senior Class, President of his fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon, President of the Inter-Fraternity Council… and a member of the Rugby team.
After my successful friend graduated college, he traveled the world with a world-renowned international leadership organization…visited over 80 countries… and later becoming its’ youngest ever CEO & President. Lived in Europe. Lived in Asia. And he earned his MBA degree in Australia as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. He became the Business Partner Sales Manager for IBM/Lotus Development. Started four different businesses. Founded two different non-profit youth leadership organizations. Earned another master’s degree and an honorary Doctorate. And later wrote two New York Times national bestselling books on leadership.
My successful friend married the most amazing woman and they have two children of their own. He has spent his entire life (and career) making an impact on the world and in the lives of others. And at forty-nine years old…he is just getting started.
My other friend barely graduated high school. He grew up with a lisp and a reading disability. He spent time in the “Resource Room.” His grades were terrible. Most summers he was retaking classes in summer school. He bombed his S.A.T. college entrance exam…barely getting into any university.
In college he failed Math 1065 (basic algebra) six times before being diagnosed with dyslexia. He worked four jobs to pay for living expenses – at the car wash, two restaurants and delivered pizza’s for Domino’s. And he graduated college with barely a 2.0 GPA.
My other friend’s dream was to go to law school and to become an attorney. Neither happened. All thirty-seven law schools that he applied to rejected him. Every one of them!
On top of that, my other friend has had three failed businesses, in the last ten years alone, losing over a million dollars. He married a divorced woman who had a young son. And let’s just say not all ex-husbands are the easiest to get along with!
My other friend is not only dyslexic, but also ADHD, OCD and battles with anxiety and depression from time to time… especially when he is experiencing the negative side of entrepreneurship!
It’s been an interesting journey befriending these two guys over my lifetime. I’ve learned so much from both. I’ve learned from my successful friend that a resume is just a piece of paper…no matter how many pages it is. I learned that the impact we have on the lives of others is more important than all the fancy degrees in the world. I learned that confidence and humility is more beautiful than insecurity and arrogance. And I’ve learned that success does not always equate to happiness. But happiness always equates to success.
From my other friend I’ve learned that we all experience failure during our lifetime. But those who choose to fail forward live a life of significance, not just success. And those who embrace setbacks, losses and challenges learn that it is not really failure, but an opportunity for stepping stones towards success.
But mostly, what I’ve learned, is we all have lives of successes AND failures. They both help define us. They both teach us grit. And they both teach us humility.
We all know people in our lives that are successful. And we all know people in our lives that are not. And sometimes, they can even be the same person. Just like my two friends that I grew up with in Suffern, New York. They are the same person. Those two friends are me.