Preparation, Hard Work, and Learning from Failure

by Amelia Hogue, junior cosmetologist

About a year ago, I was sitting in my Algebra 1 class; my teacher tried to recruit me to SkillsUSA. Anxious about the conversation -- I didn’t want to put myself “out there”, I made sure to change the subject so she could not work her persuasive “magic”. I respectfully turned her down because I was just happy to remain a quiet sophomore sitting in front of the room who did her work and HATED public speaking because, let’s face it: who in their right mind would want to stand in front of people and be judged? Little did I know, just one year later, that would all change.

For my junior year, I chose to take a College Prep English class with Mrs. McVicker. One random day in English class, the same algebra teacher who tried to recruit me last year came back, but this time, she had talked with Mrs. McVicker who urged me to join, too!  The tag-teaming beat my inner “quiet” and pretty soon, I had to ask myself, “What the heck had I just agreed to do?” After talking it through, we decided to face my fears and begin planning for the Prepared Speech competition for the District 10 SkillsUSA Championships in January.

Immediately, I started brainstorm because I knew that if I wanted to place, there was no time like the present. As I kicked around ideas, it felt like I procrastinated a bit but honestly, I wanted to make the very best presentation and, according to my teachers, this starting part of the process would be essential. I rested on the final decision:  To focus on a quote by Colin Powell that addressed preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.

Every free moment in school, I pushed myself.  After school, it didn’t matter how long it took, my success depended on how much I was willing to give. For three weeks until the competition date, I practiced and practiced, delivering my speech to anyone who would hear.  Many listened to the same parts over and over to the point that they may have memorized it themselves!

Throughout this process,I gave it my all. I made sure my teachers knew that for me, It was never about winning; yes, a gold medal would be nice, but for this year, my goal was to prove that no matter what I encountered, I can push through and come out on the other side, much better than when I started.”

The week leading up to competition seemed like the most stressful week of my life. If we are being honest here, but it wasn’t because of the competition; it was because I wanted to make everyone proud.

The minute I walked into New Castle School of Trades who had agreed to host the competition for hundred of SkillsUSA students, all hungry for success, I could almost taste the excitement in the air; the entire setup had me in awe. It didn’t matter how I had placed, the pure joy of being there with all of these other competitors who also saw this challenge all the way to the end made it all worth it. While competing, I felt a joyous satisfaction.

In the process, I met some new people and made sure that, even though we were competitors, they knew I was not their enemy; good sportsmanship was the overall feeling of the day. I got to see other SkillsUSA competitors compete in the leadership contest or trade of their choice.  I got to be with my best friends and encourage them just as they had done for me. I saw incredible skill displayed from every career pathway; I witnessed so many others dealing with the same nervous anticipation that I had felt all along. We could all empathize with each other because we were all going through the same thing!  

Although I knew it did not truly matter to me, throughout the day I’ll admit that I was anxious to find out how I had placed. I had proven something to everybody -- that I could do this, but once it was over, I knew that it was really for me -- proving to myself that I can pretty much do anything I put my mind to..

For a moment, when I learned of my bronze medal, I had a wish that it would have been a little more shiny -- like silver or even gold, but that moment was only a moment. There’s an old saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Life can be momentarily sour, but with the right sweet attitude, it can also be super enjoyable. Life is not always easy, it doesn’t always go as planned, but it’s truly how we make that lemonade that makes it all worth it.

Yes, I may not have placed first but I medaled. I gave it my all and enjoyed every second of the journey. When it is all said and done, I always knew that, no matter how I did, it was the journey that would shape me, not just some number on a score sheet that showed how I placed. I know that I’ll compete in SkillsUSA in some capacity again.

So yes -- this quiet girl in the back of the room finally stood up and showed up, but I did it for the journey. I leave you with this, Colin Powell exemplifies this when he states, “There are no secrets to success; it is the result of preparation, hard work and, learning from failures.”  

SkillsUSA 2020 -- look out.  I have had a taste of what it is to be a part of this great organization, and I’m hungry to compete next year!

Carolyn McVickerHogue, SkillsUSA