Failure. What is failure? Failure is what most humans in everyday life fear the most. Failure in school, failure at work, failure as a parent or a spouse and believe it or not failure of SUCCESS! Whatever the case may be failure is something we all inherently shy away from because by definition, it means you missed the mark. What if I could tell you that just because you failed at something that you cannot turn that failure around and into a blessing to be who you were always meant to be? One of my favorite quotes that I have framed that sat at my desk for the 10 years that I was one of the top insurance professionals in the UNITED STATES…it reads “IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO BE WHO YOU MIGHT HAVE BECOME”. Now let me tell you why.
My name is Jose Belen. I am a proud combat veteran of the United States Army having served with one of the most feared and decorated armored units during the initial invasion into Iraq in the spring of 2003, a place I got to when I was 20 years old and did not leave until I was 22 because I spent both my 21st and 22nd birthdays in combat losing countless brothers and sisters in arms during that time. I am also a proud Husband, father, son, and brother. But now let’s get back to FAILURE (from time to time you may notice I jump around to different times in my story, but as always there is a method to my madness)
Failure to me started in the summer of the year 1999. That summer was supposed to be my golden summer because by fall of that year I would be entering my senior year in high school and graduating with the class of 2000! But it was not going to be just any ordinary graduation for me it was going to be a graduation to prove a point! To who you may be asking yourself…to me? Yes of course, but also to all those teachers, parents and even my own family members who over the course of my childhood wrote me off and told me I would never be anyone in life. Heck I can honestly tell you of my 6th grade teacher who looked at me and told me “You are a wasting the oxygen in my classroom taking it away from students who will actually be someone”. Man that hurt, but that sparked a fire inside of me that to this day is a full blown inferno of drive and determination, but that is another story. I remember walking into my high school after returning from our annual family vacation to Puerto Rico where 95% of my family still lives because there were about 5 messages on our answering machine for me to go to the high school as soon as possible. So I did excited because I think I am going to choose my classes for my senior year! But as you can imagine that did not happen. I walked into the guidance office and was met by my guidance counselor who said “ Jose I am sorry to tell you but we miscalculated your grades and you did not meet the requirements to pass on to 12th grade, it is too late for summer school, you are being held back a year and will not graduate this coming school year.” I remember distinctly taking it like a man. No tears just a nod and a understanding that it was my own actions as a careless juvenile that lead to this. I did not blame society, my mom or dad…I owned it and took accountability. So that extra year I did a ton of soul searching and told myself there was no way I would be disciplined to go to college and not fall victim to the social pressures of college life. I said the military!! That’s it! I am going to enlist. I remember distinctly working at a gas station as a cashier on the morning of what was supposed to be my graduation day in June 2000. I served parents their coffees on the way to what was supposed to be my graduation day, I cashed out friends of mine in their caps and gowns getting gas to go to graduation. That was a feeling of failure I to this day never forgot, but nonetheless I persevered. I joined my high school track team my senior year to get in shape for the military and sure enough I graduated high school in June 2001! A few months later one of the darkest days in our American history took place. Oh and I failed to mention I was born in Manhattan, New York and raised in a little upstate town called Amsterdam, New York. Being from New York there is never a shortage of pride. September 11th 2001. I heard my mother scream downstairs for my name. I had already began the entry process into the military and as I got downstairs my mom points at the television and I see one of the twin towers on fire! I said wow that is a horrible accident and then BOOM! The second plane hit! At that moment, I knew it had to be an attack. I called my recruiter and he said “Son you’re going to war, we are going to war”. 5 months later I was in Lawton, Oklahoma at Fort Sill at the United States Army and Marine Corps’ home of the Field Artillery training command.
I enlisted in the United States Army on January 16th 2002. FAILURE brought me to that decision, failure brought me to the best decision (aside for asking my wife to marry me) I had ever made. Failure is what brought me to understanding that there is a lesson in every event that happens in our lives regardless if it a good lesson or a lesson of pain, humiliation and yep you guessed it FAILURE. We all love the feelings of success and happiness and can surely say well shoot I know the lesson in that because the outcome was awesome! But wait, wait a minute the outcomes of failure can also be awesome! You just must find what that lesson is with an open mind! You must be able to understand that missteps are necessary to our existence as a species…they are necessary for YOUR STORY of SUCCESS!
I think throughout our lives there are certain phrases or cliché phrases that stick with us. How many people in here have been told, have told someone or read that “the sky is the limit.”? What if I was to tell you the sky is not the limit? What if I was to tell you the sky is not the limit…it never has been. I can tell you that for me that mindset and thought process is in large part why I am where I am today. You have to be able to sometimes go against the grain and challenge some things that are thrown your way in life. By understanding that the sky is not the limit you are giving yourself the inherent right to “empower yourself to achieve without limitations!”. What does that even mean you are probably asking yourself. Well let me explain without putting you to sleep. It means not settling for less than what you are worth! If you know you are intelligent enough to one day be a CEO, business owner, manager, coach whatever your career or personal aspirations may be you can make it happen by understanding that you can continue to ascend each and every day to the next level! Now does that mean that each and every day you will get a promotion or become a CEO, make 6,7 figures, absolutely NOT! BUT now this is a big BUT (not that kind of butt lol) If you continue that same drive and passion each and every understanding that there are massive peaks and valleys that are life, understanding that you very well will at one point or another will hit rock bottom. Understanding that there are potentially a infinite amount of levels below rock bottom that you may hit, trust me I was hit with about 100 different rock bottoms (Not the Rock Rock Bottoms for my Dwayne THE ROCK Johnson fans LOL. I was able to pick myself up because if there is no limitation to how far I can fall then there is also no limitation to how far I can climb because the sky is NOT the limit! And just like that it hit me I need to get this message out there! So what does this mean to you?! This means that you too can have this mindset each and every day regardless of the strife and difficulties we already know life will throw at us! That YOU can truthfully do ANYTHING you set your mind to because you will refuse to give up, cry because it’s too hard, look in the mirror and be accountable for your position in life and that it is up to YOU and ONLY YOU to make that change! Will it take maybe getting a 2nd job or even a 3rd…will it take going back