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The Upside to Failure by Jamie Underwood - Enneagram 3



I had applied to graduate school at the University of Memphis History program and I knew with untenable certainty that I was going to be admitted. This supreme confidence came from working directly with, who would become my graduate advisor, for a semester. I took a specific class with him a semester so he could observe my work ethic and intellectual interest to ascertain if I could be an asset to his research. We completed our semester together and I received his approval. Therefore, I applied to the graduate program. I received the admissions letter, but it was a rejection letter. I panicked. Why? Well, lets see. I was born into an economic underprivileged area where crime was ubiquitous and despair omnipresent. All I saw around me was what was deemed by society and standards of American success; failure. I wanted to do better. I never faced rejection, I never failed at anything. Anything I wanted I displayed aggressive perseverance because I saw what failure led to, the ghetto. In reality, I was creating a façade of extreme obliviousness to anything that was a slight against my dreams and goals. As a result, I looked to the opposite of failure which was professional statuses of success. I wanted to be a professor in college. I read books that was esoteric in nature. I loved to have knowledge that others did not. I thought everyone was below me and intellectually vapid. Failure was driving me into a fantasy. Now, as I received this admissions letter, I was ecstatic because, of course, I got into the program and certainly I was one step closer to becoming an expert in American antebellum history. Alas, it was a rejection letter. I had faced failure and I could not run from it, spin it, deny it. No, it was directly in my face telling me I was not who I thought I was. I.had.failed. Finally.


A friend of mine introduced me to the enneagram and I eventually found out which classification I was. A three. One of the characteristics of a three is the fear of failure. Precisely because it is an assault upon our created status of achievement and class. The enneagram helped me greatly. I was a psychology major so I was aware of the psychology personality tests and I did not think much of them. However, the enneagram is deeper. More substantial in the sundry factors of the human experience. It also, enabled me to get better and get over my fear of failure and why I have that fear. It was a journey of self-discovery.


I have conquered failure now. That does not mean that I do not fail, I do daily. I still get anxious sometimes if something does not go my way, but I am aware of what is going on and can become more disciplined. I understand that failure is the key to growth. Failure makes us “genuine”. I use failure as it should be used. As a natural reaction to embrace and become better. Failure drives me to learn, try again, and move forward. My armor has been pierced, and it makes me stronger.

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