Learning from Mistakes

dead succulent
A succulent I had killed this semester. (R I P Mr. Meilleur)


Throughout the school year, I have made many, many mistakes. Cliche as it may sound, I believe that mistakes are not a measure of failures, but a measure of growth. College is a unique ecosystem that bridges the sheltered world of childhood to the consequence-filled adult world. It’s a playground where there are baby consequences to our mistakes that are easier to recover from.  It’s a transitional stage, and in this flexible atmosphere we are able to grow the most.

Mistake 1: Not bringing enough winter wear. As a native from Southern California, the coldest winter that I have lived through was maybe 55 degrees. Summer was an 11 month long season. I brought a trunk or two full of shorts, skirts, and summer dresses, and probably just one thick winter jacket. After this semester’s brutally cold and rainy winter has come to a close, I am even more glad that I can finally stop shivering in the thin tops I had brought from home. I have learned now that I must prepare as much as I can for any situation that comes my way. Sure, things can be unpredictable at times. But now as a routine, I check the weather app every morning to ensure that I don’t suffer through the day’s weather. In turn, this is something I began applying to other commitments this semester: whether it be looking up the location of a meeting place beforehand, putting events on calendars, or researching topics to brainstorm solutions about, I have learned to prepare as much as I can for what I know will come. Then at least you’ll be prepared to take on curveballs life throws at you.

Mistake 2: Sleep better. Everything will fall into place when you take care of your health first. First semester, I had THE worst sleep schedule. Frankly, somedays I would take a nap and never be able to wake up from it, miss my evening classes, wake up at 4am, and then sleep again at 8am after a night of catching up on schoolwork. What I learned was that mental and physical health is so crucial to your success in college and in life. I learned to start putting me first, rather than obligations I had. I restructured my days to take less naps, to sleep early, eat at least 2 meals a day, etc. Following, all the other work I had to do became easier as I could focus more and I could actually finish things on time. I feel like this is dismissed as often as it is told to students, but first hand, I have really witnessed how sleep can make such a big difference in attitude and productivity. Whether you’re in college, before, or beyond, I believe that you should put self care first, as other obligations should be helping you!

Mistake 3: Spreading yourself out too thin. Sometimes, ambition is good. But a lot of times, it isn’t. Today I learned that one of the leading causes of startups failing is that they are too ambitious with their product. Either they spend too much money too soon, or try to expand their business before it is ready. Last semester, I started getting caught up in what other people were doing. I kept thinking to myself that I wasn’t enough because I didn’t have an internship yet, or that I had no work experience, or that I hadn’t joined any academic clubs. (Dear Freshman reading this, IT’S OKAY TO TAKE YOUR TIME TO FIND YOUR NICHE! Don’t get caught up in all the things other people are doing: find, learn and do what you love to do.) As a result, I ended up taking too many classes, 3 jobs and two volunteer positions in San Francisco to boot twice a week. It took a toll on me, working — either as a student, an intern, or a volunteer — nearly twelve hours every day throughout the entire week, and my overcompensating greed was hungry for more. I managed to make it through this semester, but ended up not spending as much time or effort as I would have liked to in some of the opportunities that I have had the fortune to be a part of. I wish that I had gone to more lectures rather than trying to study for a quiz, or went to more volunteer shifts rather than having a coffee chat with my internship — but I really didn’t let myself breathe even once and think about the fact that I wasn’t giving my 100% to all the things I had signed up for. This by far is my biggest mistake, and sadly, regret; however, knowing this now, I plan to turn it around the next few years. I have learned to know my limits, and I know not to test them too drastically. I have learned that with my struggle with not feeling like I was doing enough, I don’t have to compensate it with different projects or positions. Now, going forward, rather than spreading myself out too thin, I can leverage and weigh my options more wisely and thinking about what I will spend my time doing rather than blindly doing anything that seems to interest me. Do try to push yourself, but really there is no need to do E V E R Y T H I N G.

These are of course, only three of probably hundreds of mistakes I have made so far in my college career. So my advice to you all today is to make as many mistakes as possible. And in turn, learn from them. Grow from them. Take what mistake you have made into lessons you can learn from. A mistake should never make you feel ashamed or make you turn away from a situation, but rather challenge you to do better again next time. So don’t feel discouraged when you mess up a big interview or feel like you aren’t doing enough yet compared to some peers. The biggest mistake now would be to be afraid of making a mistake itself.

Jiyoo Jeong

Author: Jiyoo Jeong

Hello! My name is Jiyoo and I am a second year at Cal studying Business, Statistics, and Computer Science. Other than burying myself in problem sets and projects, you might find me writing and drawing while snuggled in bed and watching Netflix or probing through thrift stores. I also enjoy my days when I get to go to SF to volunteer to help increase digital and art literacy and get to spend time on the weekends running a female entrepreneurs accelerator with Berkeley Skydeck! I hope you can read some of my experiences and be inspired to make your own at Berkeley!