• Overcoming Failure: How to Dust Yourself Off and Set Yourself Up for Success

    by McKinley Falkowski

    McKinley Falkowski

    I am often faced with a simple adage in life: whether it be academic, personal, or career related, failure happens, but it is our ability to stand up and dust ourselves off following this, that will drive us to success. The Latin phrase, “per Astra per aspera” or “through adversity to the stars” is emblematic of the challenges we face. Failure is a part of life, and however de-moralizing it may feel, there are lessons we learn by going through such scenarios. As an example, I recently lost an election in a race for a local Board of Education. But there are things I learned in my loss, that coming out of it has made me a better employee, student, and general member of society.

    Reflect on your actions

    Following my electoral loss, I faced the reality that the plan I had created for myself and had been following for years was disrupted. At that very moment though, I had to make a choice, either to continue the path I was headed down, unaware of what lay ahead, or reflect and figure out exactly what went wrong, and where. I created a timeline of my campaign, carefully analyzed methods and strategy of mine, I discussed tactics with some stakeholders in my campaign, and had honest conversations with them on what I did right, but most importantly, what I did wrong.

    It was here that I learned that it is a necessity for anyone, in whatever failure they may face, whether it be minor or large, that the ability to critically reflect on ones actions, and be open minded on the findings is crucial to overcoming failure. Without the ability to reflect on oneself, you are bound to repeat these failures, and as Mark Twain once put it “There is nothing to be learned from the second kick of a mule”.

    Visualize your challenges

    While the ability to reflect is essential to overcoming a failure, the ability to be visionary is another. No, I am not talking about wishful idealism, or a vision that ignores the enormity of challenges before you. I am talking about a vision that allows you to see the challenges and how they should be tackled. Following this period of reflection, you must see where the challenges before you lay, and come up with a visionary plan as to how they must be tackled.

    When it relates to my electoral loss, my reflection followed a major course correction, but this correction did not underestimate the challenges before me. However masterful of a plan you create, you must embrace the nature of life, where the unexpected may suddenly appear and you must deal with it.

    Follow through on the process

    The last, and perhaps most fundamental characteristic of overcoming a failure is the ability to follow through. This strenuous ordeal requires a great deal of devotion, organization, and perseverance. Without follow through, the ability to craft an expansive reflection and establish a vision for the future becomes meaningless.

    Failure is an unequivocal aspect of life; however, it is our ability to learn and grow that is key to our individual success. Although each of us may face unique scenarios, we are united in our struggle to ascertain a better future.

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  • Using smart power in the workplace

    by McKinley Falkowski

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    Leaders are inevitably faced with crisis. Events arrive and derail years of progress made by an organization. As a result, leaders must develop a leadership style that prepares an organization for unexpected circumstances. In international affairs, a strategy called Smart Power exists for this reason. With modifications, this strategy could be deployed in the workplace. When using Smart Power, leaders should focus their efforts on identifying key talents of their staff, understanding threats to productivity, and implementing strategic communication.

    Implementing Smart Power

    While applying Smart Power as a leadership strategy for non-governmental organizations (NGOs), a leader must have a clear understanding of the soft and hard power of a leader. Soft power is the ability to influence and engage others through communication, and hard power is where a directive is clear. Smart Power is a combination of both strategies. Business leaders must be prepared for unexpected circumstances. The leadership style of Smart Power could help organizations navigate complicated situations and develop employee skillsets in the process.

    Developing a Collaboration Culture

    One must be aware of the organizational mission and staff skills when using this strategy. Leaders should seek to transform the shortcomings of their employees with the proper resources and allow them to grow as individuals.

    In addition to this, leaders must be able to grapple with threats in both the short and long term. One such strategy is to develop a framework that cultivates input directly from those in the field, allowing those in leadership to take quick and decisive action prior to a major problem leading to crisis. Leaders must construct a culture of collaboration among employees. This allows leaders to address problems before they consume the organization.

    Today’s leaders are often faced with unpredictable and unrueing circumstances which can derail an organization. They must develop a leadership style that adequately addresses this nature. By developing a Smart Power mindset, leaders will be well equipped to better their organization, and thrive in times of challenge.

     

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  • Freshmen: Create good habits to achieve first year success

    by McKinley Falkowski

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    Your freshman year of college is one of momentous change and growth. Prior to starting my journey at the University at Buffalo, I was terrified of what college held for me. I knew almost nobody on campus and came from a high school program that had roughly 18 people in it compared to a university with a student body of 30,000. Additionally, obvious differences like more demanding work terrified me of what was about to lay ahead.

    Because I am a History major with a focus on Education, I spent many days back at my high school obtaining classroom observation hours. Senior friends still in high school and about to go off on the same journey would ask me, “how did you survive your freshman year?” The fear of the freshman year of college is universally terrifying, but I took advantage of the challenges thrown at me and was able to succeed.

    While explaining a key fundamental difference between high school and college, I ask students this question: “whose fault is it if you fail?” Most students respond that it is the teacher’s fault, to which I respond, in college, it is not the professor’s fault if you fail, it is yours. This fundamental difference means that students need to change their approach to school, like I did in my freshman year.

    Show up for office hours

    One of the changes I made was taking advantage of office hours. This is where students go to their professor for help if they don’t understand material. Even if I felt I understood the material, I would always try to see my professors once a week to develop personal relationships. Sometimes I would realize that I did not always have a fully accurate grasp of the material. Office hours completely transformed me as a student. College freshmen should take advantage of them if they wish to succeed in the new environment.

    Tackle time management

    An additional adjustment I had to make had to do with time management. In college, so many assignments are thrown at you and you need to be able to juggle them all at once. That is why during the first week of classes, I take the syllabus from each class and write when all assignments are due in my agenda. This way I am always able to see when an upcoming assignment is due, won’t lose track of any assignments, and always see when a quiz or exam is coming up. Many times a professor will not remind you when something is due, they will just expect it to be done.

    Be alert for lectures

    A final element I had to change was my ability to pay attention in lecture halls of over 300 students. I made sure to choose a seat in the front of the class, otherwise I knew I might doze off. I also made sure my phone was turned off to minimize distraction. Finally, I found that actively writing notes using pen and paper increased my ability to focus on the material being presented.

    College is fundamentally different than high school, and it is terrifying for almost all people in their freshman year. However, these are some of the strategies I used to succeed, and I know you will be able to use them to succeed, too.

     

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