Updated: May 21, 2019

Most people don't know this but I have a tattoo...

Just one single tattoo, and it will probably remain alone on my body for my entire life.

I hate needles, and I could never quite think of something I wanted on my body for my entire life. Plus, being raised as a southern lady I was always worried what people might think [Read: What my Nana would think]. But one glorious day it hit me.

I'll save the story of how I came to want a tattoo at all for another day, but after the decision was made I had some serious thinking to do.

What in the world did I want to plaster on my body for all of eternity?? Why not my motto?


We should all Strive for Success together together. Let's encourage each others to look past failures to find success.

The famous inventor of the light bulb, Thomas Edison, made thousands of attempts before finally developing a working prototype. A reporter once asked him, “How did it feel to fail thousands of times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail thousands of times, the light bulb was an invention with thousands of steps.”

Regardless of age, gender, or socioeconomic background, every single person deals with the reality of inevitable failures in life; therefore, the applicability of the Strive for Success message cannot be overstated.

You either lose or you learn.

After six years of competing in a total of 42 local Miss America Organization (MAO) preliminary competitions and a large helping of personal growth, I finally found traditional success when I won my first local title, Miss Cleveland.  Like Edison’s many attempts to develop the light bulb, it appeared to outsiders that I failed 41 times, but success took form in many other areas of my life due to the lessons learned from the decision to continue to competing. I owe the MAO substantial credit for the blessings of serving my college campus through multiple elected and appointed leadership positions, a wonderful summer internship with General Electric in New York, a job with a financial institution, academic success in law school, and admission into North Carolina State University’s Masters’ in Public Administration program.  Failure was necessary so that I could develop the beneficial traits to serve effectively and truly appreciate the eventual successes. In the face of failure, choose to view it as a learning experience instead of a loss. 

The elusive crown was not my only experience with failure. I spent eight months of my undergraduate career trying to become a campus leader in various ways and had nine separate failures. It was one of the most challenging times in my life, and I was struggling with the appropriate internal and external response.

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.

Desiring a positive direction, I enrolled in a Leadership Development class. The biggest lesson learned from that experience: being a servant leader is the only way to truly lead.Once I had a change of heart, I became more successful acquiring leadership positions in college, still not without the occasional failure along the way. Professors and campus faculty heard of my struggles and persistence to achieve my servant leadership goals and began requesting that I share my “failure to success” story with freshman and incoming students to bolster their confidence in the face of potential disappointments that college inevitably brings.

Initially I felt slightly embarrassed sharing my story with fellow classmates, but the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Students shared with me how they too faced adversity in seeking leadership roles in college and after hearing my story they felt motivated to continue pursuing their leadership goals. This response paved the way for the creation of the #FailFriday series. 

Through the #FailFriday video series, I share struggles and failures in my life and explain how some shortcomings became a stepping stone toward later successes. Hopefully, #FailFriday will encourage others not to be embarrassed by failures but to celebrate their willingness to take risks and learn from mistakes going forward. The #FailFriday movement is dear to my heart because we live in a world where most people paint a picture of perfection. But by sharing failures candidly through #FailFriday I am able to create a level of relatability and approachability that is crucial for anyone seeking to motivate and encourage others.

To achieve your personal best and reach unparalleled heights you cannot fear failure. You simply must embrace the possibility of failure as a necessary step to bring your dreams to reality. Over the years I have learned to embrace and share failures in order to show how shortcomings can be a learning tool or even a blessing in disguise. Never underestimate the educational value of a failure and never question whether there will be some form of success.

I define success as being able to wake up in the morning with a sense of contentment, knowing I am exactly where I am meant to be in life. But questioning how to become a better person by leaning from the struggles of yesterday, and how to improve the lives of those around me today.

How do you define success?

Figure it out and find yours today.

Check out the STRIVE for Success podcast that focuses on the ideas above on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, or the podcast website!


Carlie S.