art workshopAfter a workshop for students in India last year, an eigth grader approached me and told me of her upcoming exams. "If I fail my exams," she told me, "my life is over." I was stunned at the overemphasis on the exam and how everything seemed to her to be riding on the outcome of this one event. Her possibility for success in life was in the balance. And she was only in eigth grade.

I tried to persuade her otherwise, but she stuck firmly to the idea that a failure in one exam in her early teens would mean the end of all opportunity for her, if not the end of everything. Another way for her to look at the situation, though, would be to see that failure on the exam could mean just the opposite—it could mean the opening of a door to great opportunity, the beginning of the greatest time in her life.

Consider for example, the story of Adarsh Alphons, who was expelled from school at age seven because he spent too much time drawing. He and his family could have given up on him at that point, believing that his life was over.  After all, school is the gateway to success, and he was out, completely off the track. Instead of giving up, they moved Adarsh to a new school where his art was welcome, and he flourished. As an adult, he founded the nonprofit ProjectArt to bring educational opportunity in the arts to school children in New York City. His setback became his opportunity. Not only is he succeeding very well in life, he is bringing opportunity to others.

What setbacks have you had today? What doors of opportunity have they opened?