A Shameless Confession about Failure: Robert Colquhoun

From being one of the youngest ever Business 1220 professors at Western University, to being the 2018 HBA Class President, to being nominated for the USC Award of Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, Robert has always come across as an incredibly successful guy. He also happened to be one of my favorite professors this year. He always tried to sneak in personal stories and life lessons from outside the course material. To be honest, I probably learned just as much from his ‘RobTalks’ as his lessons about balance sheets and cash flow statements. That’s why I sat down with him once classes were over to ask him to share stories and lessons he didn’t have the time to share with us in class.

Here’s what he had to say!

  1. My biggest fear

My biggest fear has always been failing. I hate failing and I’m actually a pretty bad loser as well, and I always have been. That’s tough because you’re not always going to win everything, no one ever will. So accepting failure and mistakes is really important.

When I was at this army training course at Ivey, I was given some feedback from a veteran who told me when he was in training camp he was told to shoot a metal target. Each time he missed he knew his peers behind him were watching him, and we just kept missing and missing and missing. So he eventually got to a point where he realized it was just all in his head and he realized that ‘Ok I missed a shot, I’m going to aim again, and I’m going to hit that thing.’. As soon as that shot was gone, he was onto the next one. I tried to keep that mentality in my mind, whether I’m playing basketball and I keep missing layups, or writing tests and one didn’t go well. Really putting things in the past and keeping your mind focused is my biggest learning point.

    2.  My biggest regret

My biggest regret, especially from my university years, is not getting closer to the people around me. University is really a time where you learn how to balance your life, and work with the lack of balance in your life as well. So I realized that especially in my first few years, I was only prioritizing my academics. Of course as a teacher I need to encourage my students to prioritize their academics too, but I also really want them to strive to find balance in their life, because when I look back I made external achievements such as my grades my biggest rewarding factor, and I think that by doing that I forgone the opportunity to make really close connections with the people around me. I could have gotten to know them a whole lot better, and I really miss those people now.

   3. My biggest failure

My biggest failure started when I was 11 or 12. I was trying out for the rep boys soccer team. In Kincardine, it was a pretty big deal. So I went to the tryouts and it lasted for a few weeks, and at the end of it the coach called over myself and a girl named Hannah and he said “First of all, Hannah, sorry, you can’t be on this team because you’re a woman and this is a boys’ team. Also, Robert, you’re just not as good as the others and I’m cutting you.”. So I was really the only person cut from that team. I went home and I was so upset because all my friends were playing this soccer game and I wasn’t included. That was one of the earliest lessons and formative moments where I realized “Why do I need to be on that soccer team. I just need to understand what I’m good at and why I love myself, and what I can achieve, and really just do those things.”. So I encourage people to find their passion, just do what they enjoy and write their own history instead of living someone else’s.

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