Sometimes being gifted with a victory, position or material possession makes one feel like they are better than the others. Whereas victory or winning is only temporary, and life is constant struggle. Even though you are a great person, keep in mind that this is a vast world we are living in. Many greater people exist out there. All of them have their great and inspiring stories and lessons you can learn. However the biggest lesson one can learn is when they taste the dirt of defeat. Somehow we realize our drawbacks and shortcomings when we lose something or lose a competition...which we actually realize everyday but tend to overlook them.
I would like to tell you a story about my experience from the event that I had participated recently, maybe we can discuss and/or enlighten each other. Last month, me and my friends participated an engineering competition called EBEC (European BEST Engineering Competition) 2017. This competition consists of local, regional, and final rounds. The local round was held in Chalmers, where we competed to solve technical problems related to Industry 4.0 (Those things related to integrating industrial production and automation). The winner of the local round would be sent to compete in Nordic round to compete in the final round.
Long story short, we won the local round. Thanks to the excellent combination of knowledge in production, right delegation of workload, energetic presentation and passion to win the competition. I was really proud at that moment. I feel like me and my team are good enough to solve various kinds of problem related to engineering. To be honest, a seed of arrogance grew in my heart. I realized that it was not a good thing, and this is my bad habit that I am trying to get rid of until now. But at least I managed to not showing off too much since I knew that this kind of cocky attitude can bring an unexpected predicament sooner or later.
About 3 weeks after our victory, we went to Lund to compete in the regional round. TL;DR version: we didn't win this round so we wouldn't be able to compete in the final round next August. But let me share to you about what I felt and what lessons I learned from yesterday's defeat.
The Nordic round of this EBEC focused on how to develop technology to assist people with disabilities. The definition of "disabled" was broader than I thought. I used to think that being disabled means a person is deaf, blind or crippled. But there is also those who have cognitive disability, meaning they have difficulty to perform simple cognitive tasks unlike the normal people due to something wrong happened in their cognitive system. The perfect example would be those who suffer from Alzheimer or war veteran with trauma on their head. It is our duty as educated people to help them to live their life enjoyably. Isn't the duty of the strong is to help the weak?
The competition was about a case study of a fictional character named Henrik. Henrik has a difficulty in reading, doesn't have sense of measurement, easily frustrated under pressure and some other cognitive problems that hinder him to live normally. The task of the competitor was how to design and utilize many things to enable him to travel abroad using several modes of transportation.
My first impression was: "WOW, this is a new thing!" Since as far as I know, back in Indonesia, people with disabilities usually accompanied by someone, whether it's a professional caregiver, friend, or family to go almost everywhere. But apparently here, people also hold high the value of independence apart from trying to help, or at least to make the disabled does not rely too much to other people.The good thing about this is that it enables to make the disabled feel empowered and not making them feel pathetic due to the predicament given upon them. In addition, it gives a positive paradigm that they are an adult who can take care of themselves.
We were given 24 hours (including time to take a break, eat, rest, and socialize) to discuss, derive solutions and present our idea in front of the judges. My first mistake was I had this "chill, I got this" feeling and underestimated the competition. Me and my team came out with many nice and original ideas. However, I felt that the communication between us was not as intensive as the local round, thus we couldn't decide correctly on which idea we should focus to, we wanted to present all of our ideas without thoroughly discussing them. As a result, during the presentation we could only discuss the surface of the idea without getting into the essence of the solutions we proposed.
The second mistake was not showing enough empathy to this Henrik character. I feel like we should have discussed more on what Henrik suffered and the implications of his disabilities to every part of his journey and what to do to alleviate his suffering, but at the same time treat him as an independent adult man.My biggest mistake, however, was when I tried to work alone when the others were resting during the night. It was 2 in the midnight, every team members and competitors were sleeping. I decided to pull an all-nighter so that during the morning we would have extra time to prepare the presentation. Usually, this should be a foolproof strategy since putting extra effort when the others are having fun or sleeping is the champion's way to prepare for the competition...at least that is what many motivational movies like Rocky, Karate Kid, or stories of triumph of world class athletes and millionaire. It also applies for me. During my life, I achieved more than one success due to my willingness to study or work when the others are sleeping or having fun. Therefore, with this little excuse I decided to read and derive solutions until dawn.
However, this "foolproof" strategy wasn't foolproof at all. Apparently I cannot use this strategy every time. I had just realized that I was so tired since this EBEC was a series of consecutive activities. Even though I managed to stay awake with a help of a couple cup of coffee, it didn't make my brain able to think optimally. In addition, I did not communicate at all with my team members during their sleep, making we had to adjust the information and wasted a substantial amount of time. To make things worse, I only got a couple of hours to sleep. Combine that with accumulated fatigue due to the fact that I had been very busy even before departing to Lund, I wasn't able to perform on my prime that day. All of my team mates did their job well...I didn't. I spoke too fast, my English was a bit disrupted, thus not making my points clear to the judge, even though my part of the presentation was the core of the sets of solutions we proposed for Henrik's problems.
Before we continue with the competition, I would also like to tell you another part of this EBEC activities. There were 3 judges. 2 of them were professors in Lund university that works in design to help people with disabilities. As an Indonesian, this experience was really new. They gave lecture about how to design something or facilities that can help disabled people as close as possible to live normally. I got an impression on what kind of meticulous designing and the amount of empathy one would dedicate in these kind of projects. Lesson learned: If you want to help people, best to be smart!
Lecture on deign for disabled people
Finally it's time for the teams to present their case study results. Almost all teams used a strategy to design an app in the gadget to help Henrik on his journey. What fascinated me was how all the participant could spawn great, out-of-the box ideas in such a short time. In addition the amount of empathy they had given to Henrik was amazing. They could compare and gave picture on all kinds of difficulties the disabled people might face even in a simple task such as travelling. Added with excellent English and their beautiful way of presenting, I really felt that I still have so much to learn. I still have looooong way to go.
Unable to get the title of a winner in this Nordic round was not my first time in failure. But I realize that experiencing failure is the best teacher. There I realized many aspects of me that can be improved further and trained. And now it's up to me to make this as a fuel to motivate me to be a better person and how do I etch these precious lessons deep in my heart.
I hope I inspire you :)