Dean Paul Jarley of UCF's College of Business Administration awarded a student $500 when his seventh Failure Competition came to an end this past Friday.

The competition asks applicants to submit an essay that details a personal failure and a lesson that they've learned from the experience, according to Jarley's blog. Jarley chose the three finalists from a pool of the top winning entries. The finalists were then asked to submit a video based on their essay, which Jarley shared on his blog for voters to watch and vote.

Music education major John Gavin won the competition with a $500 cash prize, as well as a recommendation letter from Jarley. Gavin is the first non-business major to win the competition. The other finalists were business administration majors Jonathon Valin and Ida Santiago.

In his essay, Gavin wrote about a series of failures that he experienced his first two years at UCF. He came to the music program not knowing how to read music, was unprepared for college and behind as a musician compared to his peers. Gavin went to one of his professors who told him about a book called Outlier: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. There is a rule in the book called the "10,000 hour rule," which states that anyone pursuing mastery in a skill will have to devote 10,000 hours of work toward that skill. 

"I thought well, if that's the case, then I'm ready to put in that work to achieve that," said Gavin in his video submission. "I started to visualize myself as an upperclassman, as a music major, performing for Disney, performing in the UCF drum line. I think it was the visualization that actually pushed me achieve those goals eventually. It wasn't something that happened over night ... I had to believe my own hype."

After working hard and never taking no for an answer, Gavin said he was accepted into the Department of Music, marched in the UCF drum line after three auditions and performed at Walt Disney World after four auditions.  

Gavin said he feels accomplished and at peace after winning the competition. 

"I was touched by my peers who reached out saying they were proud of me and inspired by my essay and video," Gavin said. "For me, hearing that was justification for all the setbacks in my early years, because it is for those same people that I strive to be an uplifting musician. It was their reaction that made participating in the competition well worth it."

Now, when ever he fails at something, he said he does not dwell on it and instead focuses his energies on improving himself. 

"When performing a piece of music, musicians need to train themselves to play through mistakes without even acknowledging they happened," he said. "Most of my collegiate success in music-making was not achieved on the first, second or even third try. I just kept showing up and auditioning because I knew I could improve and land the gig."

Gavin said he will put his award money toward his fall semester.

Through UCF's Financial Aid Office, Valin was awarded $300 for second place and Santiago received $200 for third.

Unlike in past years, the competition was open to any student currently enrolled at UCF.

"A Knight should never fear failure," Jarley wrote on his blog. "Getting comfortable with failure is a key step in becoming a better risk–taker and successful leader. That is why we celebrate failure and persistence in the college."


Amelia Truong is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @Ameliatruong or email her at

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