The final round of the Business Model Competition (BMC) was held on February 22, 2021, at CJCC, Phnom Penh city. This competition used to be open only to university students. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised by the fact that university students were filling the room, and only fewer high school students were there. Around lunch break, my team was presenting our business project to the judges in the final panel. After many presentations have been served to the judges, we anxiously awaited the “top 5 finalists” result. As I approached the panel room, the silence covered the entire space. So, I walked steadily to my group, then took a seat while paying attention to the announcer’s opening remark. My mentor, Keith, was patting my back while I was maintaining my posture. I couldn’t stop thinking about the eyes that were staring at me during my presentation. While I was patiently waiting, I laid my face down to my knees with my leg continuously shaking. Soon the announcer commenced to call upon the teams, I could feel the unfamiliar emotion boiling inside me, the fear of losing. My teammate, Bopha, was gripping my wrist with her voice whispering my name like she was sending hope toward me. As the announcer processed the list of names, I exhaled stiffly, and I would hear my name again called by Bopha. “Calm down,” she whispered a second time. I heard every bit of it, but no sound would come out of my mouth to respond. The hope and faith that have been settled just now, was bubbling in my core like it was about to shatter. I couldn’t ground myself from wanting the announcer to call upon my team. The announcer paused for a second before he called the last team, causing me to feel even more nerve-wracking.
“MHAO SROP!” he remarked.
“YES!” my voice was echoing, shaking the whole panel.
I rose from tremendous fear to jumping on my feet with enthusiasm. Though I claimed the victory, I recognized that the failures were the ones who unlocked the gate for me to achieve the impact I wished for.
As a competitor among many others, failure and success will define my pathway. It’ll prevent me from accelerating if I haven’t yet encountered one of these gateways: failure–success. I acknowledge that “I want to win,” so does everyone else? Thus, I forget that I’m living the same art form as millions of people out there. So, I was tempted to quit when failure arose, or I was tempted to overestimate myself when I succeeded. It appears to me that it’s easy enough to downgrade and customize the failures as the “LOSERS.” Is this the art form we humans are creating? Is that the type of dignity we are adopting? It’s certain people’s personal choices to determine their art form, but for me, I choose to design the type of form that can embrace individuals’ titles and imperfections.
Through this entire process, I was seeking a possible room to design an art form that highlights the impact. The way I choose to view impact after unfolding my chapters of struggles is that hope and self-faith are leading to a spark of change. Besides, the impact can be broadened by letting myself utilize one’s imperfections as a model. On top of that, overcoming the fear of losing is a factor that contributes to a step of impact. With these qualities, I believe that the impact is more influential–practical, and changes will be positively made.
April 23, 2021, the BMC Mekong Challenge Competition has arrived. Many countries participated: Laos, Vietnam, Bhutan, Myanmar, and my homeland, Cambodia. All of the teams have different and unique ideas. For my team, our business idea was to create a virtual platform where audiences can enjoy Cambodian authentic performances. By the time our customers purchased our product, we hoped that we could shed light on priceless performing art while helping local artists to earn a stable income. Due to the effect of COVID-19, the patterns of the whole competition have changed, from having to present physically to present virtually. Though we were required to present virtually, my team was fortunate enough to deliver our presentation through a recorded video. However, the pressure and intensity were still high like in the previous times. After the presentation has been delivered, it’s time for the Q & A session. There were many unfamiliar judges this time. As a result, I was astonished by the capacity of irrelevant questions that they asked. My sweat was pouring out like it has not been in years. It was the wildest 20 minutes I have ever experienced. Soon, I left the zoom call, multiple notifications were banning my phone like it was about to crack my phone audio. I received warm messages from my mentor, however, I didn’t feel any of it. The regret and mistakes made us have a long conversation after that. A few hours went by, it was close to midnight, Bopha called me. I normally picked up and greeted each other as brother and sister would do. This time, it seemed to be unusual, her tone was rough.
“Bong Heng! We didn’t win,” she finally shrieked.
I froze for a whole minute like an arrow just shot me directly to the heart. Why? Why? My soul just betrayed me, leaving only the unconscious mind for a second.
Even though I couldn’t repossess my full energy, I learned that failure was just a time frame for me to progress my growth. I couldn’t be more disappointed because “Suffering is probably necessary to make us grow,” Pamela Weintraub once stated. In addition, skills and lessons such as networking, presenting, and managing are worth carrying away, instead of the only victory. On the other hand, my teammates have assisted me all along regarding a downfall moment. I’m beyond appreciative that they also helped me to mirror myself, especially when I constantly compare myself to others. It was the journey that I would always value and remember for the rest of my life.
Several days have passed, I have begun to overcome my fear of losing by regrowing new hope and self-faith. It wasn’t the most comfortable task to accomplish, I would say, but I have tried to help myself gain hope and self-belief for the sake of my growth. You shouldn’t expect change to be easy because it has never been so. Put yourself in the position of discomfort, it’ll certainly pay off.
My perception and perspective toward impact have changed over a few weeks after the Mekong Challenge Competition ended. I used to believe that impact exists when the green light appears. However, the competition proved me wrong, impact can still shift even if there is a red light. All I need to input is just hope and self-faith. Failure in and of itself is the foundation of what it means to be successful in the future. What I have learned from failure has shaped me into a person who is increasingly hopeful, faithful, and confident regardless of any circumstance.
Competition overall is just a place for me to master my weaknesses and bridge my missing gaps. It’s a space that requires me to collect as much knowledge as I possibly can to fill in my bucket for my following journey. Before I could firmly stand on the peak of the mountain of change, I needed to confront the red lights that were being lit up in front of my face. Although the paths beneath were more likely to always be red, each red light is a gift and lesson that one must learn for the green light to shine bright. Since the project ended, I have come to believe that the force of hope, faith, and failure is the source of energy to climb up the summit of the mountain of change.
After this never-ending expedition, I came across a life-changing mountain that required a passionate hope and faith for impact to ignite. In addition, confidence is a major supplier to reach the peak, and it’ll help to fuel the climber to continue conquering the rough paths. All in all, don’t let imperfection or failure distract you from creating impact or the art form you are dreaming of. Wear your confidence, spread your beliefs, don’t quit until you see the green light. Keep climbing and keep climbing.