Be Thankful for Closed Doors

Author: Dustin Odham
February 17, 2023

Be Thankful for Closed Doors


I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a cold January day in Tallahassee, Florida, and I was in my final semester of high school. I drove to school with a University of Georgia (UGA) decorative license plate. A UGA Christmas ornament from my then-girlfriend hung from my rear view mirror. I wore a faded UGA hat that almost never left my head. I parked my car and hurried into my yearbook class to log into the internet and get the news of acceptance I thought was coming. 

Then I read these words, “After carefully reviewing your application, we regret to inform you that we are not offering you admission to the University of Georgia.” My friends tried to console me, but it was no use. I was convinced that my life was over. 

This was impossible. Don’t they know how much I love their school and how committed I am to being a phenomenal student? Don’t they know what they’re missing? This has to be a mistake. 

As a four-year letterman on my high school basketball team, I always planned to use basketball as my ticket to college, so I treated my first two years of high school like a stereotypical jock, showing very little interest in academic work. Heading into my junior year, I remember a teammate telling me, “If you got those grades as a sophomore, you might as well not bother going to our school as a junior because that’s the hardest year academically.” It was then that I realized how much I had wasted my abilities of curiosity and hard work in the first half of high school. And it was then that I decided that basketball would fall behind academic learning in my life. 

From that point forward, I was an A student. Which meant that I knew I was qualified for UGA, but after looking at my entire high school transcript, the admissions team at UGA was rightfully not convinced. 

I probably cried publicly and privately for weeks. In fact, as I write this post, I feel the hurt I had at that time. It was tough. 

Looking back on how the last twenty-plus years have gone for me, it is clear to see that my UGA “failure” was the catalyst to every great thing I have experienced in my life. I couldn’t imagine having a better college experience than the one I had at Southern Methodist University. That experience led me to become a teacher and ultimately focus my career on education. That passion for education led me to meeting my amazing wife who inspires me daily. She is the one who encouraged me to join this great company to do more life-changing work. 

That one failure reshaped everything. Most importantly, it gave me one key paradigm, which is to be as thankful for the closed doors in my life as much as I am thankful for the opened doors. 

Admittedly, when I experience failure or set back now, I still need a few days to sulk and get over it, but once that happens, I respond with gratitude and passion for what I have. I am truly thankful for that one embarrassingly painful January day. 

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