by Marisol Rodriguez, LDO, ABO-AC

"I haven't failed -- I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."

- Thomas Edison

Everyone has healthy fears and motivators in their career. Two of my greatest personal fears are the fear of success, and the fear of failure. My fear of personal success kept me paralyzed for over a decade. I attempted to move forward and grow professionally by myself and quite often answered my own questions. This way of thinking kept me in a vicious cycle. However, I have come to realize my fear of failure has been my greatest motivator, pushing me up against the wall, forcing me to ask for help, asking others questions, discovering the power of networking, and in turn allowing me to get out of my own way so I can grow.

Martin Ponce, President of Drill Specialty Lab, has a reputation that precedes him, and I wanted to learn as much as I could from someone like him. So I decided to try my luck and simply ask if he would allow me to shadow him. I wanted to watch him in action and absorb what I could. I was grateful when he said yes. During my apprenticeship with him, I was expecting him to show me how to edge and acquire new techniques. I didn’t realize I would be exposed to so much more, such as new products, both frames and lenses, different edging techniques, and a variety of different tools. I was taught how to finesse my own skill set. He takes the approach of “teaching me how to fish, rather than feeding me for the day.” Today he is one of my best friends, and I cherish the relationship we have built.

In time, I also learned about another way of networking. Attending a continuing education seminar whether at my local state association, at conventions, or sponsored functions, are where I really increased my connections in the industry. Through these functions I met so many local and out-of-state opticians who have been able to lend a helping hand when I’m in need. If I am stuck troubleshooting a scenario, whether it is on frame selection, brand suggestions, lens fittings, equipment, and everything in between, I now have a list full of experts who can help guide me or point me in the right direction by offering solutions.

I have been fortunate to meet eye care professionals who have authored many of the review materials and essential continuing education classes from which we learn from every day. That’s been one of the coolest experiences; to be able to sit and discuss different topics and have those words come to life are some memorable moments for me. It is through these conversations that I have gotten some amazing advice. One being, “Do not be afraid to make mistakes. It is through mistakes that we learn.” The next step is always the hardest along a new path. Learning how to navigate through a new way of thinking, reaching out and learning how to ask the right questions. This is a learning process and there is a gift in the struggle. If you fail, it's ok. Get up, keep it moving, and more importantly you’ve just learned a new way of failing… smarter. 

Review the role of state societies, national associations, and accrediting bodies in promoting, mentoring, providing community and continuing education to advance the field of professional opticianry with our CE, The State of Opticianry, at