I have always used the axiom that “sometimes you win and sometimes you learn.” I have never had much time for failure as an outcome. I always tried to see it as an opportunity to try again with better intelligence. Dictionaries define failure as a lack of success. No kidding. But isn’t it so much more?
Our culture and the culture of sport in America sees failure as the ultimate loss. An embarrassment. An outcome to be avoided at all costs. But to me, and reasonable people, it is not our final resting place, it is a temporary state for which coming back provides much joy. Failing can be like a wind-up for a pitch. The arm pulls back and fires the ball with force. A loss is the wind up and the pitch is us overcoming adversity…..with force.
Changing the way in which we see setbacks can allow us to be in a state of constant and never-ending improvement (another thing my gymnasts have heard me say a lot). It provides us many opportunities.
Failing can be like fuel
When a person experiences a failure it often can provide them incentive to try harder, put more effort in, or prove that they can do it. Prove it to who? Mostly to themselves but often the world judges us (like you didn’t know that) and sometimes when we get a little push back, we end up charging full steam ahead to show the world that we can do it. Whatever “it” may be. The warning here is that 1: anger can be motivating, but it should only be the spark that starts the flame of passion. If it becomes the flame, it burns you out. And, 2; if you fail again, it should drive you to double your effort and not fold up and give in. Passion placed in the right place can sustain many blows.
Failing allows us the opportunity to improve our future
When we lose something, or experience a setback, we learn what we did wrong; if we are open to the lesson. I have said to myself many times “never again” when I screw something up so royally that all seems lost. But then I realize that all is not lost and in fact this “problem” might come up again. Will I know what to do when it does? Of course I will, and so I know that losing now will allow me to win, or at least improve, in the future.
Steel is forged in fire
Losing and failure hurt. I would never downplay the emotional roller coaster we ride when we try to do something and fail. We feel elation during the effort and deflation when it doesn’t turn out. We cry. We pound things. We curse. Yeah, okay; we get over it. The resilience of surpassing that disappointment develops strength and builds character. Our ability to bounce back gets better and we become more determined. Back in high school we used to joke because our football team had no talent. In fact, they lost. They lost a lot. But, old coach Kreuger used to say, “losing builds character.” They might not have any trophies, but they did have one H-U-G-E character.
Failing allows us to benchmark
If we compare ourselves to a standard or even an expectation we may hold, when we fail it shows us a pretty clear picture of where we need improvement in order to redefine the outcome to succeed. Without an occasional evaluation of our progress or our performance we could be completely in the dark about how adept we are. If you are evaluated at a meet, by a judge, and receive low marks, it lets you know what you need to train to improve. Was it dance, skills, routine composition, lack of strength, lack of focus? If we are evaluated on the job and “fail”: does it show us what the boss is looking for in an employee? If we take the information gained and apply it, we will become the better employee and set the standard for the next guy to strive for. It starts with knowing where we are.
History overflows with tales of failures that ultimately succeeded. One of my favorites is Colonel Sanders. He presented his recipe for fried chicken over 1000 times before someone gave him a chance to sell it in their establishment. He went on to become The Colonel, a name synonymous with chicken, and franchise over 21,000 KFCs in over 130 countries. I wonder, could I take hearing “no” 999 times? Would I have tossed my fry tongs in long before ol’ Harlan Sanders? Well, I don’t know that, but I do know that we get the benefit of learning from his lesson. His failure can be our success. If an old man in a white suit and string tie can bounce back and eventually get it done; so can we. We can get knocked down many times if we know that one time, and it only takes one time, we will win.