When it comes to failure, our egos are our worst enemies. As soon as things start to go wrong, we go into defensive mode. Rather than understanding the reason for failure, rather than reaping the benefit, allowing ourselves a chance to get over our egos and come back with a stronger game plan; we focus on our mistakes, which stare us in the face, remind us of what we didn’t achieve and just how far away we are from the dream or the goal. But here’s the reality:
The path to success is the same as the path to failure.
We live in a world that celebrates success. We live in a world that doesn’t speak to the value of failure. So, when we are presented with an outcome we do not desire or when we make mistakes, we immediately associated failure with “I-cannot-have-this-thing-I-want.” Or, maybe we go into denial rather than challenging a status quo of our own making. Or, maybe we chase our losses and make riskier decisions to “take back” the mistakes we’ve made. Or, maybe we go through a bit of hedonic editing, try to convince ourselves that the mistakes don’t matter, bundling our losses with our gains, finding a way to reinterpret our failures as success.
Most of you know I ran track & field in high school and college. I did the gamut of events from 100m sprints to long and triple jump to 300m and 100m hurdles. And I was very good at the events I did….eventually.
Freshman year of high school, after being on the basketball team during the winter season, I was convinced to try out for track. At the end of every season, the Catholic League has a special championship event for freshman, outside of the All-Catholic Championships. My coach loaded me up with events, including the 300m hurdles. I had done hurdles during practice but never in full competition as my star events were the long and triple jump.
There were 8 of us freshman, each taking a lane, staggered, poised to start, anxiously awaiting the signal. As soon as the gun went off, I burst out and remember being the first one to reach a hurdle. I was also the first one to fall. As girls whizzed by me, I picked myself up, ran to the next hurdle, catching up with the pack. Fell again. And again. And again. When I say I fell over EVERY hurdle, I mean that quite literally. At one point I just wanted to feign injury and lay down (I mean what could be worse than have an inanimate object take you out?). I thought maybe I can just keep running past the finish line and keep going until I reach home. In the end, I did finish the race. And though I finished and finished fourth overall for that event (not just in my heat), I still felt like I had failed. To this day, I distinctly remember my coach running over to me after I had finished, ecstatically telling me how great I did and that we may have found my new event. I also remember asking her if she was blind and had actually witnessed the event. At the time, it was beyond my understanding that my failure, or what I perceived as my failure, was actually necessary to my success and was building a far greater skill: perseverance.
The path to success IS the same as the path to failure. There will be hurdles. Sometimes we will fall over them. Sometimes it will seem like we fall over every.single.one.of.them. But, if we surrender our fear of what we think failure is-even for a moment-we are better able to take leaps of faith. We are more equipped to stand up after every fall and keep going. Our finish line will always be there. Just because it isn’t a smooth race, doesn’t mean we can’t have that success we seek. The opposite of success is not failure; it’s inaction.
What action are you WILLING to take today?
Are you ready to FAIL in order to succeed?
do not go looking for failure but embrace it when it arrives. failure is a type of freedom. without it there is no growth. plant your seed. grow your branches. weather this storm. and the next. be unguarded. be vulnerable. be open to possibility. be willing to fail with the determination to succeed.