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On Failure


Why you can’t get the big wins without failing

Set a goal. Work hard. Achieve goal.  This is the way my athletic life went for approximately one year.  From the age of 7 to age 8.  My goal was to win every race.  But at the age of 9, I had qualified for the YMCA state championship, my biggest swim meet yet.  Surely, I would still win?  As I dove in for my 25-yard freestyle and took my first breath I could not believe my eyes.  There were girls ahead of me!  I can’t remember what place I got, but it was not first or even second.  But I had worked hard, why didn’t I achieve my goal?  “This is the way life goes,” said my coach.  And so begun a 30-year rollercoaster of failures and wins.  I now know that there are no wins without failures along the way.  Let me convince you why you need failures in your life:

You learn more lessons from failing than winning

Learning is essential to growth, and we learn more from failures.  In my best races, my thought process is often along the lines of elation and thinking about what I probably did right.  But the races where I performed poorly or did not finish, I learned valuable lessons for the future.  For example, despite being sick the week leading up to a 50 km trail race I lined up anyway.  I was dead last and felt like I was running through thick soup.  I dropped after 20 km and had a very long walk back to the car.  I have never raced sick again.

A failure means you’re pushing your limits

What is your potential as a human being?  I can promise you it’s greater than you think, which is why it’s so important to set big goals.  If you don’t meet your goal, it’s only that you didn’t achieve your goal in that moment in time.  Your future self is relying on you to try again.

Failures can force you to take a necessary pause and reset

Occasionally, life throws more than a few lemons your way and rather than press on as if the failure didn’t happen it can be helpful to pause, reevaluate your approach, rest, and reset.  Perhaps your approach needs to be different.  You may need to make some major life changes to achieve the goal and is that the right thing for you right now?  Failure can encourage these deep dives into goal setting.

Sometimes the feeling of letting others down when you fail hurts more than not achieving your personal goal.  I promise to support my athletes unconditionally, and I believe when athletes know their coaches, teammates, and others support them unconditionally it yields healthier athletes, better performances, and better lessons learned for your future successes!

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