How to fail like a Champion.

Failure is a common enemy. This would seem to hold true whether it be on the playground or at the highest peak of performance. Whether you’re a student. An athlete. An artist. A parent. Or any in between, it’s something we all experience, over and over again. And will continue to...

I can you I’ve failed. Loads of times. Both in big ways and small. During my 2nd year of undergrad it wasn’t half way through the 1st semester that I knew I was going to fail Organic Chemistry. Done deal. I might escape the lab portion with a passing grade but the lecture and exams part, no way, an F. My first one. I remember feeling defeated, ashamed and almost astonished, an uncomfortable state of being that seemed to be a combination of 50 Cent's opening pitch and Joey's failed Las Vegas film. 

It’s not like I was an All-A student by any means but up until that point I hadn’t really gotten anything lower than a C-. I’m not sure at what point I decided to learn from that consequence or what factors were going into my decision-making but I ended up re-enrolling for "Orgo" the following summer semester. It was a tough go, especially during the short window of Summer in Northern Michigan. I ended up passing with a C but it was the best C I would ever receive. 

 definitely wouldn’t discover until much later, after having acquired degrees in Sport and Performance Psychology, that much of my what I did aligned with basic high performance principles. So what are these? And how can we learn to better navigate these spaces in a way that helps us grow? To become more aware and non-judgmental of our faults? To then use this information to ignite action that hopefully avoids those same failures? Feel free to explore these 10 tips on how to do exactly that. 

 

Set Goals

This one is huge. Without an actual destination, how when we know when we’ve arrived? Not all goal-setting approaches are created equal however. To learn more, give me a shout. 

 

Be Flexible

If I would have let that chemistry grade get to all the rest of the year, who knows where I would have ended up. Methodically picking teeth off of circuit boards and hurling them over my shoulder into a school-bus-sized pile in some long forgotten off-campus basement? Maybe in Tijuana? Really who knows. The ability to roll with punches and keep going is what speaks the most volume, not a fixed moment success. 

 
 The more that you can embrace all the little failures you have, and treat them as ways of improving the system, the less likely that the entire system will collapse
— Shikar Ghosh, Harvard Business Professor.
 


Practice being Reflective

If we don’t take the time to sit down and do the lonely work of examining our decisions and their actions in an open, honest way, it’s difficult to know where to begin when deciding to change. And practicing this skill can happen many ways. Journaling, meditations, being with nature, anything to create that “space” in your brain where you’re comfortable enough to explore some self-analysis landscapes. For example, I realized that in order to pass Organic Chemistry, I’d probably need some sort of schedule planner. Square 0, covered. 

An unexamined life is not worth living.
— Socrates

Slow Down...

We have more time that you think. It’s the priorities and mindset we create that make it seem as if some days we are wearing the equivalent of “drunk goggles” when it comes to knowing how long an hour feels. 

 

Practice Being Grateful

If we can’t find the time to appreciate what we have, what makes us think we deserve anything else that should decide to pass our way? Today I’m thankful for shoes. One of the hardest lines I remember reading from Victor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”: wasn’t necessarily the Nazi camp atrocities, nor the part about the pea soup, but the part where he said there was a particularly snowy morning and in the combination of his shoes being saturated with water and his feet swelling from the abuse, he inevitably had to work the entire day without shoes. My heart just sank when I read that. And I had the uncomfortable urge to thank every pair of footwear I owned. So remember, saying thanks is one of the least strenuous mental exercises we can accomplish on a daily basis. 

 

Engage in “Betterment” Activities

Go outside. Be with friends. Sign up for an activity like ball-room dancing or tai chi or something that would be considered “out of the box” for you. Something that includes movement as exercise. The mind and body are in unity. If one side is like a “greasy slob on the couch eating Cheetos”, it doesn’t matter how cut your abs are or how high of a percentile you’re CAD knowledge is, winter is coming. 

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Find Clarity

Creating a space of clarity is key when finding your conviction. Explore methods to quiet your mind and reconnect with the present moment. For me, this means mindfulness, being near water, and often vigorous exercise. For you, this may mean playing the guitar, doing yoga, or hiking in the mountains. 

 

Be Realistic

On some level I probably knew I wasn’t going to get an A in Organic Chemistry. I tried to none-the-less but it’s like why not set the bar high sometimes. If you hit it, awesome. If get close, well that’s great anyway because you knew going in it was a lofty expectation. Hitting or even clearing that bar is simply a bonus. Regardless of the outcome, the true value is sussed out when it’s treated as a learning experience. 

 

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Often my most “stuck” times are when I’m taking myself or my priorities, needs, etc, etc, way too seriously. Try this exercise. Close your eyes and think of the Rocky Mountains, in all their vastness and length. Now, see if you can go higher than the mountains and look down as if a flying in an Ironman suit. How big do you’re dilemmas feel? I realize I’m not an audio voice so please read the entirety of this excerpt before trying this exercise. 

 

Take MORE Risks

I didn’t have to re-enroll in Chem. In a way, I needed to. I needed to prove to myself that I could do it. It wasn’t even necessary for my major, it was just something they said was one of the hardest courses at the University. So in a small way, this was a risk. I could have failed again, and sure it would have reflected upon my GPA and transcript. But hey, it’s not like it’s rocket-science right. Or wait...is it sort of?

 

 

REFERENCES

Frankl, V. (1984). Man's search for meaning: An introduction to logotherapy. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Nobel, C. (2011). Why Companies Fail—and How Their Founders Can Bounce Back. Harvard Working Knowledge Business Newsletter. Retrieved from: https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/why-companies-failand-how-their-founders-can-bounce-back

Slow-motion Punch. (2016). We Love Buzz Videos. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tr1xBedKsis