“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed” Michael Jordan
I’m not much of a loser. I don’t handle it well. In anything.
Mario Kart, bowling, board games, rock/paper/scissors, anything. If I lose I’m going to be salty about it.
Sorry, that’s just my competitive nature having a temper tantrum.
But, I see the value in losing. The value in making mistakes. The value in seeing my failures for what they really are.
Don’t get me wrong, I would prefer to have my lessons accompanied by winning everything. But in sports where you’re competing there is always going to be a winner, and a loser. I believe it’s how you handle the losses that will define you as an athlete and as a person.
I know, some of you may be thinking about my record over the last few years, and I've got to say that it's pretty high up in the win column. But, yes I've had my fair share of failures.
What's my story?
When I played in Germany my first year overseas I got into my own head a LOT. I had a largely up and down year. At times playing great, and others playing horrible because I was so concerned with my performance, statistics, and what my coach would say after the game. I did everything I could to avoid making errors, and in turn made many more errors.
I was so much in my head that during semi finals I was thinking to myself every point of every game, "don't sub me in" because I didn't want to fail at such a crucial point of the season. Well, life has a funny way of giving you exactly what you don't want at the best and worst of times. We ended up having several major injuries on my team before the finals, and I had no choice but to play. I felt like I was thrown to the wolves, and it was only then that I finally decided to give myself a break.
It wasn't until I had no way out that I was able to get over my own fears surrounding failure.
As I see it you have two choices. You can use the loss/failure/mistake as evidence of your inadequacy as a player - feeding into the likelihood of future mistakes and failures. Or you can accept it, embrace the challenge, and use the feedback gained from your mistakes to drive you towards success.
Any professional athlete will tell you about the number of times they failed in their sport, and how necessary it was in order for them to get to where they are today. Heck that's probably true in most professions.
So why do we fear failure so much?
“Don’t mess up, don’t mess up, don’t mess up”
Tell me what happens next?
9/10 times you mess up.
So I’ll ask again.
Why do we fear failure?
I have some thoughts, so let's dive into it.
We fear failure because it takes courage to be vulnerable.
For me this is the most difficult part in failing, not because I fear failure itself, but because I have a hard time asking for help. For me it's a weird pride thing to put my ego aside and get help so that I can improve upon my weaknesses. It takes courage to realize that you need the help of others to get past an obstacle in your way. It’s scary to be vulnerable, but it’s what makes us human, and you would be surprised the number of people who are willing to help if you have the courage to seek it out.
Asking for help is important for a few reasons;
- When you ask for help you create opportunities for others to share their gifts. It's empowering for others to share their strengths to build you up. Hello teamwork.
- When you ask for help you are trusting those around you and building that trust between you. Major key.
- By asking for help you share your flaws, and you become more relatable. Everyone has room to grow, nobody is perfect.
We fear failure because we don’t want to let our teammates down.
My biggest problem with this thought process is that no-one is going to judge you for your mistakes, and no-one is going to blame you for messing up (if they do they could use some work on being better teammates). Your teammates are there to support you, and once the game is over they will most likely forget the mistakes that you made. Though you may continue to harbour doubt, I can guarantee your teammates will not think poorly of you. The only person that gets let down with this thinking is YOU.
By becoming preoccupied with how others perceive our abilities, we fail to give ourselves the chance to excel. In my post about being a bench player I talk about ‘controlling the controllables’. Well if you’re concerned about what others think of you, you’re concerned about things that aren’t under your direct or immediate control.
This type of thinking, and this fear will eat away at your confidence. Give yourself a break, I know your teammates will.
We fear failure because failure is not an option
I hate this phrase, because failure happens. But I mostly hate this phrase because of the negative connotations that surround it if perhaps we do fail. If failure is not an option, are we not able to forgive ourselves when it does happen?
We’re so focused on not failing that we don’t give ourselves the chance to aim for success. We are literally setting ourselves up for failure the more that we try to avoid it. Funny how things work out that way. I’m not saying that you have to enjoy failing, I certainly don’t, and I’m not saying that mediocrity is okay. What I’m saying is that in order to get better at any skill we’re going to have to fail. That is how we as humans learn. Simple as that.
Think about babies learning how to walk. They fall over, and over, and over again until they get it right. They aren’t afraid to fall down, instead they pick themselves up and try again. Could you imagine if babies had a fear of failing? That’s a strange thought.
Never hold yourself back from reaching your full potential by being afraid of a little challenge. Whenever those thoughts creep in take a minute to think about the bigger picture. What's the worst thing that could happen? You lose a point, maybe you lose a game, but the world will continue, and life goes on.
Through failure we can encourage improvement, build resilience and character, and best of all we can learn from our mistakes and improve for next time. So I'll finish with a quote because my boy Winston said it best in one simple phrase.
Did I miss something?
What are your fears?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!