Failure is your Friend
Everyone is a competitor. We love to compete in sports, in business, and in most things in life. We enjoy success and the gratifying feeling of victory over our competition. Most people do not like to lose, and struggle with the effects of failure. Some of us hate to lose more than we like to win (I am in this category). Failure is a big part of life, but many lack a healthy mindset to overcome it.
Failure is not the worst thing to happen in life. The worst thing would be to give up on yourself. How we respond to failure affects our trajectory in life. Therefore, be ambitious and stick to your goals. Yes, there may come a time to pivot to another adventure in life, but only after you have exhausted the opportunity to the fullest extent possible.
I feel fortunate to have played baseball prior to becoming a cyclist and coach. The game of baseball forced me to confront failure on a regular basis. I had to deal with failure and losing from the time I was seven until I got released for a second and final time in professional baseball at the age of 25. I believe a big reason why I made it as far as I did was due to how I responded to failure. To this day I do not believe I was all that great at the game, but my mindset was definitely an edge that helped me to reach that level. Ironically, I believe failing to continue to grow and evolve my mindset accelerated the end of my baseball career.
The real beauty of baseball is if you fail today, there is always tomorrow to redeem yourself. I not only wanted to beat the competition, but I wanted to beat myself. I still feel this way, but now about racing and coaching. Initially, I struggled with competitive cycling because I had Monday through Friday to dwell on mistakes before getting to race again next Saturday. The wait was excruciating. In the end, I much prefer to play than practice, to race than train, but if done right, practice time is play time as well.
Our struggle is the "in-between," which is the mental and emotional valley we navigate during our odyssey to the next opportunity to prove ourselves. We all want to experience the joy of an accomplished goal, but what about the middle moments? This space is where most development occurs. Growth is not realized at the point of success, but instead during the accumulated moments leading up to that point. I am of the firm belief the in-between is what matters most. The success we achieve is simply an affirmation of our work, and when our work is validated by others, it gives us incentive and motivation to continue.
It takes a unique mindset to effectively manage the in-between time while coping with mistakes and failure. We must be honest with ourselves about what led to our failure, and do the physical and mental work necessary to overcome those obstacles. We cannot simply show up next time not having done anything to improve and wish for a different outcome. Our actions during the in-between must work in concert with our mindset. If our actions are perfect while our mindset is shaky, then disappointment may follow. Conversely, if our mindset is perfect but our action is inconsistent, then disappointment is around the corner. Not only must we do the work, but we must believe in ourselves at all times.
At the lower levels, sheer strength and physical ability are usually what separates the competition. However, the higher you go, the more your mindset will matter because at the top there is greater parity in abilities. At the top, specialization of skill and depth of experience begin to play bigger roles, and your mindset becomes much more important. Therefore, I believe our mindset and actions must be in congruence at all times, with the belief we can continue to improve regardless of past outcomes. I admit this is easier said than done, but it should be one of our goals.
Below are some bullet points of thought about failure:
Realize and accept you are not perfect
Acknowledge failure teaches us the most Set specific goals, make a plan, and prioritize
Today's loss is the path to victory tomorrow
Failure helps us to enjoy success even more
Failing does not mean you did not improve
A single performance does not define you
Measure your growth over the long-term
Measure yourself only against yourself
Focus only on what you can control
Be willing to change, adapt, or adjust
Concentrate on specific skills through deep practice
Execute the fundamentals with supreme consistency
Adopt new habits which are proven to work
Surrender to the process, and expect to be successful
Respect and study successful competitors
Be coachable by experienced mentors
Ask for help and be a good listener
Growth is accelerated when in a group
After it is over, ask yourself:
What did I learn today?
What could I have done differently?
What am I going to do about it?
Failure is your friend, if you treat it right
Put your arm around it, smile, and say:
"I will get you next time."