In Becoming a Champion, Handling Failure/Adversity

The key ingredient that separates champions from everyone else is not talent or ability. It’s not simply work ethic because a lot of athletes are willing to work hard. It’s not better coaching or training opportunities. The crucial difference that makes a difference in determining how successful you’ll be in both sports and life has to do with one word: FAILURE. How you handle your failures, setbacks and mistakes will ultimately determine whether you soar with the eagles or gobble with the turkeys. Within your failures you’ll always find the seeds to your success.

Everyone has heard from a teacher or coach at least once, if not numerous times that “you learn from your mistakes.” Intellectually we all understand this. Emotionally we don’t get it! Most of us are terrified of failing and looking bad. We dread losing. We don’t want to embarrass ourselves. We will go to great lengths to insure that we don’t come up short in a game or match, even by being dishonest and cutting corners. Unfortunately, this fear of failing and messing up actually makes us more vulnerable to failing. If you go into a competition dreading losing, you will be much tighter, more distracted and more constricted in your movements. The end result of all of this is that you’ll perform far below your potential. Peak performance can only happen when you’re relaxed and have nothing to lose.

The thing with failure is that rather than dreading it, we need to accept it as a vehicle to get us to our dreams. Failure is nothing more than delayed success in that it provides us very valuable information about what we just did wrong and therefore what we need to correct for next time. Failure is feedback and without the feedback we couldn’t improve as athletes. I’m not saying that you have to like the failing and messing up part. No serious athlete does! What I am saying is that failure is an integral part of everything that we do in our lives and you must learn to change your relationship with it.

Failure is not something to be dreaded. It’s not something to be actively avoided. It’s merely something to be curious about after it happens. Curious as in, “what could I have done differently here to have changed my result?,” “What did I do wrong and what caused that?,” etc.

All too often athletes tend to get so upset with themselves after they fail that they distract themselves from the valuable information that is waiting for them within the failure. Getting angry at yourself for messing up is a total waste of time. It serves no constructive value. It doesn’t motivate you. It doesn’t build your confidence and it certainly doesn’t help you correct your mistakes. When you lose or otherwise fail keep in mind that within this disappointment you’ll find the secrets to your ultimate success. Failure is feedback and feedback is the breakfast of champions!


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