In Becoming a Champion, Handling Failure/Adversity

Your problem isn’t this failure. Your problem is how you react to this failure. To be successful you must learn how to effectively manage your failures and setbacks. Winners react to failures by getting more motivated by them (eventually). Right after a setback a winner, like any normal human being gets into the “3 D’s”: They get DISAPPOINTED, DISCOURAGED and even a little DEPRESSED. This is normal. However, what separates a champion from everyone else is that after they do the 3 D’s, a winner will then let the failure go and get motivated. They will get even more determined and focused on accomplishing their goal. The following is one of my favorite stories on reacting to failure:


A very old mule and his grandson were trying to make their way up a very steep and rocky mountain. They were loaded down with heavy camping gear and this made the climb and the footing that much tougher. The young mule kept slipping on the many loose stones along the path and each time he did so, he complained bitterly. While the old mule seemed to slip just as much, he just kept silently plugging along.

Suddenly the younger animal tripped yet again on an unseen rock, completely lost his footing and fell quite hard to the ground. It was as if all his pent up frustration and exhaustion reached a saturation point because it came rushing out in a torrent of anger, curses and uncontrollable tears. He wanted to quit. He wanted to go home. This was way too hard. When he was done, he looked up at the kindly, worn face of his grandfather and he instantly put words to the thought that had suddenly hit him. “Hey grandpa! How come you’re not complaining about how hard this climb is? I haven’t heard one bad word out of you the entire journey and you’ve tripped and fallen as much as me?”

The old mule looked down at the tear streaked face of his grandson and said, “Sonny, let me tell you a story that my grand daddy told me a long, long time ago. Why I bet I was your age at the time too. My grand dad was old and retired at the time and this is what happened:

One day he was out wandering around behind his master’s barn looking for fresh grass to munch on when, he heard and felt a loud crack, suddenly lost his footing and felt the ground give way beneath him. Then he started falling. But he didn’t fall like you did today, just a few feet to the ground. He fell a long way down. You see, he had accidentally stumbled into an old abandoned well. The wood that had covered the top of the well had rotted out and my poor grandpa fell through!

Now he was so scared and so hurt that he started to cry. He started yelling as loud as he could for the farmer to come and get him out of there. And finally, the farmer, hearing all the commotion, traced it to the old abandoned well. He looked down, saw the old mule in the well and just stood there scratching his head trying to figure out what to do. Of course, the old scared mule couldn’t stop braying and crying for help. Finally the farmer went away and the old mule thought hopefully that he was going to get some neighbors to help.

What he didn’t know though was that his master had made a fateful decision. He had decided that it was going to be too difficult to get that old mule out of that old well. In his mind, neither the well nor the mule were worth saving and so he went to a couple of his neighbors houses to get them to help him with a solution that he had come up with.The mule was panicked when the farmer left and only began to calm down when he again heard voices from above. However, what happened next left him in shock. Suddenly, from above, shovelfuls of dirt began to rain down on him, smacking his back, hitting his head and sending him into a total panic. My grandpa’s hope had suddenly turned into a nightmare as it dawned on him what was happening. His master was going to bury him alive!

As the dirt rained down and began to cover his feet, the frightened mule cried even louder. However, he soon realized that his cries were being ignored. Then the mule had a stroke of brilliance. He thought to himself, “Maybe if I just shake the dirt off and step up I can get myself out of this darn well.” And so he did! He shook it off his back and stepped up. As the dirt rained down by the shovelful he continued to shake each shovelful off and step up. And as he did so, he continued to coach himself over and over again to ward off the panic. “Shake it off and Step up. Shake it off and step up.” And when his mind drifted to that terrible fate that the farmer had planned for him, he repeated to himself even louder, “Shake it off and step up. Shake it off and step up.”

And a little bit at a time, that well started to fill up with dirt but my grandpa stayed right at the top of it. “Shake it off and step up!” Shake it off and step up!” he repeated…and before long that smart old mule stepped over the rim of that now almost filled-in well and was greeted by looks of amazement from the farmer and his neighbors because the animal just refused to be buried by his fear and all that dirt. He just shook it off and stepped up.”

The young mule was taken by that story and he picked himself up and said, “C’mon grandpa, we have a mountain to climb.” And as the old mule headed back up the mountain behind his grandson, he could hear the young animal talking to himself, “Shake it off and step up. Shake it off and step up! Come on, you can do it! SHAKE IT OFF AND STEP UP!”


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