In Attitude, Becoming a Champion, Handling Failure/Adversity

Who could ever guess that animals in the wild can teach you exactly what you need to learn in order to take your training to the next level?

Specifically, I’m talking about giraffes and believe it or not, their “training” regime for their new-born offspring holds the secret to your success both in sports and in life! Want to develop mental toughness and internal strength? Then, pay very close attention to these remarkable animals!

The newborn giraffe is introduced into the world in a rather shocking fashion. It’s bad enough that it has to fall almost 6-7 feet from the mother’s womb to the ground! What its’ mother does next is far worse! The mother waits for her newborn to pull itself up on unstable, wobbly legs. Once the young giraffe does so, the mother positions herself over her baby and then swings one of her long, powerful legs slowly back. Then, without warning and for no apparent reason, she quickly swings that leg forward, striking her newborn, quickly knocking it off its feet and sending it sprawling.

The baby struggles mightily to rise and right itself and once it has, the mother repeats what can only be seen as cruel. She positions herself over her calf and once again knocks it off its feet sending the unsteady calf flying! This bizarre dance repeats itself over and over again until; the baby giraffe can barely move.

What is happening here? Should we contact the animal equivalent of Children’s Protective Services and get a social worker in here so she can remove this poor baby from her obviously crazed and abusive mother? I think not!

What’s going on between mother and newborn is an instinctive dance that’s been taking place for hundreds of years, a dance that will ultimately lead that newborn to become stronger, faster and successfully survive in the wild.

Young giraffes need to have the ability to quickly get up and move with the pack when they are confronted by danger. Lions, tigers and other predators sure love baby giraffes and without the ability to get up quickly, the newborn would end up as a tasty morsel for one of these carnivores. The mother’s seemingly harsh behavior prepares her baby to be strong and survive in the bush.

What lessons can be found in this ancient dance for you as an athlete and person? You have to expect that in order to get stronger, quicker and more talented, you must first “get rudely knocked off your feet” numerous times. The process of becoming good at and mastering anything on or off the playing field involves hardship, pain and “hard falls.” You must be willing to move towards rather than away from these life and training situations in order to later benefit from them.

In sports what this might mean for you is that you have to lose a ton before you can finally start to win. You have to be willing to accept that the process is long, hard and fraught with frustration and disappointment. You have to go through the angst of learning proper technique, correcting bad habits and working on weaknesses, none of which are usually fun to do. If you have performance fears, or any others for that matter, you have to push yourself to face them rather than shying away from them because the only way to overcome fear is to do the thing that you’re afraid of over and over again.

There is no easy path towards becoming a champion. There’s just the right one! And the right one involves learning from all of those times when you get suddenly and rudely “knocked on your butt.”


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