Think about professional athletes for a moment. What words come to mind? Maybe hard work, dedication, sweat, commitment, risk-taking. How about failure? Other than being triggered by the title of this post, I would guess that failure is not a word that usually springs to mind when you think about pros. And yet, professional athletes fail over and over and over again. They fail as individuals, they fail as teams. They fail in make-or-break moments and they fail in long-term, multi-season situations. And through all the failures, the mistakes and the missteps the athletes who truly shine remember that failure is at it’s core, a tool to teach them something. If you don’t fail, you don’t change and if you don’t change, you don’t get better.
With that in mind, let’s look at how to fail like a Pro Athlete:
1) Fail like Michael Phelps.
Failure can be a wake up call.
Michael Phelps has set more world records than any other swimmer in history. He won eight gold medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics. He has held more than 39 world records in the swimming world. And yet, in August 2009 Michael failed to qualify for the 400 medley final, one of his signature races, in the Pan Pacific Championship.
An article released by Reuters, reported the following:
Phelps, who set the 400 medley world record of 4:03.84 at the Beijing Games, had said earlier this week he was in relatively poor shape coming into the Pan Pacs.
“I am probably between a four and five out of 10, so not too hot,” the 25-year-old added. “I knew coming into that race it was going to be a rather painful way to sort of wake me up. It just wasn’t there…I don’t remember it ever being that painful but I guess it’s a good reminder that I need to be in a whole lot better shape.”
Sometimes failure reminds us that we haven’t performed at peak capacity. We’ve relied on old habits or previous work to help us get by. Except we don’t get by, we flop. It can be a hard lesson to learn, painful and embarrassing. It can damage our pride. And it can remind us we need to work harder, we need to focus and we need to spend the time it takes to reach our goals. Michael Phelps didn’t let his failure ruin him, he used it as a learning opportunity and as a wake-up call about what he wants to achieve and what it takes to get there. Wake up when the failure alarm goes off and change your approach.
2)Fail Like Michael Jordan.
Michael, unquestionably the greatest basketball player of all times and one of the greatest athletes ever starred in a Nike commercial where he spoke the following words:“I 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 again in my life. And that’s why I succeed.”
We need to fail to succeed, failing repeatedly sometimes. And we need to see failure as part of the process on the road to achieving our dreams. So many people think failing means they can’t do something. They must not be any good at it if they fail. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I would ever categorize Michael Jordan as “not good at basketball.” And yet, by his own admittance, he has failed repeatedly on his way to pure awesomeness. Repetition of a skill over and over again makes you better. Start to see failure as part of the journey and not the end of the road. Failure helps us improve. Ask yourself what can you learn from your mistakes and how can you get a little closer towards your goal on the next attempt.
3) Fail Like The Chicago Cubs.
The Chicago Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908. The ultimate goal of every Major League Baseball team at the beginning of each season is to win the world series, meaning, the Chicago Cubs have failed at their goal 102 times so far. And yet, the team still exists. Professional baseball players still want to play for that team. The Cubs have been nicknamed “The Lovable Losers.” Their fans – and they have lots of them (their Facebook Page currently has 877,051 people who have “liked it”) continue to come out to games, buy merchandise emblazoned with their logos and hold out hope that “this is the year we go all the way.”
In other words, even despite failure, big, public failure, the Cubs have people who love and support them, who still have the faith they will reach their goal someday with hard work and perserverence. They also know that the ultimate goal is not the sole goal. The Cubs are only one of two team who have won 10,000 games- a pretty impressive stat. We can all hold faith that even when we fail, people still love us and believe in our abilities to succeed. Failure in one direction does not mean failure in total. And there is always a next season where our dream can begin again.
Failure isn’t the end of the road, it’s actually a valuable tool to creating the life you want if you know how to use it. So, remember when you fail as long as you learn something from it as you are dusting yourself off, you’re in good company. Go ahead, fail like a pro athlete – you’ll give yourself that wake up call you need, get closer to your goal and realize you’re loved no matter what you do.