“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy
I am still on a high from the events of the 2016 Olympics. It never ceases to amaze me how incredibly talented these athletes are. My favorite part is learning the stories behind how they each got to this grand stage. One story in particular really stood out for me. In the women’s 100m hurdles, the United States swept at the award's podium when Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali, and Kristi Castlin took home gold, silver, and bronze metals respectively. Black girl magic killed it. Never before had the United States swept in this event. What was even more astounding was the person NOT in this race. Kendra “Kenni” Harrison did not make the Olympic team. A failing performance during the Olympic trials, shut her out from Team USA in Rio. However, at the IAAF Diamond League in July of this year, she broke the world record when she competed and won the title against all of the placing women from the Olympic competition. Watch her epic performance here.
I started thinking of what it must take to stand again after you’ve fallen. Kenni succeeded in the face of her competitors (who had previously defeated her). Instead of seeing her performance in the Olympic trials as an indicator of her potential, she used her previous loss as momentum to propel her to setting a world record. Amazing!
Failure is never easy. You prepare. You practice. You give your blood, sweat, and tears, only to not reach your goal. It can make you feel embarrassed and inadequate. It often is one’s greatest fear. But, in thinking about things that you’ve succeeded, failure is often part of the process. It is the catalyst that often transforms a business or even a relationship. Failing is necessary and inevitable. To never fail is to live so carefully that you never take risks or chances. That, some would argue, is a failure in itself.
So, let’s think of failure as a seed. If watered and nurtured, it will bear fruit. In my own life, I have experienced failure. Relationships that ended. Friendships broken. Professional hang-ups and bang-ups. Each disappointment was that seed that made me better…stronger. Every person, every business venture, every relationship needs to experience failure, and here’s why:
Failure triggers a change. When you fail, one or two things will happen. You will lose motivation, and spiral down a road of despair. Or, you are propelled to a greater place of triumph. The great part is you decide!! Let’s take Kenni, for example. She could of stopped preparing and training after the Olympic trials. Instead, she took her previous loss as an opportunity to reset her plan. This launched her on a different, necessary path, and led her to (some would argue) a greater success.
Failure allows you to reflect. Humility and introspection don’t often come when you only succeed. It’s nothing like a shift in plans to take you back to drawing board. When we initially launched our blog, Besties and Brunch, we had very high engagement. We were soooooo excited!!! Until….we saw our levels of engagement for the proceeding weeks. It was significantly lower. We had to reflect on new ways to engage our audience. In that process (which is still ongoing), we learned invaluable lessons that will ultimately make this project better.
Failure turns the “lightbulb” on. In my profession (I am an educator), my best moments with my students have been when the lightbulb turns on. Finally, it clicks! You can see it all over their faces…it’s the “aha” moment. Failure creates an opportunity for the “lightbulb” to turn on. It allows you to see an idea you couldn’t before. It creates new knowledge! All of sudden, things are clearer, and you’ve got it!
Losing can feel like a setback, and sometimes it is. It, however, can also be a SET UP for something greater than what you may of initially planned (Preach!). Instead of quitting, use failure as your seed. Refocus, reset, rebuild, and watch your fruit grow.
What are your “fruits” in failure? What lessons have you learned from failing? I would love to hear your stories!
Love WITHOUT Fear,