by Darrin Schenck

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by Darrin Schenck

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I think this is a concept that most people do not truly understand.  And it is killing dreams and opportunities left and right…

One of the things that I think is so valuable about participating in sports as a kid is that you can learn that failure is just part of life.  Some kids get back up, dust off, and get right back after it while others get knocked down once and run to their parents for comforting.  In direct correlation, in my opinion, this is going to dictate your level of success in life.  If you don’t see success in your first try at something and that’s the only run at it you take, you are going to get nowhere in a hurry.

Failure needs to be embraced as part of the process, as it is an UNAVOIDABLE part of any process.  Failure has a wide definition, so don’t relegate this to the confines of an entrepreneurial venture that goes belly up after 18 months.  I am talking about a micro failure of striking out with a chance to win your Little League game, or missing a turn in a swim meet and finishing dead last.  Or asking out the person you’ve had your eye on for a while, only to get rejected or find out they are not interested.  Applying to a couple of jobs right out of high school or college but not getting hired; there are a ton of examples of what I am talking about.  But ALL OF THEM are temporary if you treat them that way.  They are bruise, not a tattoo.

One of the things that you need to understand is that this is feedback, and a loss or failure should be looked at in that manner.  It is useful information for you to process and learn from and adjust, giving yourself a better chance next time around.  Whether it was a business idea that flopped or a Little League game strikeout, you need to evaluate what happened, what you did well (very important!) and also what you need to do a better job of next time around.  You didn’t do everything wrong, so don’t start from that conclusion.  I’ll give you an example from my life: I lost in the finals of the only state racquetball championships I chose to participate in as a Pro player.  Its a long story, but I lost in the tiebreaker after just absolutely choking away the second game.  My opponent was just as nervous, and he was trying to let me take the win, but I got in my own way and couldn’t pull it off.  I didn’t do everything wrong to lose in that situation, but I did miss a couple of critical pieces of the process that would have allowed my to still end up winning that match and getting my name carved into the trophy.

My first mistake was not staying present-minded, I was thinking about cementing my place in the history of AZ racquetball WHILE I was still playing the match.  Instead of thinking of my next serve, or to remain patient, or to wait for quality offensive opportunities instead of wildly trying to end every rally on every shot I took.  I needed to be more measured in my approach, allowing my opponent time to think himself into a tizzy like I was doing to myself.  But I can honestly say this: I learned more from this loss than I did from most of the wins that preceded it.  It is easy to think a win confirms your approach was right, and in many cases you don’t take the time to reflect and reevaluate what happened.  Instead, you take your trophy and you go home, and you continue doing exactly what you did previously.  In a loss, especially one as painful as this one, you HAVE TO look at what you did, what needs changed, and what you can practice to improve.  If you don’t, you will never really improve and you will be doomed to repeat that lesson until you do figure it out.

Did this loss change my life?  In some ways, yes, very much so.  For the better.  The far reaching results I had after this “bruise” was well worth the pain I felt at that time.  It forced me to course-correct, and start doing things differently.  By changing my approach and my preparation I leaped forward in my abilities and I went on to many more successes.  And eventually I did add my name to that trophy, but only because I had learned and grew from the failure(s) of before.  Did it ruin my life, or change my status in my social circles?  No, it did not.  The only way this had any impact on anyone other than me was because I perceived it to do so.  It did not, the crowd didn’t care enough to console me or cast me out of that little world.  It was the finals of a racquetball tournament; everyone watching was wishing they were in there competing for a chance to put their name o the trophy.  I didn’t handle that situation well, but in other cases I did.  They all wish they were in the arena that day.  Don’t lose sight of that part…

Discomfort is meant to be a clear indicator that you are not doing something correctly.  Just like bad form in the gym or on the field will lead to an injury, poor form in your approach to any endeavor will cause discomfort of some kind at some point.  It is meant to alert you that you are not on the right track, and change is necessary.  When you sustain an injury from bad form, your body likely gave you warning signs ahead of time, but you didn’t pay attention.  After enough warnings that were ignored, you are primed for an injury.  That is the ultimate sign that you have to correct the behavior that put you in this situation in the first place.  Life works exactly in the same manner.  If you are unhappy, overworked, undervalued, a bad partner, whatever, along the way you are given warning signs and then eventually…the bruise hits.

As a kid, try lots of things and see what you can do well at or at least enjoy and learn from.  As an adult, be sure you keep this mindset and the habits going by participating in difficult things that you can fail at and come back for more.  Start taking Jujitsu classes and get tapped out by someone better every single practice from now on.  At some point, you will have improved enough to return the favor to those newer at it than you.  But there will always be someone better, and this constant reminder that failures are a bruise and not a tattoo will serve you well in life.  Remember, the losses (and the wins) are temporary.  Nothing is forever, except when you put everything in place and have a signature win that puts your name on that proverbial trophy that you were aiming at.  But the very next day, ask yourself this question…”What did I learn, and what do I still need to learn…?”

I wish you luck in your endeavors.

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