When retired US Women’s superstar, Abby Wambach, delivered the commencement speech to the graduating class at Barnard College last year, she gave a simple instruction to those in attendance: fail. Failure is something that is never truly appreciated in our society. In fact, it is condemned. In Patton’s famous speech to his fifth army, he assured his troops that America was going to win the war because Americans love winners. People always will favor the champions and those who succeed. Our society glorifies success and belittles failure, so it is understandable that people, especially athletes, choose to stay within their comfort zones, and to never take chances when it counts. However, refusing to fail guarantees mediocrity.
The problem with failure is a total misconception of what a failure is and its implications in a person’s life. Nobody likes to lose, but when someone fails, they often get too caught up in the present. A loss is something that is painful in the present, and that is why it is the source of fear. People are simply afraid of feeling that pain that accompanies a loss. While the sting of failure is likely unavoidable, it can serve as a source of motivation, purpose, and self-knowledge for your future if you choose to change the way that you view failure. After failing thousands of times in pursuit of inventing the light bulb, Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” The difference is perception. You cannot view failure solely as a source of pain that should be avoided at all costs; failure must be seen as an opportunity for future growth.
If you were guaranteed from birth to be the greatest soccer player of all time, then why would you ever spend any time working on to improve? Losses and mistakes only bring your shortcomings to light and serve as a platform for future growth. If you lose or have a bad game, figure out what things you could have done better and then go work on them; use the “failure” as a source for growth. Someone on top of the mountain has no reason to keep climbing, and you should always be more scared of the hungry lion rather than one that just ate. Failure is not pain; failure is a platform for growth. By redefining failure in this way, you open up a clearer path to success. Push yourself until you fail, then keep going!