We don’t always fail well. Or at least think we know what that even looks like or means.
We teach our players constantly about failure. We tell them that it’s good. We get upset when they do it. We don’t know what message comes out.
But the most important thing is to continue to teach through it. Failure will come and go.
It’s how we handle it that matters.
In every conversation, every moment that it becomes apparent that there was something done “incorrectly” or a “mistake” was made, we have a choice in how we respond. As coaches, as players, as parents, as teachers, as human beings. What we say and how we say it are both critical to our ability to recover. We internalize. We are visibly upset and sometimes shaken. We silently suffer. And what if we didn’t do any of it? What if we removed the emotion each time like it didn’t have to be there.
What if we saw failure as just what it is… fact. Feedback. Information. Just a thing. Without judgment and fear of imperfection and with the knowing that life will go on.
With the knowledge that we are still good and worthy and ok.
And what if we could give that to our players, our kids, and most importantly to ourselves. Would that not be the greatest gift of all?
Because the truth is… we become our thoughts and words, even when they are not spoken out loud.
So choose wisely.
“What is failure?” Her big eyes looked up at me with the power of question, not knowing whether or not she wanted to really hear the answer.
“Is it good or bad?”
I was not sure if the questions were going to end, or if this was just the beginning of the circle and the what’s and how’s and when’s that would invade my brain with too much uncertainty to answer correctly.
There it was. The moment of judgment.
The what if’s, the judgment, the belief that I had to do it right.
There it was.
As clear as day, shining me in the eyes like a spotlight in the pitch black that I couldn’t even identify.
I thought about it for a second.
And I couldn’t complete it.
Her eyes were growing tired of waiting.
Looking into the light that was above her, as mine glanced down into hers, more blinding than before.
“Failure is just a thing.”
I continued not sure where the words were coming from…
“The emotion we attach to it is our human journey.”
I think I confused her.
I confused myself.
As she turned to leave, her eyes met mine once more.
“So why is it so difficult when we get it wrong?”
And with that, she was gone.
I thought for sure I was imagining things. She just disappeared into thin air.
She didn’t even wait for the answer.
And I am sure it’s because she knew I didn’t have one.
I owned that moment for years.
Knowing that the conversation in my own head would mirror time and time again what I thought I knew.
I couldn’t be perfect.
I would fail.
What I soon realized was the little girl inside me demanding answers for each failure would be ok anyway.
And that day came when I finally let her go.
She is somewhere on a plane to San Diego…
And if I imagined it correctly, I think I left her there holding my empty coffee cup.