A huge part of being great, and of being a champion, is failing. As Michael Jordan said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And THAT is why I succeed.” Kareem Abdul Jabbar said “You can’t win unless you learn how to lose.” Olympic Champion Wilma Rudolph said “Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.” and finally, Ralph Waldo Emerson said “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising each time we fall”
So what’s the point?
The point is this:
There is a difference between success and mastery. Mastery is about the unyielding pursuit of “better”. Success is about accomplishing a goal. Mastery is about relinquishing the dedication to goals and results and instead dedicating yourself to the process of improvement. While we may consider a painting to be a masterpiece, the master who created it sees every flaw and intends their next work to be an improvement upon the last. It’s one thing to be successful, but it is another to be the master of your outcomes. Success is is hitting the target. Mastery is knowing you can hit the target again and again and again. Success is: “Did you make the time goal you set? did you win the race?” Mastery is “I did, but next time, I will do it better.” Being close to winning, or close to meeting your goals is an important experience. Failure makes us stronger. It drives you to dig deeper and work harder. It’s the rabbit in your sights. It’s the reason you find whatever else you can do, and then you do it. Coming close to what you thought you wanted to achieve gives you the ability to excel beyond what you ever dreamed was possible.
As Sarah Lewis says in her TEDtalk, “Masters aren’t experts because they take a subject to it’s conceptual end, they’re masters because they realize there isn’t one.” We don’t revere Michael Jordan or Beethoven because they did something great. We revere them because before they were great, they always strove to be better, and after they became great, they still strove to be better. https://www.ted.com/talks/sarah_lewis_embrace_the_near_win
The saying goes “If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again.” And that is valid, but I think we also should add: “And when you finally do succeed, try even harder the next time.”
Embrace your failures and stand on the shoulders of the previous versions of yourself as you build the new iteration. Never stop reaching higher. Never stop working for whats next.
Right now I am sick with a chest cold, and my arm aches with tendinitis and my shin throbs with the pain of a stress injury. I’m accepting that the goals I had once established may now be out of reach, but that won’t stop me from stretching out for them. If I fall short, it’ll be motivation for the future, and if I succeed, it will drive me to find out what’s next. I’m pretty sure that’s what champions do.