This is Part 3 of this epic collaboration blog post on dealing with failure. In the first post (find it here) I talked about how I handled getting kicked out of Physical Therapy school in my last semester. In Part 2, I asked Mike Reinold, Lenny Macrina, and Dan Pope about their biggest failures and how they deal with them. Carrying on in this blog post, I asked some friends of mine who previously were or currently are elite level athletes the following two questions.
#1 – “How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?”
#2 – “What piece of advice would you give someone currently experiencing a similar failure, or apparent failure, given what you have been through?”
These responses were phenomenal, so I hope you find them valuable!
2008 Olympic Alternate for Gymnastics, Multiple Time Gymnastics National Champion, Former Assistant Coach Stanford Gymnastics, Co-Owner of Power Monkey Fitness and Team Captain for Power Monkey
1. [Favorite Failure]
I don’t know if I would call it favorite, but it has definitely been the most impactful failure. Being named alternate on the Olympic team was the most agonizing and important failure of my life. There are many details on how it all happened, but I won’t go into too much depth. Being named to the team, but not having the opportunity to compete was a mental and emotional test. I had seen how others had handled similar situations on previous teams and I wanted to make sure that no matter how distraught I was or how much I knew down deep that I had earned the spot to compete, I had a choice to make. The choice was to either voice my frustration and create a potential divide between the team as we headed to Beijing or to push my personal emotions to the side and do everything in my power to assist in making sure that the team was unified. Leading up to Beijing, we were looked at by the world as a weak team. Most people didn’t even think Team USA would finish in the top eight (top 8 go to finals). This allowed us to bond even more as a group and we let the negative opinions become fuel. The team ended up taking the bronze and while I wasn’t on the floor with them, I shared in the success knowing that I had done my part as the alternate. This experience has become a defining moment in my life. It has taught me many lessons I plan on using for the rest of my life. One of those lessons is the importance of surrounding myself with high-quality people who are willing to do what is best for the collective. As a business owner, the success of the team will always take precedent over the success of the individual. The qualities I now look for in new coaches or staff and how I strive to run my company revolve around what I learned being part of a team.
Failures, or apparent failures, are opportunities that can help define your character. They help shape how you will react in unexpected situations and can be an incredible tool if used as learning experiences. The easy route is to take a failure and let is distract or pull you from your ultimate goals. Every single person who has every succeeded has had to first come to terms with failure on some level, most likely many times over. How you react to the failure is what separates those who flounder versus those who continue to break through new barriers. Accept that the failures are inevitable. Use them to learn and grow. Avoid similar mistakes in the future and you will continue to make strides. I feel very fortunate to have been an athlete my entire life. The failures I had along during my athletic career have allowed me to succeed in new areas. I know I will make many more mistakes in the future and I anticipate many more failures. Fortunately, I know they can become a positive for future endeavors if utilized correctly.
2004 and 2008 Olympic Athlete for Olympic Weightlifting, Team Power Monkey Olympic Lifting Coach, Owner of Vaughn Weightlifting
1) [Favorite Failure]
Failure has absolutely been THE KEY to success for me, through the lessons I’ve learned and the motivation I’ve soaked in! I cannot zero in on a favorite failure of mine as they all end up being so valuable(not so much in the moment of course) and usable. I’m not saying that failure is ever even close to being easy, but it is a regular thing for me and I’ve come to accept it, and use the “rain” to make a “protein shake” with so to speak.
My advice for any failure is to try to look at it as information(this is advice I received from a friend many years ago about struggles in training)…GOLDEN information to move forward with. Failures ARE our “blessings in disguise,” our best teachers, the root of our growth, the most valuable visits on our path to accomplishment!
Hope that helps man. Best,
Starting Major League Baseball Pitcher for the Los Angelas Dodgers
1. [ Favorite Failure]
To me, failure is what leads us to success. You can not learn without failure. I look at failures now as a way to get better. What can I take from what I did not succeed at, or what might look like success to others. I look at failure as something I can use and find different ways to go about what I am trying to master. You can’t go out and tell yourself what if this doesn’t work. People who are high achievers or at the highest level of performance are all in. I will always disassociate myself from the results and be in the moment.
When you are faced with failure and you are doing something that you are passionate about, there should be no reason why you shouldn’t keep going. Find another way and if that doesn’t work find another way and continue to move forward until you reach your goal. Most times when people fail they will quit. They quit because it was not the failure that got in there way, but it ultimately was not there true passion they were striving for in the end. You have to find what is your true passion. Have an end goal and nothing will get in your way if you are committed to the process. The process is what you have to love. Again disassociate yourself with the results and focus in on the process. The day to day, the moment.– Rich.
(Instagram – @jessicalucero9 / Twitter – @Jessicalucero97)
3x National Champion Olympic Weightlifting, Senior National Record Holder [Snatch (93kg) , Clean and Jerk (116kg), and Total (208kg) – 58kg Weight Class]
I’ve had a handful of failures in my career and they all have been major catapults into moving towards my goals. It’s hard for me to allow myself to see them as failures when they have had the most amazing life changing results from them.
My advice would be to do your best to find the opportunity for grown in every situation. If a door shuts theres a reason so be ok with waiting till the door opens and remembering that 100% of the time it happens when we’re dreaming too small.
(Instagram = @tiffiep / Twitter = @Tiffie_P)
Team USA Track and Field, Multiple Time National Champion and Collegiate All American, Team USA Bobsled, Team Power Monkey Endurance Coach with Chris Hinshaw
1. [Favorite Failure]
I would have to say failure is how you perceive your challenges. The only time a person can truly fail is if they do not do everything in their power to try to reach the end results, even if the end result is not the result they wanted. My biggest “failures” lead me to face my biggest fears in the face.
I was one of many great athletes training in the heptathlon for a chance to make the 2016 Olympic team. More than anything I wanted to make a USA team and get that box of USA gear delivered to my house just to prove that I was the great athlete people did not think I could be, and to have validation that I could live up to the “potential” that every coach told me I had. I just wanted my moment and to have it all displayed with the best athletes in the world. I wanted to show that I was better and deserved to have a picture in the hall of champions at my university over the people they picked to display. I was out on a mission, and with the passing of my mother in 2011 that mission was on RAPID FIRE to become reality. I realized that I had to fall in love with sport and make small year-by-year improvements and that is how I would reach my goal of getting on that big stage at the Olympic Games by 2016. I did not realize that rapid fire would come disappointments, sacrifices unimaginable, jump from comfort zones, and losing the one thing that more than anything I cherished… my athletic ability.
2014 was the turning point of my career. It was the year I decided that “what ever it takes” would be implemented in over drive. I had for the past two USA nationals 12’ 13’ been 1-4 spots out from competing. I would train to hit the standard and a board of people would change it making it a little higher the next year, year-by year. I was fed up of being the odd man out. I let the constant reminders of “Tiff, you have so much potential,” get to me. I wanted to know what potential these coaches see because I still have yet to reach my goals and get my box signifying to me, that I had made it?
I trained harder than I had every trained that year. I was sick every other weekend and still showed up to be the first person and last person on that track. One day during spring break I was doing the usual hurdle practice with my cool down feeling great! I ended with some extra ab circuit work and was off to recovery. The next day my lower ab area was sore, after that the next day I could hardly jog because it hurt to lift my legs, the next day after that I was making a doc appointment and could not run at all without pain. I had no idea what was going on.
I was in prime shape getting ready to open season in 4 week at one of the biggest home meets and elite meets in the country. There was nothing that was going to stop me from competing. The doctor told me to take 4-6 weeks off and clearly that was NOT an option. So I did what any athlete in my situation would have… took some IBU’s and got back to it. I told myself that the pain I was in was nothing compared to the feeling of being 19th on a list of 18 people to compete at USA nationals. My doctor diagnosed me with a fracture in my pubic symphysis region. A diagnosis common in male Decathletes due to constant hip displacement with constant high impact. I had to receive 2 cortisone injections that did not work just to to try to compete. I went back to the doctor and he told me that he suggested that I do not compete at this meet with fear that would completely fracture my hip. I held back tearing up, looked at him and walked out of his office.
So, what did I do you ask? …. I went to see my physical therapist and started a program with him to hold me together for the season. I made it to that home meet scoring a personal best in the heptathlon and finally had a score that was good enough to compete at USA’s! I took a week off, and tried to get through workouts. The longer I trained, it got more and more difficult and I was less and less likely to be able to finish or even start a workout with out modification. I remember my last workout when I realized that I had given all that I had and my season was over because of this injury. I was running short hill repeats, in the most pain I had ever had. I kept running, and finally got to the 3rd rep and broke down crying on that hill alone as I sat on the ground in the middle of the road. I knew that I could not give anything more and had to admit that once again I had been defeated, but this time it was by my own desires to succeed.
It was June 2014 and I had submitted my score from that home meet and realized I was 14th on a list at USA’s and was accepted to compete.
The only problem was… I couldn’t walk. Go figure that I opened up my season at that home track meet and ended my 2014 season at that home meet. I was forced to do 9 months of physical therapy. I was finally “good” enough and could not even compete.
So with that “failure” I ended up with a physical therapist that changed my entire life. He had so much faith that my career was not over (even though I told him I was retiring after I was healed with him). He truly, with all of his heart knew that who I was, was going to be an impact, my story and failures were not for no reason, and that I truly did have something to show/offer the world and being an athlete was just my platform. He was determined to do whatever he had in his power to get me “ back on track”. He made me see the importance of truly needing to rely on others and that I could not do this alone. It made my relationship stronger with my coach because I was vulnerable for the first time in my life. That “failure” made me see how to truly care about the people that were around me.
It made look at how selfish I had become in the process and it changed who I was. It humbled me to be blessed and take joy in the fact that I could do simple things like jog, throw, and jump. I spent 9 months in a clinic with kids that would never walk again, widows that were alone in their recovery and came to PT not just for treatment but relationship. I was forced to relate to people in a way that scared me. If I were to loss this over night (which is exactly what happened) who would I be. I had taken it for granted until I did not have it. Those clients became my best friends because it was not about me getting “back on track” It was about realizing that it was a gift because everyone does not always get back.
The next year 2015 I competed in the heptathlon at that same season opener and I did my first meet grateful after every event that it was pain free. I had the best time and when I looked up I realized I not only set a person best in the heptathlon… I also made my first USA national’s appearance and my first USA national travel team an all because I learned to find joy in the process. Most importantly I learned to truly love myself, and the people around me.
My best advice that I could give a person that is facing a major set back in their own journey is to spend more time looking deeply at who you truly are. Once you fall in love with that person not what you are doing/ working to accomplish, you will truly unlock another level of competing and training for the best! Everything is a process and between every goal is determination & consistency, one of my favorite quotes, and truth as I continue my own athletic journey.
By nature, life is designed to fail. Our ability to remember the bad things over the many accomplishment we have is natural. But I will say, the moment you look at all those small joys that lead up to where you are now, the more of your own “potential” you unlock making you the best you possible. So, keep going … find a supportive community, be good person and fight to find joy in the journey.
That’s all for part 3. Have a great week!
Dave Tilley DPT, SCS, CSCS
CEO/Founder of SHIFT Movement Science
Rich Hill Photo Credit – (https://cdn-s3.si.com/s3fs-public/2016/12/05/rich-hill-signs-dodgers.jpg)
Jessica Lucero Photo Credit (http://www1.pictures.zimbio.com/gi/Jessica+Lucero+USA+Weightlifting+Olympic+Team+VyDSHy0nUk2l.jpg)