Failure Is A Gift

October 30, 2017

Failure Is A Gift

Vince Lombardi said, “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up.” He was paraphrasing General George Custer.

Either way, there’s plenty of wisdom in it. For us, for our kids. Sometimes life kicks the crap out of you, and you have to keep going. It’s not a questions of “if”, it’s when and for how long.

It’s no secret that sport’s is a great place to learn life lessons. How to deal with adversity head on. How to fail. How to be a team player. The value of hard work and perseverance. How to advocate for yourself.

I’ll stop. I’m probably preaching to the choir.

This past month, I’ve had some challenges. Life kicked the crap out of me a little bit. My business and romantic relationship imploded. And that thing under my arm the doctor told me was nothing, turned out to be cancer.

“It’s not whether you get knocked down...”

I’m not crying in my milk. I am grateful for everything that’s happened. Yes, even the cancer. There’s a valuable lesson in each, a chance to learn and get better. To go in a new, better direction.

I am also grateful I grew up playing sports. Knowing that things were not always going to go my way, and that I had to bounce back and get back in the game.

Playing a sport is often a perfect analogy for life; at some point you’re going to get the crap kicked out of you and be humbled. Someone is going to beat you. You are going to miss the game winning shot, or have a goal scored against you.

A guy that’s twice your size is going to crush you on the football field, or on the ice. You are going to strike out with the bases loaded.

The truth is, each time one of these things happen, it’s a gift.

Mistakes are gifts. Chances to learn and do better. That you failed is never an accident. You are being show a weakness, something you need to work on. It’s a hard concept to accept, but one I’ve learned to embrace.

Henry Ford said, “Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”

I’m not comfortable with the fact that we now have a generation or two of adults that were raised with their parents taking care of way too much. They never got knocked down and they received endless amounts of praise and trophies just for participation. Their parents protected them from absolutely everything, as if they were a delicate piece of china.

They are actually called, ‘Teacups’.

Now that they’ve entered the work place, they’re having a hard time. They don’t know how to make interpersonal connections. They don’t know how to be a team player, or take constructive criticism.

They don’t know how to show up on time and put in a full day. And if they don’t feel appreciated, they will quit without hesitation.

I’ve even heard that their parents sometimes call their bosses, to discuss how they can perform better at work. Seriously.

These Teacups should have played competitive sports at a high level.

They should have been knocked down and got the crapped knocked out of them. They would have learned to make personal connections and be a good teammate. They would have learned to hold a job. They would have learned to ask what they need to do better and to advocate for themselves.

For his book The Talent Code, New York Times journalist Daniel Coyle traveled the world studying ‘hotbeds of excellence.’ These are relatively small areas where an unusually large percentage of high-achievers come from.

He went to Brazil for soccer. A small music school in upstate New York, where Yo Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman went, among others. A tennis club in Moscow with one court, that developed five, top ten players in the world. And so on.

He was looking for the common threads in the world’s best performers. How they grow, learn, and practice. What they believe. Are they born ‘talented’ or is it a skill they learn and develop?

The findings in the book are astonishing. He takes Malcolm Gladwell’s outliers to a new level and beyond. He explains exactly how experts come to be.

It turns out that experts are definitely made, not born. According to Coyle’s extensive research, the 3 most important things necessary for growth and improvement that lead to expertise in any area are:

Struggle, failure and perseverance.

Like I said, failure is a gift.