We start a new concept in today’s post. The concept is a Theme of the Week for all three mediums through which I come to you. I started the concept this past Monday on my Great Quotes for Coaches podcast and carried on with it on my video on Wednesday over on my SlamDunk Success YouTube Channel. Now I will continue it with my blog post.
The theme of this week is “Public Failure.”
Ooh, that sounds so uplifting, Scott!
I get it. No one wants to fail, and we usually don’t want to talk about it when we do.
However, failure is a huge part of all that we do. We are human beings. We are going to make mistakes, and at times, we are going to fail in our endeavors.
And quite honestly, that’s okay.
As long as we are failing while giving our best effort and focusing our attention on doing things the way they need to be done to succeed, then our failure is just something that happens due to things that are either out of our control or some mistake in the execution.
The key is to learn from the mistake, learn from the failure, and then do all that we can to not let it happen again. But when it does happen again (and chances are it will happen again at some point), we need to be prepared for how to handle it, learn from it, grow from it, and get past it.
Isn’t that how things work in all aspects of our lives?
We start down a path toward some endeavor, try different ways of doing whatever it is we’re doing, stumble, get up, stumble again, continue to move forward, but stumble again, and hopefully, eventually end up where we’re trying to go.
The road to success is littered with obstacles, mistakes, and failures along the way. If it was clean with no potholes, downed trees, or fallen boulders, it would probably be a pretty boring journey.
Sports & Failure
The quote I talked about on Monday’s Great Quotes for Coaches podcast episode was from James Clear, the author of the outstanding book, Atomic Habits. In it, he talks about how sports help our kids learn to deal with failure in public settings.
Consider that every time kids are performing at their sports, whether it be at practice or at contests, they are failing in public. They are being asked to risk failure as they try new things, and they are doing so in front of other people—teammates, coaches, and/or fans—who are judging them on their performance.
When we teach them a new move, skill, or play, it may take a while for them to master it. Once they do, we add a new degree of difficulty to it, like running or jumping during it, or putting a defender on them, or putting multiple people out on the playing surface with them. As they get more comfortable with it, we then ask them to try another new move, skill, or play, and start the whole process over again.
Once we have given them enough of those challenges, we have them try to perform against an opponent and add a scoreboard and the pressure of performing in some type of contest that has actual consequences based on their success or failure.
All of the above is not easy for anyone. Add into the equation that we are usually talking about young kids and adolescents who are trying to avoid looking bad or embarrassing themselves in front of their peers, and it can be downright scary for many of them.
Yet, here we are, asking them to risk failure in public like that on a daily basis.
It is a great lesson for them to learn, and it is a great way for them to prepare for the failures that will inevitably happen to them in their lives.
A Good Option
I once wrote a blog post called “Failure IS an Option!” I wrote it based on a line uttered by Ed Harris, the actor playing Gene Kranz in the 1995 movie, Apollo 13. Kranz, the leader of the crew at Mission Control, is struggling to figure out how to bring the three astronauts home who are stuck in space after an explosion on the Apollo 13 spacecraft. He says, “We never lost an American in space. We’re sure as hell not going to lose one on my watch. Failure is NOT an option!”
That line—“Failure is NOT an option!”—became one of the most enduring, iconic lines of the movie, and in many ways in all of cinema.
However, people started using it in all kinds of situations. Sport teams, coaches, and athletes latched onto it in droves. They were uttering the line as a rallying cry to work hard, do your best, and make sure that you have left no stone unturned and no ounce of sweat and blood in your quest for success.
It’s a great line in a movie, and certainly the mindset Mission Control had to have in a do-or-die situation. But it’s NOT the best mindset when teaching kids how to navigate sports, academics, or life in general.
Failure is not only an option in everything we do, but it’s also a good option.
No, I don’t mean you should want to fail or be okay with failing. But you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone in order to grow, develop, and become your best.
When you do that, you are going to experience failure along the way.
That’s a good thing—not necessarily the failure part, but the pushing you out of your comfort zone to help you become your best part. It means you are constantly stretching yourself, recreating yourself, and becoming the person you want to become.
James Clear is right. Sports help teach kids how to fail. By doing so, they also teach them how to succeed. It is a lesson that we adults need to learn, so we can help teach it to kids in sports and in life.
The sooner kids understand that lesson, the sooner they start on their road to becoming the best they can be. The sooner we adults learn that lesson, as well, the sooner we can do the same.
How do you encourage failure in your kids as a positive way to learn & grow? How do you help them get through this thing they often see as a bad thing? Leave a comment below.