Why Do We Preach that Failure is Necessary?

by Heather Cribbin, Mental Toughness Coach

I know, you’ve heard it many times before, but it’s hard to believe right? I mean, how can you, as a competitive athlete, or a high performer of any kind, actually take on the old adage that “Failure is the best teacher”. Reeeeally?

I was a typical 14-year-old girl, pretty darn athletic, but well, you know…My older boy cousins spent a month at their cottage every summer, and this was our annual weekend pilgrimage. I was both looking forward to it, and dreading it, with predictable 14-year-old angst.

The water was glassy, and my uncle shouted, “The ski gods are calling!”

“Ladies’ first,” they teased.

With a low rumble the boat pulled away from me as I floated on two skis, staying level until the perfect moment.

“Hit it,” I yelled.

The motor roared and the boat leapt ahead, the force pulling me out of the water effortlessly. Almost immediately, I gingerly slipped my right foot out of the neoprene binding and into the rear location on the back of the slalom ski! Despite a wobble, I was triumphantly upright. Gradually I worked my turns out of the wake, looking pretty darn fantastic I told myself. “My cousins will be impressed,” I mused.

My Uncle’s feedback took the self-satisfied grin off my face. He said to me, “IF YOU DON’T FALL, YOU’RE NOT TRYING HARD ENOUGH.”

Whaaaaat?

Failure is Necessary

Passion is an essential ingredient to learning. Passion causes your brain to wire what it’s doing, and to do so stronger with every lesson. When we’re taking risks, walking a fine line between succeeding and failing, we’re engaging our passion. Whether we succeed OR whether we fail, we have an opportunity to harness passion, and have it contribute to the growth and training that we desire.

So get out there, live on the edge, swing out, play your biggest game. Don’t be afraid of failure or mistakes, as that fear is what will make you tentative and less passionate. Obsessing with looking good and/or training within your comfort zone will NOT get you the results you want. Embrace when things go sideways: Know that you are on the edge of your best learning and skill building when you make a mess of it.

Be reminded by your errors and failures that you are doing exactly what’s needed to lock in what it takes to be the best in your field! It’s necessary to be on the edge of your ability to push yourself to the next level that will lead to your success.

That’s what we mean when we say “failure is necessary!”

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