Why We Succeed or Fail?

This entry is part 18 of 28 in the series Leadership

I was recently asked a very interesting question by an athlete.  “Why do we fail?” Initially, I thought about different things like ability or confidence. Maybe it has to do with the opposition or outside distractions. Is it our diet or lack of rest or any of the other things that we attribute failure to?

While failure may result from these things, the most basic answer to that question is pretty simple and straightforward. We are human. It’s not because we aren’t good enough.  It’s not because we don’t think we’re good enough. It’s not because of the other team or things in our lives.  It’s not because of what we ate before the game or the fact that we partied all night long. It’s not the coach’s fault, or a teammate’s fault.

We fail, simply because we are supposed to fail.  We are human.  The question is not whether or not we will fail.  The question is whether or not we will learn from that failure.  The question is whether or not we will take each failure and better ourselves as a result.  We fail every day.  The key is do we recognize it? Do we do anything about it? Do we learn from it? Do we try to fail or do we fail to try?

Some might say this is a pessimistic view of life.  I would say it’s a realistic view of life. The reality is that we have the opportunity to make choices every day.  More times than not, we don’t choose correctly. More often than not, our humanity takes over. We fail constantly.

In fact, let’s hope that we fail. Edison found 10,000 ways to not make a light bulb.  Jordan missed 26 game winning shots, according to his famous quote.  Many artists, authors, and musicians die before their work is valued. Inventors must have hundreds of failed ideas before they truly invent anything.

Failure is not all bad.  Bob Knight may have said it best.  “Victory favors the team making the fewest mistakes.” However, his emphasis was on identifying and eliminating repeated mistakes. Notice that the victory doesn’t precede the failure.  Failure precedes the victory.

There is good news though. If we want to succeed, there is a way to do that. What is success?

For now let’s consider success the opposite of failure. How can we not fail?  How can we overcome our humanity? We really can’t. So shouldn’t we just accept it?  Instead of trying to be perfect, shouldn’t we just be the best we can be?

It sounds like we succeed because we identify and eliminate repeated mistakes.  We are going to make mistakes every day.  Can we learn to not repeat them? Can we learn to make new mistakes and learn from them?

We fail because we are supposed to. We continue to make the same mistakes because we choose to.  However, we succeed because we fail and choose to do better the next time.

 

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