What’s the first thing you picture when you think of the word: “Failure”?
It’s hard not to see the word failure as a big red ‘F’ marking, scrawled across a poor test score. I think of missed chances, embarrassment, some version of me that is ‘less than’ good enough—less strong, less smart, less capable, less accomplished.
Failure can also invoke fear, lighting up that neon sign that says: DO NOT WANT.
It’s understandable. We are taught pretty early on how GREAT winning is and how painful ‘losing’ can be. We put energy into avoiding failure. In some cases we decide not to even try—anything to not fail. I say: we can look at the whole image of failure differently.
Here’s my proposition: instead of visualizing a red letter “F”, picture a stepping stone in a long line of stones across a babbling stream. Every stone is different; each task of crossing one step at a time requires a little observation and a little faith. If we stub our toe, miss the stone, or get soaked stumbling into the stream, we haven’t gone backwards to where we started. We’ve learned a great deal about that particular place in the stream and are much more informed in how to tackle it next. We don’t even need to see our stumble as a setback, because now, with our feet in the cold water and our whole viewpoint shifted, we are permitted to just take in and enjoy this moment on our journey. We are still us. We are still amazing. We are still enough.
There is a way to look at every ‘misstep’, every ‘setback’ as just a stepping stone on a long journey, as a reminder to take in the moment and enjoy the game, enjoy the fight, enjoy the sweat, enjoy the puzzle and the push. You are better for every single one of your failures, just as you are better for your wins.
I have fallen on stage, sprained my ankle before a performance, forgotten costume parts, missed cues. For all the dozens of performing jobs I’ve worked, I’ve been rejected at hundreds of auditions—sent away with literally zero feedback. But these days, auditions are fun for me, no matter the outcome. Rehearsals and classes are adventures in improvement. Every experience has something to teach me, and some unique way for me to share my artistry and athleticism. I love the unfolding of that. When I need inspiration, I look at the artists and athletes who have failed hard, and emerged even more determined and triumphant.
When you think you’ve failed, smile, because you’re on your way. You are learning endless new tricks of the body and mind, and you are a better athlete and human for this part of your journey. Often you are growing more in times of perceived hardship than in times of ease. Honor your growth. Show gratitude for your ‘stumbles’ because the beauty and satisfaction of your journey lies, not in avoiding obstacles, but in overcoming them. Be open to failure—you will learn more and faster. You will gain strength and win opportunity while others play it safe, afraid to take the next leap.
Embrace your failures as advantages over the long game, and not only will you succeed beyond what people expect, you might enjoy the journey a lot more.