The Truth About Failure

Overcome failure—don't be defined by it.

Posted Jul 06, 2019 | Reviewed by Abigail Fagan

I often write about not giving all children in athletics medals and why I feel that way. It's about failure! It is about what failure means and why it should be embraced. We are all faced with different challenges in life and failing or feeling like a failure is one of them. There are lessons to be learned from failure. Most people will take their failures and make them into successes. Failure does not mean it is the end. It means we should take a different path. Not all paths lead to success. But, it is what we learn through our failures that can drive us to be the best version of ourselves.

I was an injured athlete and it profoundly affected my life for many years. I often felt like a failure. But, until two years ago when I spent 31 days in the hospital where I almost died is when I found my worth. I made a point to use two daily mantras’: "I will not be broken" and "failure is not an option." Since then, I have followed my heart and strive to be the best I can be in my personal and professional life. 

We can all learn from failures and life-changing events. We do not always need to ask why something did not go as planned. Sometimes the best things in life are the ones we thought would be bad or did not expect at all. We do not go into a sport or a venture thinking that we will fail. But, if we do, it should not define us. Failure is not who we become. It is something that happens and what we do to make it better is all that counts. 

As athletes, we refuse to fail, but if we do, we need to look to how we can make it better and forget asking the question, why. The answer to that question will never be found. So, find a way to fill that void failure or the loss has created and find success. My definition of success is being at peace with oneself. It is not about how much money one makes or what type of career they have. It is about taking all of the bad things and/or failures that happen to us in our lives and still find happiness. Success means being happy and at peace within oneself.

Years later, I never knew that still playing sports would bring me such joy.  Even after all of the years of feeling like a failure due to my athletic career cut short. I still can find peace within my self and comfort in something as simple as coaching youth sports and even playing basketball or softball again myself. I have never swayed away from my passion, my love of sports.

Failure opens our eyes and can make us grateful for the unplanned events in our lives. There is no such thing as failure as long as we establish hope. Find a passion and do something that you love regardless of whether it "should" be what you do. A failed attempt is better than no attempt at all.  Trying out for the team and not making it is better than not trying at all.

I want all of the athletes out there to know that if you did not make the team, if you missed the game-winning shot, or if you lost your career due to an injury or retirement you are not a failure. There is always a lesson to be learned. Embrace it and work towards what that lesson could be, and never ask the question WHY!