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4 Lessons to Turn Failure into Success

FailureWhy is failure important to success? How does it help us learn? What does it teach us about ourselves?

Failure is important in the journey to success. It is inevitable if you are reaching high to accomplish lofty goals.  In last week’s Quote of the Week on Success and Failure, we establish the fine line between success and failure.  Have you ever noticed that some people seem to have that magic touch and succeed at everything?  Have you ever wondered why?  Most people fail because they give up on their goals.  They find many reasons why they cannot achieve and don’t see failure with the correct set of lenses.  The ones who succeed have a different take on failure.  Although this is a piece on failure, it is actually a piece on how to turn failure into success.

Failure and A New Definition

The way we define failure is important. Failure cannot be final. I don’t see failures. I see setbacks. I see obstacles to overcome on the path to success.  If you are reaching for a goal, failure cannot be the moment you give up. John Maxwell wrote in his book Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones for Success that people are constantly training for success, but we should be training for failure. It will happen more often, and our response will dictate our next course of action and ultimately determine our ability to succeed.

If you have ever read Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing, author Marcus Luttrell faced insurmountable odds.  First, he overcame the odds of SEAL training.  In Afghanistan, he encountered a Taliban force that killed every member of his team and the 16 men sent in to rescue him.  He had every reason to give up.  He was blown off a mountain, broke his femur, his back, and was being hunted in the mountains. There were many moments when he could have chosen to stop fighting which would have inevitably led to his death, but His ability to deal with adversity learned during training allowed him find his way out.

On a side note, I recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It is one of the best books I have read.

By changing our definition of failure, we change our perspective.  We understand that failure can be overcome as a part of the process.  With a new definition of failure, we take one step closer to achieving success.

Failure and Your Mindset

Dealing with failure is a mindset. Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, asserts that there are two mindsets, a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.  The person with a fixed mindset identifies failure as a direct reflection of their self-worth. Failure is “transformed from action (I failed) to an identity (I am a failure).”  Those with a growth mindset see failure as motivation.  It is an opportunity to grow, learn and come back stronger.

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life doing nothing.” – George Bernard Shaw

Even though failure is part of the path to success, it’s not about expecting failure. We have a quote in our program, “Expect Excellence”. I don’t think anyone takes on an adventure and says “I will probably fail.”  If so, that person is doomed before he or she even begins.  However, you must be ready to deal with obstacles and setback along the way. You must understand that the work put in to succeeding is more important than focusing on the success. Every failure is an opportunity to learn.

Is your setback a failure or your motivation?  Your decision will ultimately define you.

Failure and Coaching

To be a good coach, you must be willing to take chances. With chance, comes risk. With risk comes setbacks. Setbacks feed doubt, and doubt becomes failure. It is the response to setbacks that defines your coaching. How you teach this to your players will define your team. The number one lesson I want to teach my players is how to respond in the face of adversity. It doesn’t matter who is hurt, it doesn’t matter about the refs. It doesn’t matter who is on the other team. My team is expected to deal with whatever is thrown at them and find a way. If we must kill penalties all game, we still need to find a way.

Have a plan and be prepared to change it. – Amy Blum Houston

I recently listened to a graduation speech from Amy Blum Houston who chronicled many of the adventures and setbacks that lead her to her position with The Robin Hood Foundation in NYC.  One of the things she learned along the way was “Have a plan and be prepared to change it.”  One of our responsibilities as coaches is to not only recognize this within our own game plan, but it is important to teach this lesson to our players.  Their careers will not always be filled with “rainbows and butterflies.”  There will be difficult times.  They will lose games.  They will be cut from teams.  They will get injured.  Many things can go wrong, but as coaches we need to teach our players to deal with these setbacks. We need to help them understand that life continues to move forward.  When things aren’t going their way, they will be expected to adjust their plans, and they will be expected to pull themselves back up and get after it again.

Failure and Achievement

People must be willing to adapt and tackle goals from different angles until they find the one that brings them success. Repeating the same course of action and getting the same negative results is the definition of insanity.  It’s not about working harder, sometimes it’s about working smarter.

Try, stop and think.  Then try again. – William Dean Singleton

Teams that can deal with adversity win have a championship culture.  Failure is part of that process to achievement. Embracing adversity is the true path to success. If we redefine failure, change our mindsets, and coach this into our teams, we become closer to that championship culture.

We overestimate the event and underestimate the process. Every fulfilled dream occurred because of dedication to a process. – John Maxwell.

Carol Dweck states that “people with a growth mindset in sports take charge of the process that brings success.”  It is the mind of a champion that finds ways to win when things are not going their way.  Without the right mindset, you cannot harness the mind of a champion.

It is said that winning cures all problems, but winning only covers up problems. It’s hard to see your flaws when you win. It’s hard to reach higher levels without setbacks. How many times does the team in first place win a championship come playoff time? The Cinderella story is based around teams who have defied the odds. They have more practice at failing so they are better able to adapt and succeed.

If you are able to deal with setbacks well, then you will not fear failure. As a result you will be more creative and free to take risks. From this, your teams will be more effective and play with more freedom.

How do you deal with failure?  Please share your story of turning failure into success.

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About Coach Printz

Jamie Printz has been a full time teacher/coach for over 20 years. Although the majority of his time is dedicated to ice hockey, he also coaches lacrosse and soccer. Coach Printz has had the pleasure of watching over 200 of his athletes move on to play collegiate sports. He works as a skills coach for local youth organizations, works in coaching education and player development at the state level, and is a parent of two young daughters who are beginning their journeys in the world of youth sport.
The 365 Coach © 2015
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