Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fear of Failure

This is, in a way, related to my Fear of Success post from earlier in the year.  Different organizations, regions, areas, etc. have come to push success so far that any bit of failure is unacceptable.  Perfectionism is demanded and they won't settle for anything less than untainted success.  I've seen this in middle school and high school athletes, middle aged businessmen, elite athletes, and students of all ages.  Failure, though, is not the enemy.  Those who are truly successful in what they do have failed time and again, only to come back better because of it.

We all know the story of Micheal Jordon and his famous quote, "I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."  Failure should be embraced, reflected upon, used as a time of growth and learning.  Personally, I've failed time and again in all aspects of my life.  In triathlon, I've failed horribly with my nutrition, transitions, bike intensity, swim technique, run intensity, pre-race warm-up, etc.  Without all the mistakes I've made I would not have been able to develop better race plans and preparations that have more recently landed me on the podium.  So why then did I fear signing up for collegiate nationals?

As some of you may know, I will be racing in the 2012 USAT Collegiate National Championships in Tuscaloosa, AL on April 21.  Though looking back the decision to race should have been a no brainer, I took my time to think it all through.  I had to ask myself "why not, what are you afraid of?"  I was afraid of not winning, of not racing to my own expectations, I was afraid of the competition.  This year is dominated by Ironman training and I know my Olympic Distance race pace might suffer due to this but the experience of racing against elite competition is something I need to take advantage of so I can learn more lessons and prepare for my future.   I may have to adjust my goals for the race, but in the end the opportunity, the journey, and the experience are what matter the most.

What races are you still thinking about signing up for, what's holding you back?

A fear of failure can lead us to display such behaviors as self-handicapping, perfectionism, and avoidance.  Remember, your playing small does not serve the world.  Only those who risk going to far, will truly find out how far they can go.  Remember the greatest athletes have all failed during their journey to greatness, and they continue to fail.  It's how they recover and learn from those mistakes that truly makes them great.


  1. you may or may not look like you are striking a LOHS cheerleader pose... :)

  2. You could say that you've made a few minor mistakes in races. Realistically it's just room for improvement - greater potential. You haven't "failed". What if ... you could jump in a time machine and go back 5 years and tell your younger self what you've accomplished (or will accomplish)...I think the response would be first shock then awe at your SUCCESS. :) Don't forget to appreciate just how successful you've been.