American soccer star and standout, Abby Wambach, recently delivered the commencement speech to the graduating class at Barnard college, and gave a simple instruction to those in attendance: fail. Failure is something that is never truly appreciated in our society. In fact, it is condemned. In Patton’s famous speech to his fifth army, he assured his troops that America was going to win the war because Americans love winners. People always will favor the champions and those who succeed. Our society glorifies success and belittles failure, so it is understandable that people, especially athletes, choose to stay within their comfort zones, to stay in local tournaments that he or she is guaranteed to win, or never take a chance when it counts. However, refusing to fail guarantees mediocrity.
The problem with failure is a total misconception of what a failure is and its implications in a person’s life. Nobody likes to lose, but when someone fails, they often get too caught up in the present. A loss is something that is painful in the present, and that is why it is the source of fear. People are simply afraid of feeling that pain that accompanies a loss. While the sting of failure is likely unavoidable, it can serve as a source of motivation, purpose, and self-knowledge for one’s future if one chooses to change the way that he or she views failure. After failing thousands of times in pursuit of inventing the light bulb, Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” The difference is perception. You cannot view failure solely as a source of pain that should be avoided at all costs; failure must be seen as an opportunity for future growth.
If you were guaranteed from birth to be the greatest of all time at a given sport or craft, then why would you ever spend any time working on that given sport or craft? Losses and mistakes only bring your shortcomings to light and serve as a platform for future growth. If you lose, don’t get wrapped up in the loss; use it as a source for growth. Someone on top of the mountain has no reason to keep climbing, and you should always be more scared of the hungry lion rather than one that just ate. Failure is not pain; failure is a platform for growth. Push yourself until you fail. Then keep going!