What I am about to tell you is the secret of failure. Yet, it can be viewed in a number of ways. You can view this message as bitter medicine … or as a salve for your soul. You can see it as harsh – or as the shot of adrenaline you need to get yourself going.
27 years and 2 months ago today, I returned from a district wrestling meet. Despite having high hopes of going to the state tournament, I lost in the first round. Afterward I felt utterly humiliated and frustrated. I felt that all my hard work had been in vain.
Even so, the day after the team bus pulled back into town, I went down to the local recreation center to work out; to press on. I believed that no matter how often I failed, if I kept moving forward I would eventually succeed. I was taught this early on by my parents, You only fail when you quit – when you stop trying, when you give up on yourself and drop your dream book.
So I pressed on. Deep inside I will admit to feeling a lot of hurt because at that time in my life, whenever I made a mistake or experienced a setback, I felt that I, personally, was a failure. Not that I had suffered a loss, but that I was a loser.
No matter how many victories a person accumulates in life, if you view failure as final or personal, then you’ll begin to think you’re a failure, and this can become an inconsolable wound. It can affect and infect every single area of your life.
But this needn’t happen, especially when you realize that all of the most successful human beings were also great at failing, at making mistakes and learning to rise above their setbacks; to cast them aside and think ONLY of what was desired.
Remember, it is not so much your desire – but how strong the desire you have IS. This was brought to my attention the day after the district meet, when a former college wrestler, Tom, asked me how I did. When I managed to cough up the disturbing fact that I lost, he looked at me and said, “It all boils down to desire, doesn’t it?”
Before Tom said this to me I thought I was working hard. I thought I had a strong desire to succeed. I thought I was doing whatever it takes to win. But I was kidding myself. On many occasions I weakened – and every single time it was the MAN inside who weakened. It was NEVER the external me. Whether we succeed or fail, if we’re honest we’ll admit that it was the “stranger” within us who called the shots.
After Tom told me this I began to realize that getting my butt whooped was a good thing. It was necessary for me to strengthen my desire. And this was a lesson I have carried with me in everything I do to this very day. Whether I have a goal that is fitness related or career related, every time I have failed there is only one reason. I can discover this reason at any time by taking a look in the mirror. I can look into my eyes and ask the question, “Have you REALLY given it everything you’ve got?”
The answer coming from the man inside is always “No.”
Somewhere along the line I wasn’t willing to do whatever it takes: I wasn’t willing to follow instructions: I was bull-headed, stupid, stubborn or just plain ignorant.
Each and every failure gave me an opportunity to grow. But before there could be any growth, I had to face the facts. First, I had to acknowledge that I wasn’t perfect – even if I wanted to be. And second, I had to let go of the past, even if my mind was still searching for someone to blame.
As you work toward getting fit, improving your career, increasing your income – or whatever your goals may be, you will make mistakes. You will encounter setbacks. But none of these need to be a bad thing. Your mistakes literally help lead you to your goals – so do your failures. But only if you stay in the GAME and learn from what you’ve done.
If you’ve fallen off the wagon for a spell, don’t flog yourself. Just get back on.
If you’ve gained a few pounds over Spring Break, simply refocus and get back to where you want to be. Don’t waste a single second whining or complaining. Focus instead on building your inner being to the tower of fortified strength it can be.
Do this and you will come to know that the strength of your desire is far more important than merely having a desire. When your desire burns bright, you get what you want. When it’s dim, you don’t.
Zen Master of the Internet®