Saturday, July 18, 2015

Try Try Again.

It was a hot day in April of 2000.  I was on some track in northern Mississippi getting ready to run a 200m dash.  If I ran fast enough, I would qualify for the overall state track meet in Jackson MS.  All day the gunman, who fired a pistol to start each race, followed the same pattern, "Set, BANG".  I listened to his voice all day and had his timing down.

I placed my feet in the starting blocks.  I gripped the track with my finger tips.  I listened intently for "Set, BANG".  Only this time, the gunman yelled "Set" and paused.  During this pause, I leaned forward and stumbled out of the starting blocks.  My stumble, considered a false start, disqualified me from the race and ended my solo track career.

To say that I was upset would be an understatement.  To put it bluntly, I failed.  I walked off the track, took the race bib off of my jersey and headed to the team tent.  My dad met when I made it to the tent.  He said, "You ok?"  I nodded my head.  He said, "You did great all season.  Don't worry about that one race.  Its over.  I'm proud of you.  Get ready for the relay."

I took my dad's advice, got ready for my relay and ran hard for the last event of the day.  I don't remember how we finished in that particular track meet. But I do remember the false start and what my dad said to me.  33 year old me can unpack this situation a little better than 18 year old me, so here's my take:

When you fail, the most important thing is to learn from it. 

Lesson 1(the gunman):  I expected the gunman to do one thing, but unfortunately he did another.  Expectations are a double edged sword.  What if they aren't met?  How do you deal with that let down?  Having a plan to deal with emotional let downs and physical let downs is a good start.  One of our coaches verbalizes things this way, "This workout is about to suck.  Its going to be bad.  Like really bad.  But I got this."  Acknowledging that the workout will be bad is being realistic.  Ending the sentence with "I got this" is putting a positive spin on it.  Kind of like, putting spinach in my smoothie was hard... yeah... but did you die?   

Lesson 2 (you did great all season):  Pat yourself on the back.  Why?  You are the one paying to play the game.  You are working hard, taking risk, and doing things that require struggle.  Yeah, you might follow someone on instagram that post only happy pictures, but we all know life has disappointments. You aren't sitting on the sidelines wishing you could find the right filter to capture the moment.  The ones who don't suffer are the ones sitting on the couch in their parent's basement talking about how many great ideas they have.  Don't be that guy...

Lesson 3 (don't worry about that race, its over)  You have to move forward.  People want to be around action-oriented problem solvers.  We can learn from the past, but cannot change it. Training yourself to offer solutions on-the-spot attracts people and resources.  Bad things are going to happen.  How much of a mental beast would you be if you encouraged yourself during every negative situation in your life?  Over time instead of panic and hysteria, you could master coping and acceptance.

Lesson 4 (I'm proud of you): Affirmation and knowing that someone has your back, even in defeat, is awesome.  Versus and Clean Kitchen have coaches in place for a reason.  Sometimes its encouragement, sometimes its questions, and other times its the cold hard truth.  No matter what, we've got your back.

Lesson 5 (Get ready for the relay):  Instead of focusing on the failure I just had (and could do nothing about) my dad shifted my focus to something else.  Life is always moving forward.  We can choose to accept that or not.  Focusing on the negative things in the past is what we like to call the emotional rocking chair.  Worrying about the past is like rocking.  You are doing a lot, swaying back and forth, pushing your feet off of the ground, gripping the arm rest, etc... but you aren't going anywhere.  Inaction feels a whole hell of a lot like action doesn't it?  Instead of rocking, ask yourself, what steps can you take to better your situation.

5 lessons from stumbling out of some blocks!  What lesson will you learn from your next failure?  Will you put a positive spin on it?  Will you get out of the emotional rocking chair?  Or will you sit on the sidelines talking about how many great ideas you had?


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