I love sports. I can’t think of many other activities that test the limits of a human the way that athletic competition can. When you see someone like Mondo Duplantis set the National High School Record for pole vault at 19’1” (2017), it’s an amazing feat.
The video above is from the 2018 European Championships, but I like the slo-mo view. I love watching the sequence as he completely inverts his body, clinging to a long, skinny pole, flying almost 20 feet in the air. What an achievement. I was watching the YouTube clip of this event, and YouTube was nice enough to cue up another video when this one ended. The next video to play was a history of Mr. Duplantis’ pole vaulting career, starting at a very young age, and a very short bar . How many times do you suppose he failed to clear the bar? Just guessing – out of every attempt at a pole vault, do you think he has more successes, or more failures?
The point is this: In certain contexts and activities, failure is viewed in a much healthier way. Sports is one of those contexts, except in sports we often call it “practice”. We often say “Practice makes perfect.” without really thinking it through. Let’s unpack that for a second — if we practice (fail) enough, then we will perfect what it is we are trying to do (succeed). Every failure is an opportunity to move closer to our goal, as long as we make that failure work for us. In sports, we have managed to develop a mindset that facilitates that process. If we can develop a similar mindset in other areas of our life, then we can “practice” instead of failing and giving up.