Watch this video of Michael Phelps swimming the 200M Fly at the Olympics:
Now watch this video of Olympic Figure Skater, Alina Zagitova:
Skilled swimmers and figure skaters aside, have you ever tried any of these things? If you’d like to experience failure, then go ahead and try one (maybe depending on your climate). Go ahead and do it – I’ll wait.
So… How’d that go? Good? I doubt it, but if it did go well for you, and you aren’t an experienced swimmer or skater, then you probably just found your calling in life. If you are anything like me (and almost everyone), you didn’t look like Phelps or Zagitova.
“Of course I didn’t — I’ve never even practiced before.”
A normal, obvious response… in this context. But in so many areas of our life, we expect to rise above failure without the practice, and without the time invested. Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule – the idea that it takes 10,000 hours of doing something to become an expert in that thing – applies to all of the things we do. Now clearly we only have time in our lives to become experts in a few things, or maybe just one thing. However, the point still stands that practice is how we often get better.
So what’s that got to do with failure? What is “practice”, except guided, mindful, repetitive failure (usually with some safety precautions)? If you can figure out what you want to get good at, and find a way to practice failing, all the while paying attention to what you do that works and doesn’t, and maybe get a little guidance from a “coach”, then your chances of not failing when it really matters go through the roof.