The skiers I have the privilege of interacting with are in the business of Excellence. Athlete’s who’ve made a full time commitment to skiing do so with the intent to pursue excellence to it’s highest capacity. Everyday they seek it. Our sport demands it. No one out there wants to be an athlete, they want to be the best athlete. That’s High Performance. So what happens when, for whatever reason you don’t have a good enough day? You had one race, one weekend to prove yourself and you didn’t. No podium. No World Cup start. No ticket to World Juniors.
To say it’s discouraging, is an understatement. Failure is a punch in the stomach. What makes it worse is the fact that had things just gone a little more right you probably could have done it. It’s frustrating because part of you knows you could have done it, and it’s awful because the volume of your own doubts and fears starts to grow.
This is called a setback. It is a universal experience, and if you’re really interested in pursuing excellence you had better learn how to deal with it. In my own bumbling pursuit of excellence I’ve come across several setbacks. This is my humble advice for how to move on.
1. Go have a good cry in the woods.
The feeling that comes with failure is awful. Take the required time to process what happened, how you’re feeling [and where those feelings should be directed]. It’s easy to accidentally lash out at friends and coaches. Don’t do that. Get your skis, go for a ski and have a good cry.
2. Recognize that setbacks happen. Move forward.
Start lines are filled with athletes who’ve put in the requisite blood, sweat and tears but podiums only has three spots. For every athlete a Development Center takes, they turn two away. In High Performance you don’t win every time. Some of your attempts on the path to excellence will result in failure. Failure is not an absolute. If your goal is big enough you’re probably not going to achieve it on the first attempt. It’s time to keep moving forward.
3. Know that you’re in charge.
Results are a mechanism of external validation. In a specific incidence [a race, or race weekend] they may say you’re not good enough. The truth is no one gets to say what you can and cannot do, what you are, or are not capable of. You are in charge of that. Don’t let anyone tell you what the ceiling is on your ability. You are the only person required to believe in yourself. The rest will follow.
4. Accept that no one’s going to hand you your dream.
Success is not an entitlement, it’s earned. It may not be earned every time. It’s no one’s job to believe in you. It’s your responsibility to seek out support, put in the work, and prove yourself.
5. Surround yourself with people who DO believe in your ability.
Create a successful environment around yourself. Infallible belief in one’s self is difficult. You don’t need people around you who fuel the flames of self doubt. Consider the peers, coaches and mentors you surround yourself with. Are they facilitating positivity? Are they helping you focus on the trajectory towards success or are they looking at failure? You want to be around people that will help you keep your eyes on the road- not on the ditch. There are plenty of amazing people who believe in each of you and are willing to help you achieve your goals. Reach out, and consult them. A great coach is someone who can identify both your strengths and weaknesses-but who will help you move towards strength….
6. Make a new goal. Keep moving forward.
No matter what your goal is there are different roads to getting there. Find your coach and create a new map that plots your route to the top. Wake up tomorrow, blast some U2, and get to work.
Learning how to deal with failure was one of the greatest lessons sport taught me.
As always- feel free to share.