In the wake of the coaching upheaval in the NCAA, I got to thinking about failure. What is failure, exactly? Who defines your success, or lack thereof? Failure, like expectations and belief structures, can be a very heavy and intimidating thing. And all three require perspective and are defined by a person’s individual point of view.
I look back at my previous failures …. ummm, they were here somewhere. Hold on! OK, found ‘em. One, two. Yep, got them all …… sorry, where were we? I look back and ask myself why I failed? What was the root cause of the experience? And the key word is experience. All too often, we get wrapped up in the fear of failing. I believe failing is another word for learning, and do you know anyone who is afraid to learn? If you do, hit them in the head for me! It’s OK to fail, so long as you learn from it. I mean, if you were incapable of learning from your mistakes, from your failures (or the failures of others), you would have no future in anything, except maybe politics.
I think the common root cause to failure is self doubt. You ask any of the recent coaches who were fired by their respective schools if they failed and they will tell you emphatically ‘NO’. If you do the best you can with what you have, be it a team, a budget, a unique situation, then you never really fail. Failure is in not trying. Failure is in not believing you can. Failure is allowing doubt to trump success. Ok, I don’t know if that makes sense either, but it sounds cool.
There is a scene in the movie “Remember the Titans” where Will Patton’s character, at the risk of losing a chance to be a head coach, tells Denzel Washington to open up his offense. “Let there be no doubt” he says. And although we all need to find balance in our lives, and apply logical analysis to our decisions, we need to live our lives so there is no doubt. No doubt in our ability to succeed, for success is in the trying. Success is saying, “I have no idea what the result is, but I am determined it to give it a shot.”
We may think that we have failed in a particular job, or failed someone altogether. Those thoughts are normal and in many aspects necessary. The truth of the matter is we only fail ourselves if we do not learn from the experience, and we should never be afraid to experience life. Success is to failure as ups are to downs. Do I think Coach Dave Wannestadt is a failure? Ok, that’s a tough call….. but I do believe he did the best he could every day with what he had. As should we all. It’s that whole “…make lemonade” thing. Sometimes it will work out, and sometimes you will realize you need more sugar. Either way, never be afraid to stir things up.