A perspective on setbacks, failure, and success.
Last week, for the first time in our 9+ years in business, I had to lay-off some of our staff. When starting a new business it's only natural to think of the positive- to think of the potential success and good times that will surely happen. In many ways my experience in business has been mostly positive. Which may explain why this was so hard.
I tend not to feel down or depressed very often. I consider my ability to stay positive a strength of mine in both sport and business. Yet I could not hide the feeling of failure when the necessary phone calls and conversations had to happen.
A good friend mentioned to me that as athletes we tend to be physically self-aware. We are aware of how our body is feeling, how we are breathing, and how we are moving through this world. Yet despite our physical self-awareness, we may not be mentally self-aware. How do our thoughts play upon our response to this world? How are our thoughts affecting our performance in sport, work, and life in general?
At times like this it's important to mentally focus on what we can control. We can't prevent a negative thought from creeping into our minds from time to time, but we can choose the state of mind we live in. Will you choose to live in a state of negativity- which only makes whatever hardships lie ahead feel worse than they already are?
Sports are no different. You cannot control what your opponent does, you only control your actions and your response. In bike racing, do you decide to chase down the attack, or let it go? In a 10k do you go out fast or build pace throughout? One is not necessarily right or wrong. It is only choice.
If you compete in a sport long enough (or in business), you will experience a time when it becomes apparent that your day will not go according to plan. Things are falling apart. This is not the time to feel bad for yourself. This is the time to throw any preconceived expectations out the door, and just like our world has changed, it's time to change our thinking. Think on what you can do now to have the best possible result under the current circumstances. Think on the variables that are within your control: maybe it's your nutrition, your pace, your gearing or cadence. Maybe you have nothing you can control but your thoughts- but those are in your control, and you can chose to stay positive and enjoy the fact that your are doing something many only dream of.
When I think back to my time in business and sport, it is strewn with failures. Yet each and every one of those failures were a critical stepping stone to a better understanding of the game. Success only promotes the repetition of action, but hardship and failure promote change. The best use their failures to stimulate change. Ultimately failure can guide us to a higher level of understanding than we would reach without it.
Failure is not the opposite of success. Failure is the sometimes not-so-gentle nudge that puts you back on the path to success. They are partners on the same journey.