Will You Allow Your Failures To Pole Vault You To Success?

Will You Allow Your Failures To Pole Vault You To Success?

During the MLB playoff telecast of the NLCS between Philadelphia and San Diego, game 2, Fox analyst and Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz made an observation about failures. He remarked how nobody wants to be that guy who has a mishap or failure during a game…but if you allow it to pole vault you to success it can be a positive thing in your career.

I’ve seen good athletic coaches approach players who just experienced a disaster and convey the same sermon. “You can let that failure define you as a failure, or you can step up, learn from it and let it define your comeback to success!”

So what’s it going to be?

Life is filled with examples where people failed under pressure. Many of them – like a major league baseball player – in a public way. I’m not much of a baseball fan, but you can go read a list of the top 10 major league baseball blunders of all time. These aren’t necessarily sustained failures, but moments of time where a player bungled a play. That’s important for our conversation today – these are moments in time. But that doesn’t mean they lack the ability to become something more. Sometimes a single blunder morphs into another and another…forming a string of failures that can define an entire career.

A moment in time vs. systemic behavior that defines our life — do you believe we can choose?

Conversations about fate abound. I’m fascinated by how many people embrace notions of fate where they ascribe meaning to everything that happens. They use phrases like “it wasn’t meant to be,” or “it was meant to be.” Whether it’s an encounter with a new person, snagging a great parking spot, landing a new job, or not even being interviewed for a new job – I encounter many people who believe these things happen for a reason.

Maybe the difference between us (me and these folks) isn’t that great, but it’s still interesting to me. They think these things happen for a reason and are largely outside their control. I think these things can be leveraged and used for our growth – which means I think we can choose to use these things ‘for a reason,’ but I don’t think they were necessarily destined to be.

One big thing bothers me about such a notion – fate means we’re victims of it. Or victors because of it. It’s completely random based on…nothing! The universe or some unknown power puts us in a bucket. Some of us are winners. Some are losers. And mostly, we’re stuck with whatever category fate puts us in.

I’ve not met many people who say it that way. Or who claim that’s what they think. It doesn’t sound very good when you state it so clearly. But listen to what people say – and how they say it.

A person hoping to make a business deal experiences failure. He tells me, “It just wasn’t meant to be.”

A person pursuing a personal dream that has yet to be realized due to a few unsuccessful attempts remarks, “If it’s not meant to be, then it just won’t happen, but I’m going to keep trying.”

These are almost daily comments I hear. It’s easy to let them impact my own mentality. I sometimes worry if my viewpoint is being clouded by such language. I choose to oppose it, so I work hard to resist the urge to see myself in those terms.

Are they right? Are there things meant to be versus things that aren’t meant to be? Does the universe care if my personal dreams are achieved? Or not?

Randy Cantrell

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