Spetacular Failing

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Since we’re leaving the Olympic season (insert abject crying emoji here) I thought it was time to replay a couple of my favorite Olympic-themed blogs. So—here we go.

I wrote this after Sochi, but it feels pretty relevant for all of us, all the time. Also, since it’s my daughter’s birthday today, I think a post about trying hard things and being brave is appropriate. See this one to know why.

The Olympic Games is pretty much the only time I spend hours watching TV, but for those two weeks, I have meals and mail forwarded to the living room. This gives me plenty of time to muse over deeper meanings of it all, and I found one in the men’s figure skating competition. And no, it has nothing to do with their outfits.

Did you notice something unusual this year? Every single final round athlete in the men’s skating competition this winter fell. Every. One.

Is Falling Failing?

Yet still, three men went home with gold, silver, and bronze, and the world believed they had seen the best skaters alive out there on the ice. Even with all the spills. All the mistakes. All the “could have been betters.”

Which really made me think. None of those men had to do quad jumps. None of them had to push themselves to try impossible tricks and defy whatever had been done before. None of them had to fall.

They could have played it safe and gone home unbruised and satisfied that they had done the best they could. But none of them did.

Every one of them pushed it to the next level, tried, fell, and went home as victors anyway. 

And it occurred to me how absolutely beautiful it is that falling on our faces can be a victorious moment.

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Falling Can Be Victory

It’s beautiful that, in this arena, failing at a hard thing is rewarded more than playing it safe and succeeding at something too easy.

You get more points for having the guts to whip a quad out there and accidentally touch down with two feet than for doing a double-toe-loop that you could do when you were thirteen. You’re recognized for attempting something challenging when you could have stuck with the safe and easy touch down.

I love that. Victory from spectacularly trying and equally spectacularly wiping out. And, of course, getting back up to keep skating anyway.

Fear Makes Us Settle for Less than Spectacular

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Maybe, it’s the fear that keeps us from trying new things, throwing it all out there on the ice and possibly falling hard, that keeps us from real victory. Maybe we never get that golden moment we long for because so often we would rather do what we know we can do. Spinning in the air is dizzying, and we’d prefer to do a quick hop and call it our best effort.

But it isn’t. Because so long as we never push it one more level up, never find a challenge just a little tougher than the last one, never seek that one risk we are not sure is within us but we need to find out, we are not giving it our best. We’re giving it our OK.

Gold medals are never won by OK. (Unless all the other speed skaters wipe out in front of you. Then, well, it happens.)

What do you know you need to stretch to try right now? It’s OK to fall. OK to fail spectacularly. OK to put everything you have out there and mop up the mess. It’s just not OK to never jump at all.

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