How To Be Ok with Failure

So many people do everything they can to avoid failure. They understandably see it as bad. They hate the feeling of not living up to their expectation of themselves and thus do everything they can to avoid that feeling.


I would venture to guess based on how I tend to feel about failure that 99% of people feel this way. Maybe a tiny portion of people reading this embrace failure, but it's certainly a minority. So if you feel this way then you're completely normal so don't be too hard on yourself.


But just because it's prevalent and normal doesn't mean it should be the default. So how do you work on embracing failure?

Seeing failure as bad doesn't have to be your default.

In my own career I have dealt with failure by realizing that success is completely relative. What do I mean by success is relative? Let's take my golf game for example:


My success on the golf course would be a failure for a PGA Tour player. If I shoot 70-74-71-72 in a tournament and finish top 10, I’m ecstatic. But if a PGA Tour player shoots the same scores, first of all they probably wouldn’t have gotten a chance to shoot 71-72 on the weekend because they would’ve missed the cut, and second of all they wouldn’t have finished top 10, and probably would’ve looked at those scores as a failure.


And to take my role as a mental coach for example, my current level of players I work with would seem like a failure for someone who has been working with the best players in the world for decades. If Bob Rotella suddenly didn't have any PGA and LPGA Tour players and only had junior golfers and college players, amateur players and some mini tour players, he would say the bottom dropped out of his business. But for me I’m thrilled to work with the players that I get to work with. I'm filled with energy after every single session I have with a player.


And on the other side, a lot of my failures would be successes for other people. My 81 which was a grind all day trying to find my game and being dejected about my own ability and was super frustrating would be an awesome round for probably 90% of golfers. My dad loves it when he shoots low 80s and fully considers that a success.


And if you told me a year ago that I would be working with the players I work with now I would've been thrilled!


So who am I to think that my personal success and failure is the standard by which all success and failure should be judged? What I considered a success 3 years ago would seem tiny now.


Once you believe this about your own game you realize how much it levels your playing field. When you realize what is a mountain to you is a mole hill for other people, it makes the process a lot less intimidating.

Realize your mountain is someone else's mole hill.

So now that we have leveled your journey and made your successes and failures much less of strong emotional events, you can look at each logically. You can navigate through failures quickly and see what needs to be improved and worked on. And you can move on.


When a failure seems like a monumental event and you're consumed with emotion about how terrible it is, you're probably not going to learn much. But when you have the perspective that it wasn't even a failure, it was simply another step on a very long path, then you say "Ok that step is over, let's take the next one." When you're hiking on a trail up a mountain you don't reconsider every single step that you took, dwell on whether or not it was good, decide that it was a terrible step, let it get to you and become emotional, and stop hiking because of how terrible of a step it was. No. That's ridiculous. By that time you've already taken 20 more steps.


And so it is with your golf journey. Don't even give yourself enough time to dwell on successes or failures because you've already moved on and taken the next step.


 

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