I have been giving some more thought about failure and how struggle and getting things wrong is such an important part of the whole learning process. I have been reflecting on how some of my best learning experiences have been such massive failures.
I failed my A level exams when I was 18.
I remember being crestfallen when I saw the letters D, E and U on the slip of paper that came in the envelope. All of my friends were celebrating and talking about where they were going to university and I was the chump that had to say that I had messed up.
If I was honest with myself, I should have known what was coming...I had been able to get by on my wits for a while, I was cruising and had gotten involved with some people that were not all that good for me.
The writing was on the wall as they say.
I took stock and after a few days I decided that I would retake the whole year. It was tough, all of my friends went off to their respective universities and I was left behind, questioning whether I had made the right decision or not.
It turned out to be the best decision I could have made, I knuckled down and worked hard and got way better grades than the 1st time that got me into my first choice university. My mantra throughout the whole year was 'fail to prepare...prepare to fail'. It was a big learning moment that as stayed with me throughout my career.
My first foray into the world of entrepreneurship wasn’t exactly a raging success…
I tried to start a business with a friend of mine. We both had other jobs at the time and were trying to build it up enough so that it could be our main thing.
It was a new golf tournament format, it was a brilliant idea and it got a lot of media coverage, we were invited to do an event for TV with a number of top professional golfers but ultimately we couldn’t make it work and we had to mothball it.
My first losing season, my first relegation…
From a coaching point of view my biggest failure came ironically after my most successful period as a coach. I had had been working with a club team for a number of years and we had won back to back league championships and had been successful in securing a strong top 5 finish in the national league.
I then decided to step down from that role as my work life was becoming quite challenging and I had a young family at home that I wanted to give more of my time and attention to.
Needless to say, that summer my home club came calling as they were without a coach and they were desperate for me to help out.
They played the emotion card brilliantly and I am a massive sucker when it comes to helping people out that are down so I agreed even though I knew it was going to be a challenge.
It turned out to be the biggest challenge ever! The team were in transition and getting them bought in to really push themselves to achieve something was a real struggle but in reality I was distracted with other things and wasn’t totally focussed on them which transferred onto the performances.
Sure enough within 2 seasons that team had been relegated! There are a whole host of reasons why that happened which I will detail in some future posts but those two years taught me some really valuable lessons about commitment and motivating players.
All of these failures were really hard to take and they really knocked my confidence for a while.
But I definitely came back stronger for the experience and I am certain that they have helped to shape me to the point where I am way better than I would have been otherwise.
So what are the takeaways from this:
1. Preparation is everything – don’t set yourself up to fail by being unprepared.
2. Flying by the seat of your pants will only last for so long.
3. Only take on a project if you are going to be fully committed.
4. Pick your projects carefully. Make sure the players are aligned to your vision and are prepared to be open minded.
5. Don’t allow emotion to guide your decisions.
6. Sometimes you have to teach yourself a lesson by taking the hard solution and restarting from scratch.
7. Failing can be transformational as long as you reflect hard, learn the lessons and apply the learning.
I guess I must be doing something right, my team won their league last week with a game to go…champagne all round tomorrow!