I Failed! So What?!?

I lost that tennis match. I failed that class in school. My girlfriend dumped me. That job interview went horribly wrong. I was fired from my job. I didn’t pass my certification test. My parents cut me off. I’m getting divorced. My children won’t speak to me. I didn’t get that promotion. My business is closing down.

I’m a failure!

First of all, you’re not a failure. You simply didn’t achieve what you intended to do. Everyone of us has had some sort of failures in our life–it’s part in parcel in being human. However, some things we fail at seem to make more of an impact on us than others. In example, for some who’ve loss relationships (breakups or divorces) consider themselves a failure in being in relationships. While others may go from one relationship to the next and have no qualms about relationships. Another example: a person may lose a job once and consider himself a failure, while another person who may have lost multiple jobs sees opportunity to start a new business or getting a better job.

Failure is human phenomenon. Only human beings have a sense of failure. A lion doesn’t sit around saying to itself that it’s a failure when it misses catching the gazelle it was hunting for lunch, does it? And, only human beings relate to failure as who they are, even only in certain areas of their life.

So what?!?

When I started Aikido, it had been about 20 years since I had been on the mat for martial arts. I was now much older, slower, less flexible, and 25 pounds heavier. All my past experience about kicking, punching, and moving was very different from Aikido’s blending and flowing movements. Also, I had to learn how to take falls and rolls, forward and backwards. Each day on the mat for the first month, I struggled not to be forceful in my techniques, staying present and flowing with the energy, and not hurting my neck, back, knees, or bum taking falls or rolling (and, yes, my body was sore after an hour on the mat!). I felt like a failure and compared myself to my younger self a lot. I wanted to quit as well because I didn’t “look good” and was embarrassed about my performance. I was failing!

So how did I go from that to now being an instructor of Aikido? Funny enough it is my practice on the mat with Aikido that gave me access to how to deal with my tendency to judge myself as a failure. As I practice and perform the techniques in Aikido, I’m learning to be present in the moment in the flow of the energy of the techniques. Each time I perform the techniques, I discover where I’m weak (or fail) in the performance of the techniques. However, I also learned I can’t go back and correct what already happened in the past–I can only take note of what happened and again be present in practicing the techniques anew each and every time. Each time I practice a technique is a new time, and I can be aware of what happened previously but I am not trying to correct my mistake from last time.

So I failed, so what? Like my practice on the mat, I am free to choose to continue to hone my skills or I can stop. Either way I choose, I’m not a failure. If I choose to continue then I get that I can’t fix what I failed at in the past–just simply develop myself further. If I choose to stop, I simply chose to stop and it is not about how “bad” I am at something.

I find that in life it’s the same. I may fail at something, it just means I didn’t achieve what I set out to do. It does not mean I’m a failure. I can choose “to get back on the horse” if I’m still interested in making something possible (some possibility) or I can choose to stop if I achieve what I wanted or not. Even if I didn’t accomplish what I wanted and stopped, it just means I didn’t accomplish it, not that I’m a failure. It can only exist for me to be a failure in my judgment of who I am. In this space, I can really choose to create newly what I want to achieve and not be “stucked” with being a failure.

What failure are you stuck with? Can you choose freely to go forward or not?

Enjoy your Day and See You On The Mat!

Thanh Huynh
Leadership, Executive and Life Coach – San Jose, CA – San Francisco Bay Area

If you would like to chat with me about how I can help you move forward in your leadership and life, please email me at thanh@aikileader.com.

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