What if I Fail?

The training begins from the time we’re small. We’re taught “No!” and “Hot”. We learn to make choices for ourselves and we learn that those choices have consequences, both good and bad. We have to learn for ourselves to make decisions that won’t cause us to get burned, literally or figuratively.

During the course of my years as a parent and now as a grandparent, I’ve watched my little darlings play all sorts of organized sports – soccer, t-ball, baseball, basketball, volleyball, track, powerlifting and football. The lessons learned from being part of a team can be valuable for children as they grow to become adults. There is no “I” in TEAM, right? We win as a team or we lose as a team.

As a team member, we have a position to play and, if we play it well, we may get to post a “W” at the end of the competition. Of course, the opposite is true, as well. If we don’t play our position well and we don’t defend our turf / plate / end of the court, then our team may experience defeat. That’s nowhere near as much fun as winning. Maybe someone else on our team didn’t play their position well and it results in the dreaded “not winning” scenario.

Sportsmanship and character are developed in these moments. Are we boastful winners, sore losers and grudge-bearing teammates? Or, do we dig deep and act the same way no matter what the scoreboard says or how well we played as a team?

No one wants to miss the free throw in overtime. No one wants to miss the PAT when the game is tied. No one wants to be the one at the plate with a cold bat and hear the ump yell, “Strike three, you’re out!” Yet, if we’re part of the team, sometimes these very things happen and we’re the one who lets the team down.

My adult life is like that too. Most days, I figuratively step up to the plate. If I’ve planned well and my product has been deemed valuable to the client, I hit the ball out of the park with the bases loaded. I round all three bases while the ball is still in the air and slide effortlessly into home plate. Safe! Add 4 to the scoreboard!

Other days, I may have planned well but I can’t seem to connect with my client, so I hear, “I’m sorry, but we’re just not interested in what you have to offer.” I strike out and the bases are loaded. My team was counting on me and I didn’t deliver.

I’m on several teams. I am understandably devoted to my “home” team – those to whom I am connected by birth, marriage or heart. I also play for my Aflac team, my Jesus team, my Friend team and so on. They count on me to play my position. I have to defend the goal. Sometimes, the opponent’s ball will get past me and I’ll disappoint myself and my teammates. It happens.

Self-discipline prepares us to do our best. We practice making the 3-point shot or sliding into home plate. We run wind sprints. We train in the weight room. When we get to the end zone, we act like we belong there, not like it is a surprising stroke of dumb luck. We play our hearts out every single minute the game clock is running.

Most of the time, our preparation will pay off. But on the days it doesn’t and we find ourselves humiliated, that’s the moment we draw on our reserve of character to lose with dignity and grace. We learn from the experience and we move forward to practice smarter, wiser.

All this is part of being self-disciplined. We are responsible for our actions as well as our attitudes.

I can control my actions easier than my attitude. How about you? That split-second after making some boneheaded play, my attitude shows up on my face. I’m mad, disappointed, embarrassed, ready to quit and quite possibly blaming someone else. Then in the next moment, I’m apologetic and contrite, followed closely by beating myself up for failing and berating myself for not making the play.

If we choose to participate in life, these things happen. We can shrug it off and get ready to make the next play. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but it’s the right answer. I’d rather head back to the bench having made an effort than just standing with my hands in my pockets.

I miss 100% of the shots I never take. Guaranteed. What if I fail? I prefer failure to asking myself, “Why didn’t I, at least, try?”