A few years ago I was back home in Canada, and I bumped into my friend Kia from high school. She had her adorable three year old son with her, and we caught up as she was tying his shoe. After she finished, he bounded off towards a group of other little kids, and screamed gloriously at the top of his lungs, “I’m commminggggg”.
“Oh how cute” I said to Kia, “I love how little kids are with their friends.”
“The funniest part,” Kia said, “He doesn’t know any of those kids.”
And yet, I marveled, as he barreled towards them, joyously announcing his presence at the top of his lungs, he had no fear, no concept that perhaps they wouldn’t want him there, or there wouldn’t be anything but total success in his interaction with them.
I’ve reflected on that scene a lot in my head over the last few months.
I’ve experienced a lot of success in my soccer life, but far more disappointments, and I’m starting to see the correlation. Having some perspective now, I realize the reason behind why I experienced that success was because I was so willing to put myself out there, and try, and fail, and try again, and endure more than probably most.
I spent my college career on the bench on a team that never made the NCAA tournament. I still marvel to this day about how I didn’t let it affect my motivation to give my whole self every day to becoming a better player, my belief in myself, or be a reason to sacrifice any of the lofty goals I had. I just focused on the process, and although the outcome hurt me at times, I just continued to soldier on. I used to play a mental game that took the most negative possible outcome, turned it into a positive in my head, so really, I would tell myself, that there was nothing to be afraid of, regardless of what happened.
Like my little three year old friend, I used to throw myself into anything with a “I’m commmmingggg” attitude, even if I started to experience some failure and some rejection.
But at some point, ill-timed injuries, environments that lacked integrity or excellence or both, and the sacrifice and hardship involved started getting to me. Giving my whole heart and then not getting an outcome that I had preconceived as success in my head started hurting me. I stopped putting it all in, because to be honest, failing started hitting me too deeply.
But as I’ve found myself swimming in a sea of mediocrity, doing a lot of different things but focusing on nothing entirely, deep down I’ve asked myself what I’m scared of, in pouring my whole heart into something again, and the answer I come to when it’s 3am, and I’m wide awake, is that I’m afraid of how it’s going to hurt when I experience the failure that I’ve realized is necessary to succeed.
I realize my biggest accomplishments have come, after failing and failing and trying and trying and failing. And part of the best feeling of when you do finally succeed at something you have wanted so badly is the pride that you feel when you think of all the adversity you had to overcome in order to get there.
One of My Best Moments:
Case in point, one of my biggest accomplishments in soccer: winning the U20 National Championship in 2000 with the Windsor World Class out of CT.
I failed for 4 straight years before I experienced one of my most glorious memories of my life, both soccer and otherwise.
1. June 1997: I lost in the Provincial Final in OT to our high school’s biggest rivals
2. July 1997: I got cut from the Canada Games team that some of my teammates made
3. Freshman, Sophomore, Junior Year: I started one game at my college, and sat the bench and didn’t get put in games for the majority of the rest.
4. I sat on the bench and didn’t play at all as my U20 Colorado Rush team in 1999 won the U20 National Championship
5. I had my coach that had connected me with the club team that I played on that eventually won the U20 US Club Nationals the following summer in 2000, tell me not to “embarrass him” since the team I was playing on had a lot of top notch players on it and he had recommended me.
That summer, after almost quitting the team, because I felt so socially awkward for the first 2 weeks of the season, coupled with having a tricky transportation situation to get to the 45 minute away training sessions, I hung in there, and eventually won my way into starting and playing 90 minutes every game as a center back.
And I still remember the exaltation of looking up into the sky in a dog pile as a team that ended up being one of my favourite ones of my entire soccer career, came together and won the National semi-final 4-2 after trailing 2-0 in the final 15 minutes and then won the U20 National Final, 4-3 after trailing 3-1 with 20 minutes to go on a diving header golden goal in 2OT.
As I drove myself home from the airport after the tournament, I still remember being overcome with emotion and having to pull the car over to get a hold of myself as the tears poured out and I couldn’t see the road. The root of my pure joy was that I continued to believe in myself and my ability through failure after failure after failure. As I sat there sobbing in happiness, I realized that the accomplishment was only possible after wading through the mud, and still believing I would find my way above it even in the times it seemed questionable that I’d ever climb above it.
And because of overcoming that struggle, I felt alive, and a received a rush that gives a person a pure high, bigger than any drug could ever produce.
But the only way that we are able to experience it, the requirement to experiencing it and becoming who we want to become, is through failing and falling on our face time and time again. There’s no way around it, and to avoid it is to miss out on the best part of life.
Like an addict that’s experienced a special kind of high, it’s something that I still crave in the knowledge of it, and something that I know I am lacking as I sit in my current state. I want it again because to fail is to live authentically and truly. But the only way to do it is to throw your whole heart into something, and experience the hurt of things not working out always the way that you want it to.
The thing that I’ve learned is that failing after putting our whole heart into something is actually something that we should crave, as what comes with failing is giving yourself the gift of having no regrets in whatever it is you want to do.
I’ll finish this with a great newspaper article that I read this week, a poem and a song that expresses this sentiment better than perhaps I can.
The first, is a newspaper article about a 95 year old Canadian woman who recently passed away. She was a world record holder for many events in track, and the author of the article in the Globe and Mail (Canadian newspaper) said this about a difference he felt between himself, who was feeling “old” and why Olga at 94 seemed to have so much vitality.
1. The Newspaper Article:
Something weird happens to a lot of us around midlife. We suddenly stop trying stuff. Not because we can’t do it, necessarily, but because we imagine we can’t. Studies show people’s interest in any given task peaks when the risk of failing at it is around 50 per cent. And from around age 30 on the odds of failing at “it,” whatever it is, seems to tip in favour of the house. So we opt out. And our horizons shrink.
That fear of failure also ages us. We stop putting our whole heart into life – and the moment half-heartedness becomes a habit, something dies in us.
Olga doesn’t fail much, but her willingness to keep putting herself in positions where she could fall flat, very publicly, was one of the biggest differences between us.
It’s a fantastic article if you want to read the whole thing. Check it out here
2. The Poem:
I came across this poem on someone’s instagram this week, and it pretty much says it all. Shout out to e.h. for coming up with this bad boy:
There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky
And you ask, “What if I fall?
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?
3. The Song:
For anyone that knows me personally you know I’m a girl that loves to play my music and jam out. I’ve just started to get back into country, and these lyrics of “Even if It Breaks Your Heart” have been singing to me lately:
Some dreams stay with you forever
Drag you round and bring you back to where you were
Some dreams keep on getting better
Gotta keep believing if you wanna know for sure
Here’s the rest if you wanna jam out yourself: Click Here (shout out Eli Young Band)
So the key to achieving great things my friends….”keep on dreaming (and trying, and failing) even if it breaks your heart.” #living