Failing Forward: An Appreciation for the Growth Mindset

I have a deep appreciation for those who fail in life. Everything I have read about growth has a point about how failure is a necessity in life to achieving personal goals. As I spend a lot of my free time in the gym or on the pitch coaching and training with new and experienced athletes, I think a lot about the failing component of training. A newer athlete failed on a lift the other day and bailed from the bar in a safe and supervised manner. Nobody hurt. A comment was made that “…you need to learn how to bail (fail)”. I didn’t say anything, but I have thought a lot about this statement the last few days, weeks and years. My purpose here is to connect the relationship between failure, pain and the resulting success in any area of life where a goal is established.

Pain and Failure in Sports and Athletics

There are clearly critics of the “no pain, no gain” mantra but I think we need to be careful in how we dismiss this notion. Here I am using “pain” to mean discomfort, not traumatic injury or personal despair. I believe there needs to be pain to achieve goals that at first glance appear to be unattainable. In training, growth in terms of strength, balance, coordination, power, agility, endurance will not come if you live in the comfort zone. I have strong admiration seeing the young or older athlete failing on a lift, time and again only to then nail it when they take themselves physically or mentally to another level. When I see someone fail on a lift, or run their hardest only to miss their goal on their mile pace I think differently about this person. I know that this grit and resilience probably translates into their other facets of their life. The strength and determination to train for a grueling competition can only have positive implications on how the individual addresses other challenges they will face.

Pain and Failure in Business

Aside from sports, I also feel pain is necessary in business growth. As an example, a sales rep or an entrepreneur that set growth targets of 50% are wired differently than those that set targets of 5-10%. Something drives these high achievers and they end up failing time and again and then endure the pain that comes along with the failing. They know, they might fail but they are not a failure. To set a target in business and be accountable for it and then fail is painful. Promises were broken, goals not attained and someone must be accountable. But when the goal is so high and the best effort is put forward, the only outcome can be long-term growth. (Think “The Pursuit of Happiness” with Will Smith).

Pain and Failure on the Personal Level

Growth, failure and pain are necessary in our personal lives. We all have parts of our lives that aren’t perfect and need our attention. It might be physical inactivity, what we eat, what we drink, addictions, how we treat people or how we treat ourselves (our self-talk). If we want to make change is has to be painful. Pain is identifying the issue, telling people about it and then making a plan. It is about exposing your weaknesses, coming out of your shell and then realizing there are a lot of people who genuinely want and are able to help you. But if you want to change something that is not positively impacting your life or those around you, it is going to hurt for a while…then it gets better.

Growth and pain are about stretching yourself. We all have preconceived ideas about our limits as individuals or as a team. Blockbuster movies are made from stories that show people achieving goals originally considered unrealistic. As a coach in the sports or the business environment, I get the most success in seeing someone who has a plan and works each day to accomplish something on the other side of reasonable for their potential and life situation. It also inspires me to see someone attain a first, no matter how big or how small it is. The inspiration comes from knowing this person failed 1,000 times and then Bam! it happened. Then it just became their new norm.

Everything in my life I have benefited from has come with pain. At this point in my life in my fitness I am always sore and a little banged up but I feel good about my overall health. In business, growth has come from having targets that are almost silly but that drive my behavior to give me the best chance for success. It forces creativity and kills complacency. Blogging is a little painful putting yourself out there to be challenged and ridiculed for really no benefit other than personal growth, but I have made connections and had amazing conversations with people since I started this.

The Take-Away on Pain and Failure

So, the take-away I  have is this. The next time someone discredits the “no pain, no gain” philosophy I ask you to consider what significant life change have you or really anyone else made without moving dramatically outside the comfort zone. If you are going to grow, you have to fail. When you fail, it will be uncomfortable and maybe down-right painful. Embrace the pain, enjoy the journey and please, don’t apologize to me if you fail.


One thought on “Failing Forward: An Appreciation for the Growth Mindset”

  1. Very good article. Some people just don’t want to take that chance, while others are willing to take that chance/challenge and it really shows such strength and courage! You amaze me !


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