Note: Today is the second installment of the series “Why I Failed” by my good buddy Travis Smith, former baseball player at Assumption College. In case you missed the first installment, here it is!
The reason I’m not a Major League baseball player today isn’t because I made too many outs. Its because when I did get out, I didn’t get angry enough. After all, scouts weren’t looking to see if I got hits; they were looking to see that when I failed, I was mad about it!
Had I just thrown a few more helmets and yelled a couple more profanities, I would definitely be getting paid to play baseball right now.
I would hope that by now, it is painfully obvious that I’m being entirely facetious. For the majority of my career, I was great at getting angry when I didn’t succeed. And now that I’ve successfully failed, I can look back and say that it was entirely unproductive and a huge hindrance towards achieving my goals.
Everyone that plays baseball knows the old adage “baseball is a game of a failure.” But the majority of people that say it don’t actually embrace it. It’s real easy to say, “if a hitter is successful three out of ten times, he’s in the Hall of Fame!” It’s a lot more difficult to put it into practice 15 seconds after striking out. So most young hitters opt to smash a helmet instead.
In most situations, anger is not a productive emotion. Here’s a scenario, and you tell me which response is more likely to help the subject in the future:
Murray is getting ready to perform a 3 rep. set of trap-bar deadlifts with 85% of his 1RM. After nailing the first two reps, his form breaks down and he isn’t quite able to lock out his third repetition.
A. Murray screams a string of curse-words, launches a ten-pound plate across the gym, and quickly thinks up an excuse; his hands were too sweaty. Unable to forget the missed rep, he rushes through his assistance work and heads home.
B. Murray, while clearly not happy, asks his trainer why he thinks he missed the last rep. He then drops the weight down to 50% of his 1RM and performs a set of 5 reps to reinforce his technique. Rather than make an excuse, he channels his disappointment into his assistance work and works harder.
Obviously, the more productive response would be option B. Really, the only positive to option A is that everyone in the gym knows he expects better out of himself. Which is cool I guess, but only true if anyone else in the gym cares about his lift; unlikely. More likely, he just looks like an idiot.
Listen, failing will never be fun. Whether it’s missing a big lift, grounding out in a big situation, or walking in the winning run, nobody likes failure. But it is inevitable, so why not use it as a tool?
The natural human response it to get mad, and then forget about it as quickly as possible and move on. That type of response misses a big opportunity. Next time you fail, avoid the temptation to get angry, and instead spend a minute analyzing the event; why it happened, and how to prevent it from happening again. Did you eat poorly before the workout? Not focus enough? Figure it out, make note of it, and then move on.
I had a basketball coach who hated when we got angry after missing shots. “You’re not nearly good enough to get mad over missing a shot,” he used to tell us. Looking back, he was completely right. Normally, when you go to the plate, you get out. That’s not to say you should ever embrace failure, or be okay with failing; but you have done it enough, and will do it enough in the future, that you should know the correct way to respond to it.
There were several years where I led the country in broken helmets. I wish the NCAA kept that statistic so I could put it on my resume. My batting-glove rip was the stuff of legends. But my best years came when I put that stuff aside and realized I could be a better player if I handled my failure better.
You’re going to fail, and that sucks. But when you do, always choose reflection over anger.