Games Against You—Overcoming the Fear of Failure Written By Charity Butler
Wife, best-selling author, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, the NCAA Player of the Decade for the 1980’s, three-time NCAA All-American and MVP at UCLA, ten-time ASA National Championship Winner, fifteen-time ASA All-American, seven-time winner of the ASA Erv Lind Top Defensive Player Award, physician, orthopedic surgeon, hospital executive… Dr. Dot Richardson is an inspiration, a leader and a winner!
As a ten-year-old short stop in my not-so-hot, pink sliders, I grew up wanting to win like Dot.
As an adult, I unexpectedly ran into Dot at a conference. I was instantly that awkward, 10-year-old fan in the foam visor. I found myself truly speechless. As one not typically nervous or star-struck, I was shocked by the giggling idiot that I had suddenly become standing in the presence of a living legend.
Today, I can laugh at myself and be thankful to call Dot a friend. She has had an immeasurable influence on many lives, including mine, through the game of softball.
In the book, Women’s Fastpitch Softball Best of the Best, Dot shares, “Through the sport we learn that when we fall short of our goals, we are not a failure because it is better to try and fail than to never try.”
Did you catch that?! One of the greatest winners and leaders of all time says it is ok, even valuable, to fail. As a recovering perfectionist and relentless competitor, this concept challenges me!
Why would Dot say, “it is better to try and fail than to never try”? In my book, Prep Steps™, I ask young athletes, “If there is no chance of failure, is there really any chance of great success?” If we never face obstacles or adversity that could momentarily break us, we will never maximize our playing careers, or our lives.
“Are you willing to pay the price [for greatness]? I certainly hope you are. But know this: Most people aren’t,” says John Maxwell, leadership expert. Those who experience high levels of success know well the value of sacrifice.
Is it possible to be a champion competitor with a seemingly bi-polar attitude that winning is both everything and “no thang” at the same time? Indeed, we perform as if the outcome of competition is all that matters. This demands an intensity and a focus on the goal so that we can execute.
However, the balancing half of that successful attitude is just as essential. Fear of failure creeps in when everything is on the line leaving us petrified, unable move or act. A proper perspective on losing frees us to perform and achieve. Failure actually provides an invaluable, low-risk opportunity to overcome and grow. It aint no thang!
Wise Dr. Suess understood the concept:
“Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t…
I’m afraid that some times
You’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win
‘cause you’ll play against you.”
None of us are the “best of the best” all the time. If we never fail, we are not challenging ourselves enough. We are not maximizing our potential. How do we win when we must “play against” ourselves?
Brian Cain, Peak Performance Coach for pro athletes and top collegiate programs, has an incredible perspective on competing with ourselves and overcoming adversity. He says, “Champions and highest performers embrace adversity because it brings opportunities and success… Embrace the challenge and see what you are made of.”
Cain references Man’s Search for Meaning, a book in which Victor Frankel retells the horrors of surviving WWII Nazi Concentration Camps.
“Sometimes we get frustrated instead of fascinated with adversity… we think we are up against insurmountable odds or too tough of a challenge,” Cain says. “Compared to what Victor Frankel went through, most of us reading this book have it pretty easy.”
This concept is invaluable to athletes who must learn to win the games against themselves. Again, learning in the world of athletics is not always easy, but compared to Victor Frankel, our obstacles are extremely low-risk.
So, go for it! Make mistakes. Fail. Swing and miss; dive and come up short. The world does not end when strikeouts occur or errors are made. Mistakes on the field do not result in death. They are nothing compared to Victor Frankel’s experiences, absolutely nothing. When we fail on the field, we always survive.
Be willing to make mistakes, but make them going hard. Fail going 100%.
Most players are scared to push their limits, afraid of leaving the box that keeps them comfortable and keeps them from achieving the unbelievable. Until we are willing to push so hard that we fail disciplining ourselves to be eager for the awkward and uncomfortable, we will continually under achieve our potential. Uncomfortable precedes unbelievable.
True greatness as players, leaders and people is only accomplished by those who overcome failure and become better as a result. If we fail enough, we will do more than succeed. We will eventually exceed even our own expectations!
Charity Butler is respected nationally & internationally as a pro athlete, writer, speaker, collegiate coach, hitting instructor and Certified Intrinsic Life Coach®.
Charity, a Two-Time ESPN the Magazine Academic All-American, played Division I softball at the University of Southern Mississippi. Upon graduation, she launched a professional softball career that has taken her across the U.S. and literally around the world.
Currently, as a Pro Speaker for Sports World, Inc, Charity travels the country speaking to more than 40,000 people annually. As a recognized expert in confidence training, she also presents at various conferences, colleges & universities.
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