The nature of fail

This is a post I began last March. The irony of not having completed it then is not lost on me but today (Friday 13th) feels like a good day to finish this – yesterday felt filled with epic fail. (And a 3 day-delay in posting…)

On a Saturday in March 2010 I watched Ebbsfleet United lose very badly against Luton Town. All Luton’s goals came in the second half and in quick succession. In fact I had barely finished comiserating about the 4th goal when the fifth went in. The sixth came after a painful to watch duet between Luton’s striker and Ebbsfleet’s defender, who ended up spreadeagled, face down on the pitch whilst Luton tapped the ball into the net.

How does it feel to fail so publicly? To be face down in the mud with the cheers of the opposition in your ears? Knowing that not only do you have to pick yourself up and face the fans around you but you also have a manager and a team to deal with? It seemed a long time before the ‘Fleet player picked himself up off the floor. But I bet it wasn’t long enough for him.

I (began!) reflecting on this after the match had finished. I am fortunate in that my failures are considerably more private. If I mess up at work I can expect to be pulled up for it, but I don’t have to listen to delighted cheers from the opposition. If I mess up in other areas too I can choose whether or not to share. Many small failures are between me and God only – we ask forgiveness for the things we have done and the things we have not done.

How do you put a major public fail behind you? As a sportsman I guess you have to develop a thick skin. There are sports psychologists who can coach in how to deal with the inner demons. That little voice that says ‘you messed up. No point in trying again. It’ll only go wrong again.’ When I run I have a lazy Sara to fight. She thinks it’s not a problem just to walk for a bit or to cut a corner off if the run feels a bit difficult or long. I haven’t yet reliably run a mile in under 8:30 or a 5k in less than 27 minutes. If I could get shot of Lazy Sara I may well have done by now.

Character. Moral fibre. Grit. It’s how we deal with our failures that marks us out. Do we pick ourselves up and learn from what went wrong? Or do we cast about for blame, looking for scapegoats and refusing to see how our own behaviour contributes to our circumstances? Some days we’re the pigeon, and some days we’re the statue. I think accepting that all days only last 24 hours and that tomorrow is a new day has got to be a key starting point. How wonderful grace is.

And the nice end to this piece of musing: Ebbsfleet won yesterday’s play-off final putting them back in the Blue Square Premier league. Sounds like it was a good game.

One comment

  1. Thanks for that, Sara, some really good points you’ve shared. I found out after my second viva from my supervisor, that my external examiner didn’t think she would ever see me again after I got a referral in my first one. It wasn’t a complete fail, but it was failure enough to think of quitting. I’m glad I stood up again and proved her wrong (minor motivation) and succeeded in getting the PhD (major motivation). Oh and my football club (Stuttgart) didn’t go into relegation and are staying in the 1. Bundesliga 🙂

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