Facing Down Failure

Pressure sensitive starting blocks at the star...

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Last Sunday, I watched Kellie Wells become the new women’s 100-meter hurdles champion. Even on television her joy was palpable. It was her first American title, and her chance to put old demons to rest. On the same site three years prior, she had a solid chance of heading to Beijing but fell to the track in agony, with an injury that brought her career to a temporary halt.

On Sunday, Kellie Wells had to return to the same place she had once failed. She had to compete among colleagues who had witnessed the failure. How many of us know what that feels like, to not only fail but have witnesses?

We all blow it on occasion. Our failures may not be as public, but they can be just as debilitating and heart wrenching as a career stalling injury.  Some failures are short lived and others require us to fight back through a rehabilitation period. The good news is that we always have an opportunity to try again. Whether you had a business crash, lost a job, lost a client or failed at a big project, there is always another opportunity to line up for a new race.

When Wells put her feet in the starting blocks on Sunday, her thoughts were not of the past. She was only thinking of that day and that race and her impending victory.

I know what failure feels like. Even when it’s not public you feel like you’re wearing a neon sign that flashes “loser.” It can rob you of your confidence and make you doubt your abilities. I know that tape that plays – didn’t you try this before…remember the last time you were here…are you sure you’re ready for this…and on and on.

Some are never able to shake off the stench of defeat. They allow themselves to be continuously victimized by past failures. They limit their potential by refusing to stretch beyond the boundaries of where past failure allows them to go.

I have had failures, and am confident I’ll have many more. Some have resulted in a long dry spell without a single victory. But giving up is never an option. Each day, is a new chance to win. As you get into position, feet in the blocks, the only race that matters is the one you are about to start.

Today as I line up, I know that I have a fresh chance to win, or at the very least to jump over hurdles and cross the finish line. My outcome is not determined by my yesterdays but by what I do in this moment, in this time. How about you?


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About Karen Swim

Karen Swim is the Founder and CEO of Words For Hire, a strategic public relations agency that helps companies identify, connect with and engage their target audience.