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Failure as Feedback: Lessons from the Frontlines of Competitive Sports

APRIL 04, 2021

Hello Everyone. I wanted to use this post to touch on the subject of “Victory and Failure” and how we must recast the word failure to mean “Feedback”.

A while ago, I had the good fortune of competing at the Amateur Olympia UK October 2018 in London. The first thing to note is that my participation in that top-tier premier physique event (now the largest in the UK) was, in and of itself, a most unlikely occurrence. You see nothing in my upbringing, family/social environment or indeed my business ecosystem would have positively condoned the possibility of me being a competitive physique athlete. Quite the opposite in fact. From as far back as I can remember, I was actively discouraged and dissuaded from pursuing what was seen as an unorthodox niche pursuit – football, tennis and golf were deemed more acceptable. Resistance notwithstanding, from a young age, I would (on a daily basis) formulate an excuse to leave home and spend countless hours in the gym honing and revelling in the solitary joy of fashioning my psyche and body by the hand of cold steel. These practises persisted through my university days and continue now in my business career despite all of life’s usual cast of challenges and setbacks– family, career, social/financial pressures, failure, rejection and pain.

So, you see, my standing on that stage was, firstly, a victory for fortitude and a celebration of the joys possible when one dares to be themselves and walk their own path regardless of both the dissenting voices around them and the volatile configuration of circumstance that regularly besets them.

This is a joy I want all of you to experience by resolutely cultivating those lines of interest which ignite you with passion. Hold on to your dreams. Pursue them mercilessly and ceaselessly, for it is your persistence that shall see them born.
Now, back to the event – did I win? No. Did it go the way I wanted? No. Was I heartbroken and dejected due to the months of training, dieting and countless sacrifices that had been poured into this one event? Yes. Did I question my motives? Yes. Did I want to give it all up? Yes.

Whatever your theatre, many of you have felt these emotions – none of us are immune to them. But, the ones who persevere are those who can rightly see failure for what it is – simply feedback. For there is no such thing as failure…there is only feedback; only results. Failure teaches you what doesn’t work as much as what does, thus allowing you to become more highly (and accurately) informed. You now know that you must adjust your actions so as to produce a different set of results. And if you fail next time…. well, you simply take the feedback, regroup, re-strategise and try again.

One who does not try does not fail. It is only the one who dares to try that fails their way to eventual victory. So, my friends, I encourage you to be that daring, courageous failure – as I (having dusted myself down and regrouped) did the following season when I won the Classic Physique British Championships (Masters).

In all things seek to learn and come back bigger, better, wiser and stronger.

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