Friday, January 15, 2016

Failing better

For those who don't instantly recognise this forearm, it belongs to Stan Wawrinka. The tattoo reads: Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better. It's a quote from Samuel Beckett.

It's an interesting quote to have for a sportsperson because most people would expect something about winning or being the best. This is about perseverance. It's about hard work and determination to be the best that you can be despite the disappointments that come your way.

Tennis is a solitary sport and the nature of the competitive side of the game is that most players lose most of the tournaments in which they play. Losing is a familiar feeling in tennis for all but the very best. I've been told that Feliciano Lopez was once asked how he dealt with losing. His reply was simple: It happens every week.

Of course this doesn't make losing easier to take, you don't have to like losing in order to be able to deal with it and learn from it. The easy option is either to give up or simply choose only to play people you can beat. But that gets boring.

Stan Wawrinka recognises that he is not a Federer, Nadal or Djokovic, men of exceptional ability, but he's still a Grand Slam champion twice over. I'm not sure he'd have done that had he not been able to embrace the philosophy of trying again and "failing better" as he did so.

I recognise that I am very fortunate to get the opportunity to practice my tennis as much as I do. I'm also lucky that while I sometimes find the practice frustrating because I'm not succeeding at what I'm trying to do, I never get bored by the repetition of what we do. I truly enjoy the drills. I know that these drills will help me fail better and hopefully one day actually hit my goal and win more often. I remind myself of these things when I lose, which is more often than not, and I get up and go again. I did that because I'm not ready to settle for where I am currently.

I could get all philosophical now and point out that there are lessons for life in there. We give up too easily when things get hard. Gym memberships lie unused, fitness equipment gather dust in the cupboard, books are left unread, diets are unaltered, goals remain distant unattainable dreams. From a Christian perspective, discipleship remains dormant, prayer is half-hearted. The list goes on.

Beckett's words serve as a reminder that every day is a new opportunity to make a better attempt at whatever it is for which we are reaching. Whether it's a more reliable backhand, a better, healthier diet or a more consistent prayer life. It's just a matter of making  a disciplined choice to try again even if that means inevitable failure again. The only difference is that you fail better because you try harder.

I've done my 100-day 10k steps challenge a few times now. Sometimes I've started, but failed. No matter. I've started again. When I've started again and gone on to succeed, it's been a great feeling. The trick always was to think not in terms of 100 days but 2, then 3 then 5, then 10 then 20 consecutive days, each day becoming a victory in itself. If I missed day, I could look back and see what I'd achieved and then look forward to having another go.

So set yourself a goal. Make it achievable then keep trying, keep failing, but keep trying.

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