Thursday, 1 September 2016

We are too busy avoiding failure to be successful

When I was 11 my teacher Mr O'Farrell started up a chess league table and put me at the top because l was the best player in the class.  I enjoyed playing and l liked playing fast and trying new things.  Every now and again I'd lose a game.  What l found was that no one l beat would give me another game.  They said openly it was because l was a better player and they didn't want to risk dropping down the table.  I ended up after a term of playing 6th in the league.  In fact the whole thing silted up in the end because no one would play anyone for fear of dropping down the table.  I gave up too because l couldn't play anyone half decent because they were refusing to play.  My form playing for the school nosedived from lack of practice.

It crossed my mind that this year l took part in half a dozen cycling events l had not much chance of finishing.  l wanted to push my limits and see how far round l could get distance wise or how many hours cycling l could put up with.  I gave up on a couple, narrowly missed the time limit on a couple, and just completed the other two within the time.  I could have looked back at the experience as failing 4 times out of 6.  l could even have avoided any kind of failure by going for less challenging events in the first place.  I am glad l didn't.  Having a go taught me far more about my limitations and where l needed to improve than playing safe.

As for the chess league, most of my class mates in the story didn't go on to much success.  You need to fail sometimes to learn and they didn't take those risks.  The one success they might be looking back on is where they finished in the chess league when they were 11.  Personally, I'd much prefer to fail now and again and achieve more success overall.  Sometimes we are too busy avoiding failure to be successful.