The Best Failures

15-year-old blogger Melissa Mark explains that failure doesn’t always mean that you didn’t do your best or that you didn’t work hard.

“You’ve got this, Melissa, you’re going to be awesome,” my teammates say as they walk by me.

I’m standing behind the starting block getting ready for my race. My goggles as well as my cap are on. I’ve done my ritual dance, listened to my pre-meet music, and completed my mental exercises. I’m all set. I know I’ve got this and I will qualify to make my coaches, my parents, and teammates proud. It won’t be the end of the world if I don’t qualify, right?

The whistle blows, signaling that the race is about to begin. “Swimmers, step up.” All of a sudden, adrenaline is running through my veins and I begin to feel a mixture of nervousness and excitement. Anxious to swim, but also anxious not to disappoint my team. I look down and I realize that I’ve already stepped up on the block. “Stand your mark,” the ref says. I breathe deeply and tell myself that I will be fine as I get into my starting position, ready to dive into the water. The bell goes off and the swimmers are in the water. I begin to relax and get the feel of the water.

“Go!” My coaches and teammates scream as I sprint my way down to the other end of the pool. My feet are like a motor boat’s engine as I kick as fast as I can and I’m pushing myself as hard as I can. I slam my hand into the touch pad. Heads turn to look at the time and I hold my breath. I glance up and see my time – I did not make the cut for districts.

This is a moment experienced by every athlete – and everyone – failure. It’s the feeling you get when  you let your team down or when you do not achieve a goal. It’s the feeling of a weight crashing down on your shoulders while trying to force yourself to hold your head high. Failure doesn’t always mean that you didn’t do your best or that you didn’t work hard.

Despite all the hard work and pushing yourself, you won’t always succeed. For some people (including myself), a brief period of self-bashing follows. They tell themselves that they will never be good enough, that they will never make it to the Olympics – all because of one failure. This, is in fact not true, although it may feel like it.

There is a famous Michael Jordan quote describing how his many failures and disappointing moments led up to his success and achievements. I agree – you have to fail in order to succeed. How else are you going to learn from your mistakes and improve? You may not feel like you’re getting anywhere when you fail, but you are.

Yeah, well, you might think that Michael Jordan is a special case- he’s incredibly talented so he was bound to succeed. This wouldn’t happen to any of us “ordinary” athletes. If this is what you’re thinking, allow me to fast forward 2 years of hard work from where I last left off my story.

It’s the same race only this time, I’m faster, stronger, and more experienced. I dive in and swim for my life. My whole body is burning as I touch the wall to finish the race. I glance up and see that I’ve not only qualified for districts, but I’ve beat the cut by 4 seconds. I’m no Michael Jordan, but I’m capable of achieving my goals  – as well as every other “ordinary” person.

The best athletes – when they fall, they get right back up. They fail over and over again – but they don’t quit. They continue practicing and eventually, they get their win.

  1. kim

    thanks for great post. amazing superkim89

  2. DanMashins

    Thanks for an awesome important and inspiring post – please write more!

  3. Anonymous

    Amazing insight and writing for a 15 yr old. Was a good reminder for an older gal like me still trying/competing and one I can share with kids.


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