Failure – stop off to Destination Success

I will always be grateful to have been involved in Volvo’s dealer tours in the run-up to London 2012 when current and former Olympic sailors took part in a roadshow as part of the brand’s involvement in sailing. It meant I listened to double Olympic gold winner Shirley Robertson OBE recount her journey to the podium.

Double Olympic gold winner sailor Shirley Robertson with daughter Jasmine (left) and her friend Shannon (right)

Double Olympic gold winner sailor Shirley Robertson with daughter Jasmine (left) and her friend Shannon (right)

Poignantly, she told how at her first Olympics in 1992 in Barcelona, she was completely in awe of the games from start to finish but four years later in Atlanta, she carried her own expectations and those of the nation but didn’t deliver. Robertson told the captivated audience at a Volvo dealership in west London how she returned to Heathrow with no fanfare whilst the rest of the team celebrated their spoils. She sat in her car on her own in utter despair and contemplated giving up.

Of course, she didn’t, she went on to win two Olympic Gold Medals at Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004.

I have recounted that story several times to my children, particularly my son and most recently at the weekend when he reached the finals of the UK Kids Open in kickboxing having won all his fights in his pool only to lose both fights in the final, taking third place.

American basketball player Michael Jordan has been credited with the phrase ‘to learn to succeed, you must first learn to fail’.

Unhappy with bronze - will this set-back propel him forward?

Unhappy with bronze – will this set-back propel him forward?

Arguably, whilst my son wasn’t happy, he has yet to taste real failure. In his first year of competing, he has won silver at each competition, apart from the bronze on Sunday. The real test will be when he goes out in the first round.

Failing first gives you the determination to succeed and a benchmark of success whether it’s in sport, relationships or business. Although the road to success will be littered with many who simply decided to stay by the roadside.

Google ‘failure before success’ and you’ll find a host of celebrities who have suffered some kind of monumental disaster before going onto triumph.

Failure seems to be a rite of passage before reaching the top of your game but don’t kid yourself as you tot up your lifetime of catastrophes that some kind of incredible accomplishment is just around the corner with all the ensuing financial rewards.

Success is relative and some will be more successful than others but those who learn from their failures or who become just that bit more focused and determined after experiencing a let-down are more likely to be more successful than those who give up.

So, like I said to my son, you take on board the lessons from the experience, work on your weak area and the next hurdle is more likely to net a more successful outcome. Of course, it’s not that simple or quite that linear (Robertson was not selected for the Beijing team in 2008 but bounced back as a TV presenter), dealing with failure is part of life. We may not achieve celebrity status, become world champions or business millionaires but we can strive to improve.

Not surprisingly, I told my son this set back was a mere hurdle on his journey to become world champion.

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