One minute. 60 seconds. 60000000000 nanoseconds. A pretty long time when you find yourself faced with the reality of the word failure.
People have a very interesting habit of doing things differently, in so many ways, yet doing things so precisely the same, at the same time. Sometimes people reveal themselves to us, tantalisingly slowly, showing only the tiniest glimpse of their souls; their individual and complex characteristics. The tension builds and builds, we hurry and rush towards an eager climatic meeting of minds, unable to pause, hungry for more. Only to realise, at the end of a minute, that we in fact don’t really like them all that much as we initially thought we did.
It might not take a minute, it might have taken 6 years for the switch to happen in our brains. It can happen when we find ourselves at the end of a relationship, or the realisation that you no longer want to stay in your job. Maybe you have come to the conclusion that you would like to live in the south of France and work in a bakery. Or maybe you just realised that you spent so long working so hard on something only to discover it doesn’t work for you anymore and you no longer have any interest in it. And of course being a human we all think immediately to ourselves that we have failed.
I have been in this “one minute of failure” many times. For some, it’s going to the fridge on a Monday morning and realising there is no milk for breakfast. But for others it can be the scariest and longest thing to get through. Don’t believe me? Well, I’ll try to explain it as best I can.
At times of a really high profile game or match thats on tv, I always find myself watching the losing team. Their one minute of failure begins, signalled by the sharp blow of the referee’s whistle. One minute where each player feels alone as his fears and anxieties become reality. Some kneel down and hunch forward, hiding their faces from view. Others pace around, their whole faces a map on which to read their plight over the last few months of preparation. Even though they feel alone for this long minute, they are in unison as they come to terms with the cold hard truth; failure. You don’t have to be an athlete, a famous celebrity or a public figure to experience real failure in your life either.
You can take failure in your own way. Failure can kill a dream, strangle a hope, suffocate a person, change the very course of the future. But you can choose to look back on your preparation for something you have tried to do to the best of your ability at that time and you can learn from what it is that you could have done better. Just because you failed at something, doesn’t mean you can’t keep trying.
My one minute of failure was opening my Leaving Certificate exam results, my eyes glancing down the list of subject grades I got, and realising I didn’t make the cut for a cadetship in the army. That one whole minute of failure for me was truthfully the longest minute of my life, especially when I knew I had to call my parents at the end of it to tell them. And that wasn’t because they would be ashamed of me, but because I knew I had to physically admit that I had failed.
But what I didn’t see at that very moment was the foundations I had put in and invested in myself through the months and months of preparation leading up to the exam. What I didn’t see was the successful 9 years in the Defence Forces that followed that one minute of failure. I didn’t see the countless courses I was to take in writing, or in fact, the writing that I would produce. I didn’t see the television appearances I took part in, or any of my articles that were printed in a national newspaper every week while I was on active service.
When it comes down to it, don’t let your one minute define who you are, whether you win or lose, fail or succeed. You don’t have to be an NFL player, a rugby legend, an All-Star GAA player, or a champion athlete to feel like your failures are any less important or not to be validated. The same goes for your triumphs. You’re a hero regardless.
Bottom line, you can prepare for something as hard as you possibly can and probably surprise yourself in discovering new things about who you are. But on the day, its all up to chance. Whether you experience glory or defeat, stand in your one minute, take it in, and think about the journey you have taken to that point, and learn from it. There is more in learning from a failure than there is in winning. People who experience failure or defeat are the best people, they are the ordinary people. Because they are constantly on a journey, they are constantly learning about who and what it is they will become. So don’t fear a minute of failure when you are the champion of everything you have accomplished. And when you come to the end of those 60 seconds, ask yourself this – Where will I go next?