The lore of “success training” is full of stories of knocked-down heroes who somehow summon the gumption to keep getting back up.
In the movie “Rudy”, Rudy Ruttiger is the walk-on in Notre Dame’s football program. He serves as the varsity’s punching bag for years until he finally gets his shot at football fame just by getting back up.
Speaking of punching bags, Rocky comes to mind. Not only does Rocky Balboa keep getting up, but the franchise seems a cinematic immortal—Rocky VII is in the works.
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react,” is often attributed to Coach Lou Holtz, but it’s actually a quote from Charles Swindoll. We’ve all heard it before and seen stellar examples of this in action.
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” is another feel-good kick in the pants from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.
The challenge for me is that when I’m figuratively lying on the floor and emotionally and physically drained, I can’t seem to recall any of these sayings. My mind is busy saying “You’re a failure.” “You blew it.” “It’s over.”
I can even feel that way after a bad golf shot (and stories of those are legendary in these writings).
So is failure at one trial actual failure? What makes it so or not so?
I guess if I never attempt again then it really is over. I did blow it, and I am a failure. Yet we’ve seen golfers come from seven and eight strokes down to win major tournaments.
I’ve seen my beloved St. Louis Cardinals come from 10½ games out of a Division Title on Labor Day to pull out a World Series Championship.
I’ve been in rally cars that finished up the first day of racing with no fenders, suspension crushed, and a transmission full of neutrals, only to pull an all-nighter and win the following day.
I have lots of evidence that “It ain’t over ’til it’s over!” (Thank you, Yogi Berra!), which makes it easier for me than some to get up and try again.
My Knower/Judger rules of life seem to help me persist. Others’ K/J rules make not getting up easier. “I shouldn’t have bothered,” they may tell themselves. “I’m not meant to do this.”
As I think back to where I might have written this rule of persistence, I’m reminded of being a sick little kid at eight years old. I spent more time in the hospital that year than in school. My parents and a neighbor lady, a substitute teacher, would not let me slack off on my schoolwork. I had tutoring and homework every day… and terrifying convulsions at night. My family/friends/community simply would not let me slip. And so I moved on seamlessly into fourth grade. Neither I nor my parents had any idea how I’d keep up, let alone stay on track with my classmates, and then the neighbor showed up in my life.
There are activities in my life that I don’t have that tenacity for. Golf and ballroom dancing are two. For all the times I’ve gotten back up and not lost a step, in these two realms, I frequently find my self-talk turning to “I can’t.” and “I’ll never be any good at this.”
And you know what? I create my own reality. I’m not very good at either of those. My K/J in these instances feeds me stuff that comes true. It’s not what happens (the golf shot I sliced or my wife’s toe I stepped on), it’s how I react to it.
So what did you learn? Were you encouraged to get up and keep trying? Or were you allowed to sit in your puddle and tell yourself you weren’t meant for this? I suspect we all fall somewhere along the continuum. And where we fall on that scale has a lot to do with how we execute that 90% today.
As the song says, “There’s another train. There always is.” What could you do if you could stop yourself from watching it pull out without you on it and get on board?