How to Succeed After You've Failed and Fallen

Leap into the Void - Yves Klein Dealing with failure is difficult.

With practice brushing past the little failures that have few repercussions becomes easy. Easy enough to pick yourself up and try again immediately without hesitation.

However, if you get hurt, sometimes even a little, fear seeps into your mind. When that fear of failure gains a foothold, you’ve got a battle on your hands.

When practicing Parkour situations like that come up often. Little injuries happen that cause just enough pain to worry your subconscious (lizard) brain, which can trigger hesitation on your next attempt. The situation is common enough that an unwritten rule has formed: *if you fail and fall, get back up immediately and try again. **Jumping again right away is a pre-emptive strike; cutting down fear before it has time to fortify itself in your mind.

(*NB: If you sustained an injury it is unfortunate but necessary to train smart and stop practicing for the day to let it heal and recover. A war’s a lot harder to win with a broken limb.)

Sometimes you can’t make that jump again immediately. The longer you wait between the failure and your next attempt, the more time the fear has to fortify and entrench its position. I dealt with a situation like this recently. One of my feet slipped out on a landing (usually not a big deal) and somehow that jarred one of my shins; it was just enough for me to pause and do a damage control check. By the time I got back to trying the vault again I found myself hesitating to re-commit to the technique. Fear had settled in and was ready for a fight.

If, like me, you get into a situation like this there is no magic secret to winning the battle with fear. Stepping up and committing 100% is what you need to do. Perseverance gets me there, even if it can take more tries than I can count.

Oh look, a video of my fail!

The good news is it works. If you want to see a glimpse into the process I happened to record the entire ordeal. For your sake I’ve cut the video down under 3 minutes, but the entire process took about 15-20 minutes. I had successfully landed the technique the day before, so it took less time than it could have.

With Parkour the experience of the fear is quite visceral, but the same process of dealing with failure can happen elsewhere in life too.

I just got word that my visa application to Belgium has been rejected. My initial reaction was along the lines of “well fine then, screw you guys, I didn’t want that application anyway,” but that’s just some clever attempt to avoid the pain of failure, $500 and 8 months of waiting’s worth of it. A failed attempt.

I’m immediately trying again. I have the ability to appeal the application and update it with some information I’ve been working on including in an updated business plan, including some generous and welcome help from friends and readers from Belgium. It’s gonna take some extra work to make the case now, after already being rejected, but often times you need to push harder to succeed. Even if that second attempt fails - pushing against the immovable walls of red tape and bureaucracy feels almost futile - I have others (Berlin!) which might end up working out better.

Keep trying, persevere, and push harder than your mind is willing to let you; it’s not sexy, but that’s the secret to success. You won’t win every time, but you’ll be stronger and more confident from both the glorious victories and the unfortunate defeats.

Never give up.

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