The Two Biggest Myths About Failure – Luke Meier


Failure is a good thing, failure is a learning opportunity, you have to fail to be successful…We’ve all heard this from books, coaches, and countless sources.  However, most of us hate failure and avoid it at all costs. Is failure really what we need to take our game or career to the next level?

The answer is both yes and no.  Let me explain…

Myth #1: You Should Embrace Failure

You shouldn’t like failure.  It makes no sense to enjoy failing or being bad at something. Why would you like that? You SHOULDN’T. But when failure occurs, and I promise you it will, you can process it in one of two ways:

  1. I didn’t like that; I’m not going to do that again.
  2. I didn’t like that; I need to make improvements.

Option 1 is more comfortable, but option 2 is obviously more productive. If we let struggles, weaknesses, or failures stop us from trying or working on our mistakes, that’s the only true failure. If we choose option one, we don’t improve, we stop growing, and we become stagnant.  Ultimately, we don’t have to like failure; we simply can’t allow it to keep us from trying.

Myth #2: We Must Fail Repeatedly to be Successful

This isn’t a total myth. I do believe that we need to fail or struggle, to a certain extent, in order to grow and improve. If we never fail, we’ll have a hard time handling it when we inevitably do. If we avoid failure, we limit our potential and keep ourselves in a box.

Occasional failure is a good thing, but continuous failure is not.

When I first got out of college, I coached high school basketball.  The second job I took was to be a varsity assistant for a team that had won 5 games total over the last six years.  They had won zero conference games in that time period.  A good friend of mine had taken the head coaching position and I was a little naive about what it took to turn a program around.  In my mind, we were good enough coaches to turn it all around immediately.  That’s not how it played out…We won one game that year.

I learned a lot about myself and coaching that year.  In all honesty, it was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. The number one thing I learned that year was that too much failure is devastating and very hard to recover from. We didn’t lose because of the talent we had, the coaching, or our X’s and O’s.  We lost because the players in our program had only experienced failure and they expected it, 100%.

In terms of skill development, it does more harm than good to put players in overly challenging drills where they have no chance of success.  You have to find the sweet spot – the place where it is challenging enough that they experience some failure from which they can grow, but more success.