I remember walking into the stadium at the Winter Olympic opening ceremonies. The hype was nothing compared to experiencing the real thing. I wore the pride in my eyes, my smile and the way I strode into the sea of people cheering on their respective country.
I spotted my parents proudly waving our country’s flag among the vast crowd, soaking in the moment; they would no doubt recount years from now those subtle moments I would forget in the enormity of the event.
It’s a memory that I can recall quickly and vividly – it’s something I’d envisioned many times. It was supposed to be the most incredible moment of my life… only, it never happened.
I had visualized this moment…
Fantasized this moment…
Held tightly to this moment…
However, instead of marching proudly into my first Olympics, I was at home watching teammates and fellow athletes living MY story as they paraded into Italy’s Torino Olympic Stadium in 2006.
As life’s moments go, this was near rock bottom.
As John Kouzes writes, “Adversity introduces us to ourselves.”
Heart shattered and drowning in shame, after devoting over 8 years for this one goal, I was forced to look at myself in the mirror and ask the big question: “If I’m not an Olympian, what value can I possibly bring to the world?”
With nothing but the gravity of failure to press me into the journey of self-exploration, I was invited to shed the story of who I was so I could step into the person I was becoming next.
It often takes a nightmare to wake us up.
This nightmare woke me up to the unconscious actions, destructive habits and insecure foundations that led to the erosion of my dream.
It was scary, painful and hard – and necessary.
I had become exhausted by years of falling victim to the seductive trap of pursuing approval and validation from others. Without experiencing the heartbreaking pain of failure, I’m pretty sure I’d still be living a life suffering from ‘destination-itis’. I’d be cooking up stories and grand visions about the next big accomplishment that would make me “really important.”
This disruptive nightmare created the foundation for a new dream.
When I look back, I’d be lying if I said that there aren’t moments where I still wonder, ‘what if’? Instead, I prefer to dwell in ‘what happened next’?
I took the experience from high-performance sport and combined it with an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion to develop others. The result was something I’d have never thought possible: creating a new breed of global leaders.
In my business, we help leaders develop the modern leadership mindset to navigate today’s business environment. We help them assess their raw materials, reframe it and put into action something relevant, purposeful and valuable.
When it comes down to it, our failures and challenges are momentary. The pain and anger during these times can bring forth acute awareness, focus and drive. When that energy is channeled in the right direction, with support, it can turn a monumental failure into the foundation for your next powerful vision.
How did your greatest failure change your life for the better? What happened next?