3 Lessons I Learned from Failure

“There is no mastery without failure,” says retired professional basketball player Crystal Robinson.

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In my personal and professional lives, I have failed many times to get to where I am today. People look at my stats and may think that I had an innate talent. But if you think I got to where I am today purely on talent, you’d be wrong. It took many failures to master my craft, and failure taught me many important life lessons.

I had to learn from so many failures before becoming the first black female ever inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. Failure is an important part of everyone’s path to success. You can’t have success without failure. Without those setbacks, I don’t know where I’d be today.

I grew up in financial hardship. Many people in similar situations allow themselves to become overwhelmed by their circumstances and fall in the face of adversity rather than rise. Many people daydream about instant success, because we follow influencers who only share the instant part of wealth and fame, without mentioning the hard work involved in this success.

But failure is a great learning tool. Learning how to pick yourself up and learn from your failures is essential in life. If you ever want to be successful, it is imperative that you learn how to handle failure. The main difference between successful and unsuccessful people is the fact that successful people rose after a failure. They dusted themselves off and got back in the game. Successful people use failure as a learning opportunity over and over again until they get it right. Here are just three lessons I learned from failure:

Failure teaches mastery

There is no mastery without failure. In sports you have to fail a lot to become good. I missed many shots before I got it right. Getting good at anything (sports, business, or any other craft) is all about failure. When you fail at something, you need to do it again and again until you realize the reason for your failure. Once you find that reason, you can come up with a plan of action, come up with a different angle, and try again. This systematic refusal to give up is ultimately what leads you to mastering your craft, through trial and error.

Failure teaches emotional intelligence

Little by little, repeated failure teaches the emotional intelligence to accept obstacles, roll with them, and keep going. At first, our internal monologues may tell us many things, like “I’m not good enough,” or “I’ll never get it,” or “I should just give up.” But it’s important to make a conscious effort to shut down that part of our brain. As a coach, it is my job to see when this internal monologue is taking over my players and how they see themselves. All I can do is tell my players to get back up, and assure them that if they just missed a shot, they’ve got the next one. After some time, I won’t need to tell them that, because they’ll be able to tell it to themselves. “It’s okay, I missed a shot, but I’ve got the next one. I’ve got this!”

Failure teaches resilience

Muhammad Ali once said, “Only a person who knows what it’s like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of their soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win.” This is something I firmly believe in. Failures are the necessary obstacles that teach us to build a thick skin, and ultimately, the courage to pick ourselves up and keep going. After a while, failure rolls off your back and doesn’t even register as a failure. You just try again until you reach your goals.

It is my firm belief that obstacles are placed in our paths to teach us the lessons we need to be taught in order to reach our full potential and become what we are destined to be. Failure is one of the main forms these obstacles take. There is no such thing as failure for failure’s sake. Failure sends us a message, and that message needs to be heeded if you want to become successful.

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