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Let’s think about it for a moment: that big, fat, scary F-word.

Failure.

It’s the last thing any leader ever wants to do.  This weekend, though, I threw back a huge glass of it and took a glass of “learning” as a chaser.

I am a coach for a college soccer team.  A really good college soccer team, I might add. I am always in it to win it. And, if you’re anything like me, failure is not an option.  These athletes go into every game with a solid chance of winning, and this weekend was no different.

We traveled all the way to Texas to play a nationally ranked opponent. The first half went pretty well.  They scored. We scored. They scored again. Whistle blows and it’s half time.

We were trailing 2-1.  With some adjustments, the players were back on the field and had all of the confidence in the world.  The second half started and we came out with guns blazing.  But, as it happens, the other team busted out their magic “nationally ranked pixie dust” and scored three goals in five minutes.  We couldn’t stop it. We couldn’t make the adjustments. The final score was 6-1.

From the coaches through bench, a tidal wave of failure sank our battleship.

I started running through my “words of wisdom” mental rolodex. The words I find so easy to tell other people in their moments of “failure” are sometimes impossible to locate in my mind when I take a ride on the failure ferry.

What do I say?

It’s not what happens. It’s how you respond.

Success is progress, not perfection.

Failure is just an opportunity to get better.

None of these felt right.  Maybe we just bit off more than we could chew.  Maybe the coaches didn’t put the team in a position to succeed.  I ran through scenario after scenario in my head. But, that wasn’t it at all.

It was simply just a loss.

When we compete, we compete to win. This also means we take the risk of losing. Well, guess what? I’d take that risk again tomorrow if I had to.  It was just another opportunity to get better.

So, what were the words of wisdom that put me at ease after all?

A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are made for.

The women I work with don’t shy away from challenge. The soccer team could have gone to Texas and played two teams we knew we would beat, but where’s the fun in that? Similarly, you stay in a job just because it’s comfortable, but how will you ever be challenged enough to improve?

In your day to day, you might lose and you might win. Either way, always do your best to never become stagnant. Always search for opportunities to improve.

As long as you’re progressing, you’ll never fail.

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