Earlier this week I was coaching a young athlete through her first set of giant swings on bar. Not something that is going to get her to the Olympics but a skill that is a significant milestone in all high level gymnasts’ careers. Despite the fact we were working above a foam pit and she was getting spotted by a big meathead(me) she seemed to be obsessively asking "What if I fall?".
It wasn't until a bit later that I realized no one had taught her to fall; No one had taught her how to deal with failure.
This inspired me to write this post. Currently I am in the process of training several difficult handstand skills. I decided to count the amount of times I fell out of a handstand during one of my own workouts. What constituted a fall? Anytime I came down from a handstand before I wanted to the majority of which would have put an untrained person on their asses.
During an average workout by my count I fall approximately 58 times. Yes I said it: 58 times. 58 chances I will get hurt. 58 chances I will make a fool out of myself in front of that cute trainer at the Anytime Fitness I train at right now.
During the practice I was counting 2 out of those 58 falls were flat to my back on a hardwood floor. I am not going to lie they hurt. I am pretty sure I could enour a practice where all 58 falls were like the two bad ones. Because I know how to fall safely more that 90% of the time and minimize falls like these I can take bigger risks and accomplish greater skills(See the end of this post for some shameless showing off by me).
The importance of learning how to fall so you can get back up:
We seem to live in a culture that is so obsessed with success that we are afraid to talk about failing. Anyone that achieves success without any significant amount of failure can probably attribute their achievement to dumb luck.
Any consistent high performer in sports and business will experience pain in one form or another. Think of all the motivational slogans such as "No pain, No gain". It is true but you can only take so much of a beating before you need to stop and recover.
Knowing how to fall. How to roll out of it instead or land safely to avoid catastrophic injury are all extremely important in making progress toward any significant achievement.
You have probably heard of the 10,000 Hour Rule. If you're always beaten and broken it makes it difficult to reach anywhere near that amount of practice. I don't just mean physically beaten up. This includes mentally, emotionally, financially, etc.
If you know how to fall/fail safely then you know how quickly can you pick yourself back up and get back to it.
This holds true in many other areas of life besides fitness. In business it is just as applicable. Some of you may recall how Richard Brandson while starting Virgin Airlines negotiated a deal with Boeing to buy back the aircraft if the venture did not work out their fore limiting his downside. Since he was able to limit his risk he was able to take make the leap of faith and build something amazing.
This principle doesn't just apply to olympians and billionaires. My own businesses have a tenancy to be boom and bust. For example I basically went from June 2014 to October 2015 with out making a significant paycheck. During that time I got invested in a startup that actually was quite risky and in the end did not work out.
How was I able to take such a risk? After years of playing the startup game and running my own tech consulting business I have learned of to fall safely financially speaking. I keep a "go to hell" fund that allows me to live on a shoestring budget for up to a year at a time without income.
Don't get the impression that I am rich or anything. During the times I am living on that money I am pretty much on a Ramen Noodle diet and sleeping on someone's couch. But it is better then finding out a venture didn't work and ending up flat broke or even worse in debt. Because I have these systems in place I can take risks that not many others can or are willing to take which allows me to do some pretty fun and amazing stuff with my businesses.
Don't underestimate the importance of learning how to fall/fail safely. Failure is a word that average people are afraid to talk about but high achievers wear like a badge of honor.
Keep this in mind in your own lives but also let's not forget the people we are charged with leading such as the young athlete that inspired me to write this post.
Next time she comes to me worried about falling I will tell her what I am telling you: Learn how to fall safely so you can pick yourself back up and get back to work chasing our dreams.
_PS: In case you were wondering what the result of all my thousands of falls over the years were while training my hand stands it looks something like this: _