What Did You Fail at This Week?

~ by Tim Brady

Each week at the dinner table Sara Blakely’s father would ask her and her brother, “What did you fail at this week?” If they had nothing to tell him, he would be disappointed.

By his question, Mr. Blakely began the process of providing his children the tools necessary to deal with failure. Failure was re-defined as not trying to do something that you either like or might like. This definition differs from the traditional meaning of “not getting your desired outcome.”

Years later, Sarah went on to invent a women’s support undergarment called Spanx. Eventually the company called Spanx was born and now generates over $400 million in revenue. But before Sarah’s invention hit it big, she sold fax machines for seven years and endured her share of failure. Sarah saw personal business cards ripped up and had doors slammed in her face. However, she never feared failure and did not view it as an obstacle. After a while, she even found the rejections humorous.

Sarah Blakely did not fear failure because her Dad normalized it a young age. As a sports parent, it certainly feels counter intuitive to ask our young athlete what they failed at. I never thought to ask my own children that question. As sports parents, we want our kids to perform their best and have success. But it’s difficult when they experience failure, because our first instinct tells us to jump in and help. Our questioning, advising, lecturing, and even sympathizing often does not help as much as we like to think it does. Our best intentions block our young athletes chance to wrestle with struggle and build internal muscle.

One of the central concepts to the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) workshops for parents, coaches, and athletes is the mastery approach (growth mindset) to competing. The games greatest coaches, combined with the best sports psychologists in the country provide proven methods and tools to help teach young athletes how to bounce back and build the grit necessary to succeed in their sport that goes beyond the scoreboard.