In October of 2017, as he was training for the 2018 Winter Olympics, Shaun White had a horrible crash that resulted in 62 stitches in his face. In an interview a few months later, he was asked whether the crash gave him doubts about his ability or willingness to continue, especially in pursuit of a spot on the Olympic team. He nodded his head, saying that while he looked in the mirror at his nearly unrecognizable face, he realized that by agreeing to continue, agreeing to step back out there and try again, he was more or less accepting that this could happen all over again.
At first, this statement seemed obvious to me. Being a complete outsider to the sport, the corresponding danger is constantly at the forefront of my attention. I mean, they are literally throwing themselves through the air, flipping and spinning and twisting at high speeds, all the while hoping they’ll land flat on a thin piece of fiberglass. With that in mind, of course it could happen again, Shaun! Honestly it seems like it should happen more.
But as the weeks went on and the Olympics came and went, the quote sat with me, churning around in my brain the way all lessons waiting to be learned tend to. Eventually I started thinking about the risks I take in my own life. Both small and big. I thought about my writing, both on this blog and outside it in pursuit of other projects, accolades, etc. Every time I write a blog post, I accept the fact that people might not like it, or that it might not do well. Every time I submit a piece to a contest or a magazine or a publisher, I accept the fact that it might lose or get rejected. Every time I try to succeed, I accept the fact I can fail.
After a while, I realized this mindset can apply to almost every aspect of our lives.
In relationships, every time you make yourself vulnerable you accept the fact that you could get hurt.
In finances, every time you make an investment you accept the fact that it could fall through.
Plans can fail. Accidents can happen. Hearts can break.
In this world, there is a lot to be afraid of, there is a lot that can go wrong, and there are a lot of opportunities to fail. But every day we get up, every day we step outside, every time we accept those fears and try again, we give ourselves the change to succeed, to win.
On February 14th, after spending months both recovering from his injury and working his way back into the physical and mental shape needed to make the Olympic team, Shaun White won the gold medal in the Snowboard Halfpipe event, making him the most decorated snowboarder of all time.
In many ways it was expected, hoped for, anticipated, both by Shaun White and the millions of people tuning in to the competition. But the only guarantee would have come from him not trying, not taking that risk, not stepping back into the sport all those months ago. The same goes for anything you hope for, I dream of, we all aim to accomplish. So even though failure is hard, vulnerability is terrifying and losing sucks, it’s worth the risk. Not only because it brings you one step closer to success, but because it makes you stronger, braver and smarter than you were before. And although it might not feel like it, trying and failing will always show more courage than avoiding failure all together. So take the risk, make the try and see where it takes you.