Fail Up

Fail Up

If you’ve read my Mindful Exercise Routine, you know that I often shoot hoops to warm up before hitting the weight room. That said, my 5’8″ stature is less than imposing on the hardwood and, aside from playground antics of yore, competitive basketball and I are not a mix.


So it came as a surprise even to me when my voice agreed to join a trio of other guys in a game of Twenty-One. If you’ve never played, the rules are similar to a normal game of basketball: try to score and each basket is worth two points. If you succeed at scoring, you get three free throws, each worth a point, to try and increase your score. If you miss, it is a live ball. If you drain all three, you keep the ball and try to score again.

What makes the game a touch more, shall we say, “interesting” than a typical pick up game is that it is every player for himself. In other words, if there are four players on the court, as there were on this day, well, you’re playing one against three. And while Kobe may have made a lot of money doing exactly that, I’m no Kobe.

But, I gave it my all and, when all was said and done and one of the players reached the magic number of 21, there I sat (well, stood, hands on knees, gasping for breath) with a big, fat zero to my name. And yet, I didn’t care.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m a competitive chap. Ask my wife, who may or may not have ever been allowed to score even one basket in our warm up “games.” Or my kids, who have, indeed, felt the sting of losing to dear old Dad in a foot race (or a board game… or playing soccer in the backyard… or…).

And yet, and this is going to sound cheesy I know, on that day, after scoring zip, zilch, zero, I still felt like a winner. For one, I’d stepped out of my comfort zone and did something that 10 year old me might have enjoyed, but 40 year old me was simply terrified I might pass out on the court.

For another, I learned a ton. This is what it means to “fail up.” Even when you fail to overcome a challenge, you get better. Now when I hit the court to warm up, I practice the things that I know I’ll need to do better should I chance upon another such epic battle in the future. Win, lose or draw, every challenge is an opportunity to learn, whether about yourself or your opponent, and to improve ourselves.

So the next time I hit the hardwood, I know I will score.

At least, I think I will.

Namaste.


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