It was my senior year of high school, and I had one last chance to achieve my goal: winning a state cross country title! Things were looking pretty good, I had an undefeated year so far and felt confident as I stood on the line waiting for the gun to go off. Bang! Soon we were coming up on the last 400 meters of the race, and as I dug down for a finishing kick, instead I began to see fuzzy stars. Next thing I knew, I was on the ground. I stood up, but could only make it a few steps before I collapsed again. I was confused, dazed, and pretty devastated as I crossed the finish line in 173 place.
Looking back now, I can say with 100% certainty that I'm more glad I had that experience than the experience of winning a state title. I learned more ultimately from that one race than from all the races I had won up to that point.
A question I get asked a lot is, what advice would you give to a high school student? I would pass along the advice to accept failure as part of the journey towards success. Not only accept it, but view it as a friend and not an enemy.
1) Failure is a great opportunity to learn: what went wrong? How can you keep it from happening again? What do you need to change?
2) Not fearing failure sets you free: when you aren't scared of what will happen if you don't achieve your goal, you can HAVE FUN. And that's really important too.
3) Failing and trying again produces perseverance: at the end of the day, even if you don't decide to keep running, you will need perseverance in all aspects of life. Getting back up after you've been knocked down will help develop character, something you can never lose even if you don't achieve the goal you originally had in mind.
Obviously I didn't quit after that race, instead my worst nightmare came true and everything was ok! I was able to compete for the University of Washington, and there I discovered that I was anemic (low iron levels in he the blood). I learned the importance of vitamins and a healthy diet in staying healthy and strong. And more importantly, I started to enjoy racing. For every failure, there is another great opportunity for success if you keep going!