Overcoming Failure – Making it Personal – Part 3

Posted by on September 14, 2012

By Craig Wilson

This is the post on the topic of overcoming the third type of failure – when we don’t have the tools for the task. We often fail because we don’t have the resources to succeed. These resources could be physical, e.g. an old computer that cannot download a program necessary to complete a task, or they could be our own skills that are lacking. I’m going to concentrate on the skills side of this issue because the failure it causes leads to an erosion of our self-worth, which often debilitates our ability to perform effectively in all areas of our life.

A great example of overcoming this type of failure was demonstrated by my daughter Krista. She is strongly introverted so the day she came home from school and said she wanted to go out for the speech team Holly and I looked at each other, and said in unison, “Really?” Krista went on to say she had to prepare for her tryout and expressed her worry that she wouldn’t make the team. Once again Holly and I looked at each other and this time we laughed and asked rhetorically, “Aren’t they begging people to come out for the team?” Krista retorted, “No! It’s really hard to make the team.” We later found it was quite competitive to make the team. They had tradition of success not only at the state level but also in national competitions.

Krista made the team as a sophomore. That year she learned how to deal with being judged and rated in each round. From this she learned how to take constructive criticism. She also had to deal with being judged as the worst speaker in several rounds. Believe me there were a lot of tears, but she also got better as the season went along. She ended the season participating in the state tournament and was looking forward to her next year.

Krista’s junior year was a season was a very frustrating one. While she performed better than her first year, she consistently just missed “breaking”. Breaking means to get out of the preliminary rounds and into the final round. One tournament she came out the preliminaries in first place, in the semi-finals one judge gave her first place and the other last. To make matters worse, the critique she received from that judge was absolutely blistering. The final blow came at sections when she finished fourth. The top three go to state. It was tough finish to a tough season. So it was quite surprising when a few days later she decided to try out for the traveling team for her senior year.

She made the team, but it meant she had to do two new categories – original oratory and drama. In original oratory you write and deliver a 10 minute persuasive speech about an important topic. Drama takes a piece from either a play or literature and you interpret it in the way you feel best fits the piece. Krista worked very hard going into her first traveling meet in December.

I received a phone call Sunday morning from Krista. It was either going to be good or bad. “Daddy I didn’t break!” she cried into the phone. It was bad. She went on, “I worked so hard. I don’t know I didn’t break.” I told her she would have to see the critiques to see what the judges had to say to see what happened.

The judges gave good constructive criticism. To Krista’s credit she took it in and began the process of overcoming her failure. She worked on her delivery techniques. She added humor to help lighten the tone at times in original oratory. She rewrote her speech and continued to refine it. Krista also changed drama pieces. With her coach they put together an original piece from the book Autobiography of a Face. It’s about the struggles Lucy Grealy had dealing with cancer as a child that left her face disfigured.

Her hard work paid off-two months later she broke at Harvard, one the largest tournaments in the country. Back in Minnesota she had one streak where she won twelve rounds in a row. More importantly, Krista learned to evaluate the critiques and calmly say “That’s a good point.” Or, “I don’t think I’ll make that change.” She was competent and that led to confidence her in performance.

Here’s what Krista had to say about it as she wrote her farewell column for the student newspaper:

As a naturally quiet person, the whole concept of standing in front of a critical audience and speaking in a confident manner seems to go against everything I represent… Although I wish I could say I blew everyone away with my amazing talents, quite frankly, in the beginning I fell flat on my face. Such failure made me question whether I should have auditioned in the first place. Yet, just as I am naturally quiet, I also have a persevering spirit. Failure is never an option for me.

As the season progressed, I began to get the feel of the new categories. I poured my time into trying to fix the problems that I now recognized, going so far as to rewrite a ten-minute speech four times (not mention numerous other revisions). Instead being on the bottom, I found myself being rewarded for my effort.

I began to realize I hold talents within me that I never recognized, simply because I have never tried to bring them out.

Krista has encapsulated the process of overcoming our shortcomings and becoming successful in attaining our goals:

  • Accept that we did not perform to the required level.
  • Seek advice on how to improve
  • Listen to our critics
  • Refine our skills
  • Know that we have greater ability than we give ourselves credit for
  • Never give up and persevere through

I have attached a before and after critique for Krista to see the improvement she made.

Stay tuned…





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