My knowledge of sports is best summed up as non-existent. From time to time, I pay attention, most notably at times where the only thing standing between me and a Trivial Pursuit win is some bit of random sports knowledge or when sport fans pour out of every corner of my city to celebrate a moment that will forever be frozen in time. But overall, me and sports live on two very different planets.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about discipline and my mind keeps bringing me to that other planet. Sports. It is a natural example that highlights the payoff of discipline. The repetitive art of practicing. Of never settling. I am curious about  the space in an athlete’s mind reserved for trying new methods for accomplishing goals. I admire the study of other great athletes - other teammates, opponents, and coaches - as a way to evolve and solidify an athlete’s own brand. Athletes are a determined bunch and work hard to achieve.

In following my curiosity of the sports world, I feel called to research what made prominent sports figures great. I stumbled on John Wooden, the long standing head basketball coach for UCLA, who brought home 10 of 12 national champions under his helm. John was a phenomenal athlete before becoming a coach, but he is most known for being an inspirational leader to his team, on and off the court. I’ve listened to this interview with him several times, trying to imagine the impression that he left on the players he coached. The entire interview is full of inspirational quotes that land with the heart, but I was drawn particularly to his definition of failure towards the end of the interview.

Failure is knowing that you didn’t do the thing that you should have done.

This made something click for me. It raises the stakes for knowing what you should have done. If you go down the path of self discovery, you take on the responsibility to honor what you learn. If you walk away from that responsibility, you have failed. You cannot unlearn what you uncover. You must face it. That is why getting to know oneself is a courageous journey reserved only for the brave. It is a privilege to be brave.

You have the freedom to get advice from those around you and then you can apply a filter. You take what you like and leave the rest. If you chose to leave something simply because it’s uncomfortable but know within yourself it is likely something worth consideration and back away from it, that is failure. There are additional considerations that again, only you can evaluate. Is the timing right? Is it the appropriate thing to focus on right now? I am not a huge fan of the word should in almost any situation, but here I think John implies something closer to a must. You determine what is a should and what is a must. It’s after you overlay your own evaluation and still see it’s value.

We each have a different degree of knowing what we should have done. We will not all see the same things, but it is what we do see - what we are open to paying attention to - that determines our success or failure. You must be your own radar for yourself. Turning a blind eye to your internal compass, in favor of someone else’s or in pursuit of an easier or shorter path, is failure. You will rob yourself of the opportunity to operate within alignment of your truest self.

Where are you failing?

What are holding back from taking action where you know you must?

I challenge you, this week, to take action against failure.