Posts tagged failure

Quitting Is NOT An Option! an Olympic moment

17. At Olympics - Large Group copy

The 16 members of our U.S. Olympic Taekwondo team rounded the corner of the third mile running at a good even pace.  We were lined up two by two, keeping pace with each other in uniform rhythm…except for me.  Little by little I had dropped back in line, until I took up the last position at the rear, and was still loosing ground.  My heart was racing and I could not get enough air into my lungs.  My legs felt like lead, and I was light headed from the effort and lack of oxygen.  

Panicking, I slowed my pace even more, watching in dismay as the gap between my team and I grew further apart.  The farther the distance grew, the more my resolution weakened, until finally, I decided it just was not worth it!  In my mind I heard the voice of my mother, “You are not good enough, and you never will be!”  Giving up, I came to a stop, feeling that familiar disappointment of defeat.   Dropping my head in chagrin, I stood there with my head bowed, my hands on my knees, struggling to breathe.  

Feeling a vibration and pulse of movement, I looked up and discovered that my entire team had circled back towards me.  Coming up behind me, the two lead runners caught my arms and pulled me with them back into line without breaking the pace.  Forced to jog alongside, I willed my feet to move forward.  The entire team started a military chant to help us keep pace; and falling into this rhythm helped to distract me from my agony. 

I forgot about my misery and weaknesses.  I blocked out the memory of my mothers voice.  I focused only on the chanting words, my breath, and the next running step forward.  At certain intervals within the chant, our team leader would yell out, “Hee…Woman!”  And then the entire team would clap three times in unison.  Each time, a sense elation at this show of support surged through my mind and body.

Before I knew it, we had finished the five mile run.  I had made it!  It was not pretty.  Yet with the help of my teammates, I had done what was necessary.  As I made my way wearily back to the locker room, mopping my wet face with a towel, I realized how much is possible if I can just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Sure, maybe I was not as good of a runner as my teammates were; maybe I did not have their endurance or strength of will…but I WAS learning. 

I was learning that my mind could be my worst enemy or it could be my best friend. Success or failure is all a matter of focusing on why you can…or why you can’t.  As I entered the locker room, I realized that quitting is a choice, and the choice is mine to make!  As I collapsed onto a bench inside, I realized that if I wanted to become an Olympic champion, ‘quitting’ was NOT an option.

Now, at the age of fifty two I find this lesson to be extremely helpful as I face a new and daunting challenge in my life.  Many times it seems that for every step forward I take, there is one that sets me back.  There are moments when I get frustrated and just want to quit!  Yet each time, I force my self to keep stepping forward while my team’s voice echoes in my ears, “Hee…Woman!”  

20. Gold Medal copy

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INTERNAL POWER BEGINS WITH A POSITIVE MIND-SET!


I find that when we seek to improve upon our sense of self…we often turn automatically to the external tools of making us feel better…getting our hair done at the beauty salon, going to lift weights at the gym, taking that cool Harley out for a ride, buying/cooking/eating delicious and satisfying foods, and sometimes in my case…going shopping. Hey…she who dies with the most shoes, wins! Right? Aghh! (buzzer sound). Wrong!

Now if only my ‘natural’ instinct was to work from the ‘inside-out,’ life would become much easier. My life would be filled with much more peace, power and happiness. But then, I’m the Chinese ‘Ox.’ I often put my shoulder into that ‘yoke,’ and choose to do things the hard way. Fortunately, since I am aware of my shortcoming…I now to work at changing my life-long pattern of behaviors so that I can achieve higher levels of love, satisfaction, and sense of ‘self.’

It’s my personal experience and feeling, that everything we want and desire is out there in the universe waiting for us to tap it on the shoulder and say, ‘Come here.’ It’s my personal belief, that ‘God’ wants all the best for us. So then…why do we not walk on that bed of roses, if what we want is so very possible? I believe it’s a negative behavior pattern learned from years and years of using ‘external’ power to try and satisfy our internal needs. Question is….how can we change this and tap into the riches of the world that awaits us?

I have discovered that a positive mind-set is the first step we can take to help ourselves.

“Nothing will ever change without movement!” I’m sure you’ve heard that quote. And it’s so true. Believe me I know. Because I did NOTHING the first 25 years of my life to change that which I needed to change! I ran from anger, confrontation, sorrow, and rejection. Heck…I even ran from opportunity because I was afraid I might fail! I refused to ‘step-up’ and take my place in this world, because I was too afraid to take a risk…too afraid to accept a challenge. I was too afraid to even hope. It wasn’t until I reached an emotional crises in life, that I finally began to realize that ‘this’ was no way to live! And so it was…that I discovered that ‘change’ begins with the power of the mind.

In High School, I was pretty much considered a ‘loner.’ I was tall and thin to the point of bony. I was extremely introverted and spent the majority of my free time in the library with my nose buried in a book. And on the special holidays that many kids would get carnations or cards in their lockers…I would often send myself a couple, just to make it look like I had some friends too.

I imagine that things would’ve remained pretty bleak for me throughout High School, if I hadn’t of discovered, that I had a real talent and opportunity to be successful in the track and field event of the high jump. Discovering that I was actually ‘good’ at something began to transform my soul…and with the emotional support of my new Foster parents, I began to train and compete. It didn’t take long before my self-esteem and self-confidence began to grow. Soon I was interacting with other students and participating in after-school activities. I had found a tiny star within myself and I was learning how to make it shine.

By my senior year in high school, I was a different woman. I had fallen in love, and had a fiancé. I had a good job, and I had started dressing nice and taking care of myself. Because of the high jump, I had received a scholarship offer and a training sponsorship with a top Stanford University coach. By the time I graduated High School, I moved out to live with my fiancé, and started taking college prep classes at the local Jr. College. I felt ready to take on the world.

But then, everything turned upside down once again as I was suddenly hit with the emotional whip-lash of being pulled into interacting with my mother (who was recovering from yet another suicide attempt…which she had done in the effort to pull me back into her life), and then I was hit with the news that my grandfather had just hung himself.

To try and keep my sanity, I shut myself off from my emotions, and retreated into the safety of my day-dreams and the sanctuary of hard training. And as I trained with that top coach, I began to day-dream of what it would be like to go to the Olympics and win an Olympic Gold medal. Deep down inside…I just knew that if I could win an Olympic Gold Medal, then I would really ‘BE’ someone. Then I would truly be happy. But just as the going got tough, I let my old fear of failure get the best of me. I couldn’t bear the thought of what would happen if I tried my best, and discovered that, once again, I wasn’t good enough.

It was just like that old saying…that the higher up the ladder you climb, the further you have to fall. And I had fallen so many times before, that I had become deathly afraid of the pain I would feel when I hit the ground. So one day, when I was frustrated and discouraged, I gave up. I just turned and walked away from my dream. I never even said good-by or thank you to my coach. I was too afraid to face his reaction.

Only something unusual happened that day. For the very first time, after spending years running away from any pressure or conflict, I realized what a coward I was being. Hey…I had the talent, and for the first time, I had someone supporting me. It was ‘possible’ that I would’ve been able to make my dream come true. But, now…I would never know. Because I had just given up without even trying! That thought settled in my brain and began to haunt my heart…as the rest of my world began to fall apart.

On the surface, I presented my survivalist ‘game-face’ that everything was just fine. But stressed out with inner turmoil, and emotionally shut-down, my relationship with my fiancé quickly deteriorated and fell apart. I was on my own once again.

To hide from my disappointment and anxiety, I quit college, buried myself in work and began training in the Martial Arts. To everyone else, my life seemed just fine. But deep inside, I was falling apart at the seams. I didn’t return phone calls, or follow through on things. I avoided any and all emotional connections. I didn’t even go to visit my grandmother whose health was failing…even though I knew it was the last chance to see her. I was going through life like a zombie…keeping myself busy, and trying not to think about anything, or feel anything. It felt like I was all alone in the ocean, slowly sinking in a rickety boat full of tiny little holes. I knew that I needed to rescue myself before it was too late…but I didn’t know how.

Just when I was about to capsize, my salvation arrived with my newly found talent in the full-contact fighting sport of Taekwondo. I had been training in the Martial Arts for about five years at this time, and had just started competing in sparring matches. Placing second in my first National competition in 1986, I discovered that this sport was to be introduced in the upcoming ‘88’ Olympics in Seoul, Korea. The revelation, that here was my second chance to make my Olympic dream come true, hit me square between the eyes.

At that moment, it became startling clear to me that I could not just walk away again. I’d been given a second chance, and by God, I’d make the most of it! I was tired of running away from everything. I knew that I needed to draw the line and make a stand. So I swore to myself, that this time, no matter what, I would take this dream and make it come true. And if I failed…well at least I would know that it wasn’t because I didn’t give it 100% effort. I would know that, for once in my life, I did not let my fears get the best of me! Like a drowning person clinging to a life-raft, I made the determination to save myself by clinging to my long standing dream of Olympic Gold.

So at the age of 25, I took the little glimpse of hope that my newly found talent gave me…I told myself, “Be not afraid!” and I took one tiny step towards my dream.

(Dana’s Olympic gold medal win. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44gy17PKDnk )

Ok….so ‘that’ was quite a few years ago. Yet that one step changed my life, because it taught me that good things ARE possible. We just need to know this, so that we can begin to BELIEVE it to be possible. Well through the years, I have taken that one step with courage to make my dreams come true. First with the Olympics (in the full-contact fighting sport of Taekwondo), then with my dream of becoming a top Stuntwoman in Hollywood, and now, with my dream of becoming a great motivational speaker. Sure, I know that I may never reach the heights I aim for. But I DO know that it IS possible. So when I stumble and fall, I pick myself up, brush off the dirt, re-set my mind, and reach out to claim my happiness from the universe.

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