Falling (and Failing) as Essential Practice and Play

The best performers and athletes in the world know something the rest of us don’t: Failure is not the enemy. Failure is fabulous.

Failure —non-fulfillment, defeat, collapse — is not only inevitable, but necessary to get what you want. To try to avoid failure is to eschew progress; it’s trying to stand still in a moving world.



Australian competitive hurdler Michelle Jenneke wants to get as close to hurdles as she can without hitting them. Working toward that goal means going beyond her current ability. She must find out how to get ever-closer to the hurdles, an investigation which always results in getting too close, hitting them, and falling.

A big key to Jenneke’s success is her attitude toward failure:  She embraces falling. (Video link here.)

I fall a lot in practice. Like, every training session. I’m always trying to push myself to go faster and do better and get as close the hurdle as I can, and when you do that, you hit them… I really like it when I fall over in training…It shows me that I’m doing the right thing.

This is a mindset you see time and time again in extraordinary performers in every field, from stage to track to business to fine art: the practice of pushing up against and beyond the limits of their current ability.  There is friendliness with failure, seeking new information through experimenting. They are closing the gap between what they can currently do, and what’s possible.

There is no “waste”, there is just the next thing to try.

This is deep play: exploration that leads to self-fluency, mastery and innovation…

Kate Conklin

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