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The Deafening Sound Of Failure

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Years ago, my TaeKwonDo (TKD) master instructor placed two folding chairs on the training mat. He told us to make two lines behind them.

We replied “yes, sir”, which is the custom, and proceeded to, albeit somewhat reluctantly.  None of us had ever had this experience and there was an air of uncertainty and apprehension.

He then told us to stand directly behind the chair and kick above it with a back kick. A back kick for those of you not in the know is when you are facing your target, you spin around, turn your back to it, and kick it like a mule. Easy enough, right? 

What followed was a series of hesitant, wobbly, ungainly kicks—some making it over the chair—some making a loud CLANKING sound as the chair was smacked or kicked over. The sound was a not-to-be-ignored message that our technique was wrong.

Ah, The Sound Of Failure:

Every time that chair clanked, the individual standing there was faced with a challenge – “Who do I blame?  Do I make excuses?”  I went immediately to – “Hey, I’m only 5’2 -that chair is really tall for me!” I heard another one of my much taller training partners complain that his feet were too big. It’s our nature to find a reason why the obvious failure does not belong to us.

Failing publicly can be agonizing.”

In life we are constantly faced with uncertain situations. It seems like every time we turn around someone or something throws an obstacle in our path. Something that places us in the limelight, even for a brief moment. It’s at that time where we fear being seen or, in this case, heard. The deafening sound of failure, publicly, can be agonizing. 

Whether we are evaluating our likability on social media with likes and comments; or the status of our own body image by the number on a scale; or our parenting grade by the college or job our offspring attain; we are constantly measuring ourselves. Measuring ourselves against others, our goals, our ideals. The irony? In many cases we determine the height of that chair in the first place. 

Our perceived failures can be deafening. I say perceived because, damn it, didn’t we stick that chair in our own way? Often times It’s our self-talk that creates the obstacle in the first place. “I’ll leave my job when….” “As soon as the kids are X, I’ll leave my toxic relationship.” “I’ll join that dance class once I lose 20 pounds.” Trust me when I say that clearing the chair with a back-kick is child’s play by comparison.

It’s Our Choice:

the cacophony of our failures can ring in our head to help us get it right”

We have a choice. One can say that the chair provided us the ability to measure our progress towards the “perfect” back kick. Without metrics one can kick about haphazardly. Setting targets for ourselves is important. If applied constructively, the cacophony of our failures can ring in our head to help us get it right. And moving towards our desired outcome, improving ourselves, attaining our goals can be very fulfilling.

Let’s not forget that the “chair” is there to help us. While we won’t execute perfectly every time, having the ability to know when we do sure sounds sweet. So set your height and give it a kick. Close your eyes and listen for the result, regardless of the deafening sound of failure or success. Whatever happens, remember the journey of a thousand kicks starts with one SMACK!