david hieatt

Dear Failure,



We have had our battles. Some you won. Some I won. I have learnt a lot from you.

I learnt always to respect you. I have also learnt I must never fear you. Because that is what you want. Fear is your weapon.  It’s the seed of doubt that you plant. And once planted, it just grows. That’s how you win. I take that knowledge with me to every battle now.

I am a football fan. And I am always intrigued by who steps up to take penalties. And who misses. The most talented players don’t always make the best penalty takers. Why? Because penalties are less about skill and more about nerve.

If you kick the ball hard and in the direction you have picked beforehand, the chances are you will score.

The average success rate of a premier league player taking a penalty is 83. 91%. Yet the average success rate of a penalty taker at the World Cup is around 71%. In theory the world’s best players should have a percentage at least equal to the Premier League player. But there is more pressure at the World Cup. So nerves play a part. And the bigger the tournament the more there is at stake.

The player who can put the consequences of missing out of his mind at the key moment of taking a penalty is more likely to score. The player who lets all that stuff get to them won’t hit the ball as sweetly as they normally would. The context of the importance of this particular game has played on their mind, and so will bring about the thing they fear the most: Them missing.

Failure wants you to dwell on consequences and context . It knows that it makes you tense, anxious and uptight. At that point the simplest of things, like scoring a penalty from just 12 yards into goals that is 24ft wide and 8ft tall, becomes much harder.

The zone you have to be in to score a penalty is one where all you have to do is to kick the ball. The mind thinks of nothing else. Zen like state where failure does not exist.

Failure, and his close cousin, fear, want you to be at the precise moment of taking the penalty to be thinking what you will feel like when you miss, what the headlines will be, what your team mates will say. And if you listen to that chatter, the chances are you will miss.

The real skill of the best players is being able to shut fear out, to not care about the thing they really care about, to accept failure is best defeated by being loose. So their talent can come to their fore and not their fear.

Being loose is a hard thing to learn. And like kicking a ball to within a centre metre of where you want it, it just takes practice. Standing up to do a talk requires you just be yourself, but when you are uptight you are not that. Standing up in front of a huge audience, singing your songs requires you to imagine you are just singing to a small local club. Context is important to keeping loose. Writing lyrics for a song require you to not worry about the audience you are trying to please. Indeed, the best lyrics don’t make a bunch of sense when you read them aloud. Far from it.

Being loose means when it’s your turn to kick the ball, that all you think about at that key moment is kicking it in the direction that you have already planned. And kicking it as hard as you can.

The irony with failure the more you think about it, the more it becomes self-fulfilling. Fear stops you listening to your instinct, fear makes you over think your actions, fear stops you trusting your talent and skill. As fear takes hold, our breath shortens, our muscles tense, our thinking becomes less clear. And with all that the odds of doing our best become a lot less.  

Being brave is not about accepting the consequences should you fail, but instead not allowing those consequences to enter your head at the key moments. Failure requires fear in order to do its best work. Once you know that, you can work on making failure fail.

Learn to breathe. Keep things in context. Above all, learn to be loose.

And just kick the ball.

My Next Do Workshop -How to build a great brand with very little money'. March 6th Wales.









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