Failure is Temporary Quitting is Forever

Swimming is one tough cookie. There’s a lot of things you have to remember – keeping your head down, keeping the elbows lifted, reaching in front of you, exhaling in the water, inhaling when you turn your head to breath. It can get overwhelming. I was reminded of this at a recent coaching session I had with a client.

The first time I met her she showed up with no swim cap and no goggles because swimming to her was “aquajogging.” I promptly gave her my Ironman Cozumel swim cap. But I told her, “If you choose to accept this, your mission is to ditch the aqua jog. Ironmen don’t aquajog.” At the end of 60-minutes her days as an aquajogger were over.

But over time she struggled with breathing. She could kick, she could float forward with her head face down and arms outstretched. But the minute she turned her head to the side to breathe she’d stand up. It was automatic. I could see she was getting frustrated. She’s streamline. Push off the wall. Kick and move forward with such beauty and then she’d lift her head to breathe and BOOM, she’d pop up like a Jack-in-the-Box. It happened repeatedly.

She told me she was afraid. For some reason it scared her to breathe while laying flat in the water. She felt frustrated and childish. But I told her fear was O.K. But quitting was not.

As a coach I wanted to solve this problem. I truly wanted to make her instinct to stand disappear. But I couldn’t. This was her journey. This was her barrier to break.

“This is the life of a triathlete,” I said. “Most people don’t do triathlons because they are afraid of the swim. Triathletes succeed not because they are fearless, but because they continue when they are afraid.”

That’s the definition of courage and that’s what separates winners and losers. We all have our battles, we all have our barriers, the difference between winners and losers, between doers and quitters, between life and death is the willingness to try again. Success is built on learned failure. Failure is temporary but quitting is final.


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