Go easy on yourself! Failure only means…

You are one step closer to success!

The Solution to Failure is… to expect it.

I am writing to you from Dover Harbour in the UK, as I prepare to guide West Australian, Paul Downie on his English Channel solo crossing (for Breast Cancer Care WA).

This past week I have been privileged to witness amazing feats in the English Channel. Earlier today 70yrd old retired breast surgeon, Roger Allsopp of Guernsey, UK achieved his English Channel goal (again) and created a Guiness Book World Record becoming the oldest person to do so. [read more…]  Paul Downie met Roger Allsopp at Dover Harbour the day before he set off on his English Channel journey. (Listen to Paul share how Roger has inspired him even more. >>> scroll down to the bottom to watch the video now.)

Roger Allsopp, the oldest person to swim the Channel, receives a Guinness World Records certificate in Dover (AFP)

As more people have climbed Mount Everest than swum the English Channel, that unfortunately also means, many have failed in their attempt to tame Mother Nature and swim the famous ditch.

What I am about to share with you will help you understand what failure really means.

Yes, it can be viewed in a number of ways. You can view this message as bitter medicine….from Dr Tough Love (what my coaching clients lovingly call me). You can see it as harsh or as the shot of adrenaline you need to get you to get up, get over it and get on with it (or for those procrastinators… get going).

20 years, 1month and 1 week ago today, I achieved my greatest failure personally. Despite being a shoe in for the gold medal, I instead achieved my first DNF (did not finish) to my list of achievements. Afterward I felt utterly gutted and humiliated with feelings of embarrassment as I was representing Australia when I was pulled from the water, whilst leading by 500 metres, in the Womens 25km Pan Pacific Swimming Championships 1991 competition in Lac St Jean, Roberval, Quebec, Canada.

As I woke from my unconsciousness state (after suffering from hypothermia where my coach pulled me out and saved my life), the realisation hit me that I was in hospital and not out in the lake going for gold for Australia. I felt I had failed and let down so many; my coach, my family, my country, myself.

Even so, the day after, I felt no less a failure.

How was I going to recover? How was I going to get over this hurdle? Would I? Could I? My mind spun out of control with these thoughts.

I had been taught to believe that no matter how often I failed, if I got up, got over it and got on with it, I would eventually succeed. I was taught this very early on by my Dad. He was a good ‘cop’ (policeman) and I can still remember him telling me as he drove me to those early 5.30am swim training sessions: “Shell, you will get kicked in the guts in your life, but it is up to you to get back up. Your choice Shell Belle. Choose to get up, get over and get on with it.”

My Dad also taught me the motto I live by and many of you have heard throughout my coaching, motivational presentations, workshops and on the Champion Mindset Audio CDs: “if you don’t quit…you will make it!”

So what did Shell Belle choose?

Also taught by my Dad is the need to learn from your failures and losses. “If you learn the lesson, you never lost.”

So that day after my greatest failure, I seeked out words of wisdom from those who I revered in marathon swimming.  I chatted with the King in marathon swimming, Claudio Plitt of Argentina. His pearler words of wisdom still ring in my ears. “You are only as good as your last swim. So your next one will determine the true character of Shelley Taylor-Smith. Your resilience to adversity. How quick you bounce back is your moment of truth.”

Deep inside I will admit feeling a lot of hurt whilst I reran the movie of the past day’s events in my mind enduring my own pity party and all the “what ifs.” Whenever I made a mistake or experienced a setback, I felt that I, personally, was a failure. Not that I had suffered a loss, but that I was a loser.

7 Lessons to Bounce Back:

1: No matter how many victories a person accumulates in life, if you view failure as final or personal, then you’ll begin to think of yourself as a failure. This can become a self-fulfilling philosophy and lead to a pattern of self-sabotage. It can affect and infect every single area of your life. But this does not need to happen.

2: Realise that you are not alone. All of the most successful human beings were also great at failing, at making mistakes and learning the lesson to bounce back from the setbacks.

3: Remember, it is not so much what you desire, but how strong the burning desire you have IS. This was brought home on that day 20yrs ago as I lay recovering in hospital, when Anita Sood, another competitor who had withdrawn, in the bed next to me said: “Shelley, good to know you are human after all.”Ouch! Before Anita had said that I had thought I was indestructable.

4: Failures and setbacks strengthen you….if you allow them. So I realised that my first DNF was a good thing. It was necessary for me to strengthen my SELF BELIEF to bounce back. And this was a lesson I have carried with me in everything I do to this very day.

During my life when I have failed, I have failed for one reason. I can still discover this reason at any time by taking a look in the mirror. I look into my eyes and ask the inner Champion: “Do you really believe in YOU Shell Belle?” The answer coming from the Shelley had been “no.” The answer now coming from the inner Champion I trust and believe in…is “YES.”

Somewhere along the line I wasn’t willing to trust and believe. I wasn’t willing to get past my greatest competitor, ME. I was very stubborn.

5. Accept what is. Each and every failure gave me an opportunity to grow. But before there could be any growth, I had to face the facts. First, I had to acknowledge that I wasn’t super human – I was human; I had to acknowledge I wasn’t perfect – even if I wanted to be. Finally, I had to let go of the past, even if my mind was still searching for someone to blame.

6. Mistakes are part of the process. As you work toward achieving your goals and believing in your inner Champion, improving your personal development, increasing your income, achieving in your career – or to lose weight and get fit, you will make mistakes. You will encounter setbacks. But none of these need to be a bad thing. Your mistakes literally help lead you to your goals ….. and so do your failures. But only if you play your LIFE GAME and learn the lesson. If you have taken a detour, got off track, don’t beat yourself up. Instead go easy on yourself with the lessons learned.

7.  Believe and achieve.One week after my greatest failure I bounced back to win the 1991 Atlantic City 35km Marathon Swim by 59 seconds,

On our way to victory.... entering the Back Bay against the tide in the 1991 Atlantic City 35km Marathon Swim

finishing first overall (for both men&women), setting new World Race Records: breaking the women’s record by 45+mins and the blokes (men’s record) too by 10+mins…. becoming the first woman in the world to win an International Professional Marathon Swim against allcomers!

No more what if’s. No more excuses. And no more “BUT Shelley you don’t understand my story.” No more time to waste whining or complaining. Focus instead on building your inner Champion SELF BELIEF within you. Do this and you will come to know that the strength of your SELF BELIEF defines you and is far more important than you ever thought possible.

When your SELF BELIEF shines brightly, you attract and achieve what you want. When dim or burnt out, you don’t.  Breathe in YOUR self belief. Use your creative imagination and then watch as you look in the mirror seeing the inner Champion becoming your reality.

It’s your turn to go easy on yourself with your lessons learned and achieve your gold!

Cheers Head Coach Shelley

PS: Watch the video below of Paul Downie sharing how Roger Allsopp’s English Channel crossing has inspired him!



Speak Your Mind