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  • Jennifer Cruse


A penalty shoot-out is a method of determining which team is awarded victory in a soccer match that cannot end in a draw, when the score is tied after the regulation playing time as well as extra time have expired.

The pressure and unpredictability involved makes it one of the most thrilling finales to any sport.

Rewind back to the summer of 1998. I was playing competitive club soccer and competing in a tournament in Morgan Hill, California. My team and I had made it all the way to the Championships and the pressure was on. The game had resulted in a tie so the game came down to a shoot out.

There has to be a clear winner and loser. The score was tied 3 to 3 and each player thus far had scored on goal. I would be the reason why we won or lost the game.

It all came down to ME. This was my moment.

I visualized scoring on goal and the excitement that would fill the air after I sunk the soccer ball in the left-hand corner of the net.


I missed the shot.

Failure. The word itself use to run chills up my spine and the example above was one of my first vivid memories of feeling like I had failed in life.

The thought of not achieving my goals and falling short in one way or the other use to petrify me. The funny thing I've learned is that in life failure is inevitable. It's a part of life. Through my failures at work, in relationships and on the soccer field, I realized how much I could learn from failing. I know. I know. It seems cliché, but the problem I had with failure was that I felt that if I failed at something it defined myself worth.

It's actually the complete opposite.

What defines you is how you handle failing and what you do with the lessons that failure can teach you. Looking back at the moments in my life when I fell short, I realize I wouldn't take those times back. I would never undo my failures. I can almost assure you that the most successful people in the world wouldn’t do so either.

When we fail, we learn.

We grow and mature, achieving new understandings and perspectives on life, love, business, money, relationships and people. We’re forced to make new connections, bridging gaps where we hadn’t connected the dots before.

So today I share with you the lessons that failure has taught me in an attempt to redefine what failure really means.

Lesson One: You realize it's not about how you start it's about how you finish.

Failure and setbacks were a big part of my life in sports. From playing basketball, track and field and soccer, I learned how failure could be used as motivation if you let it. One of the things that stands out to me about failure is something my dad said to me after I missed the penalty shot and lost the championship game.

He said, "Jennifer, it's not about how you start the game, it's about how you finish."

The point is things don't always work out the way you like them to. So, if you are ever in a situation where you have failed keep in mind that it's not about how you start, it's about how you finish.

Lesson Two – It humbles you.

Failing in life has caused a lot of havoc on my ego, but ultimately has made me a more compassionate person.

When I've failed in life, I've become more in touch with myself and others. I recognized my flaws and that no one is perfect. Failure forces you to look deeper at things, understanding and caring more about others rather than solely focusing on yourself.

The failures in my life served me far more than I could have ever imagined. They made me kinder, more caring and giving than I had ever been. Without those failures, I would not be the person I am today.

Lesson Three – My perspective on friendship

"Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down." Oprah couldn't have said it better. I quickly learned who my true friends were when 'the limo broke down'.

Failure acts as a “friend filter,” so to speak. When you’re succeeding, everyone wants to be around you. But, when you fail, most of those so called "friends" up and disappear. At the time, it feels painful. It feels as if everyone is betraying you. But true friends love you for who you are, not how successful you are. A true friend doesn’t care about how much money you have in the bank or the kinds of things that you’ve accomplished.

The friends who really cared about me, stuck around. They inspired and motivated me. They were there to pick me up when I was down. True friends will be there for you no matter what.

#Lesson Four – Coping with my emotions

Through failure I've learned better ways to deal with my emotions. It’s hard to stay focused and committed when you’re upset and reeling from the pain of failure. Your emotions can be all over the place, up and down like a rollercoaster ride.

Failure was painful for me. It was emotional. Oftentimes, I felt like I couldn’t bear it. But, I came away with some important tools for coping with my emotions. I learned how to refocus and retrain my mind to see positive things rather than the negative ones. The mind is very much like the lens of a camera – it will see whatever you focus on. When you train your mind to focus on the right things, you can better cope with the emotions that might make their way to the surface.

Lesson Five – You recognize your bad habits.

When you fail, you destroy a part of your ego. Depending on how monumental that failure was, you lose either a major chunk or a small piece of your precious ego. Once that ego is shattered as a result of failure, you begin to recognize your bad habits. Bad habits get in the way of your failure. In fact, bad habits can all but ruin our chances for success in anything. And I literally mean anything.

Part of my failures were the results of bad habits that were ingrained in me for years and years. But you learn to recognize those bad habits. And when success means enough to you, you begin to change. You slowly modify your behavior over time to help rid yourself of any bad habit that was holding you back from success.

Lesson Six – You learn to never give up

It’s the proverbial cliché, “Never give up.” But, while it sounds mundane and over-repeated, it’s entirely true. When you harbor deep enough meanings for succeeding, you learn to never give up, no matter what the situation. No matter how many times people laugh at you, walk all over you, or just plain ignore you, you just keep pushing. It doesn’t matter if we only progress just a little bit each day.

What matters is that we make some progress at all. Results happen over time, not overnight -- work hard, stay consistent, and be patient.


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