Nov 28

Failure was an absolute certainty

Recently, I started re-reading Mindset by Carol Dweck.

It’s one of my favorite books in the world, and I consider it to be required reading for anyone who is serious about excelling in anything. In fact, I would even rank it significantly above the Inner Game of Tennis, which is a damn fine book as well.

Anyway, in Mindset, the first story told is of her experience studying how kids cope with failure.

To do that, she brought kids one at a time to a room in their school, made them comfortable, and then gave them a series of puzzles to solve.

At first, each puzzle was easy, but progressively, they became more and more difficult, until failure was an absolute certainty. Some kids shocked her though. When faced with failure, they got excited.

It was the strangest thing.

The challenge and the opportunity to learn fired them up, and that experience was the spark that led her down a path of further study into the role that mindset plays in achieving success in all endeavors.

Now why does any of this matter?

Well, it got me to thinking about how my experiences with failure have shaped my skill development. In fact, I asked myself this question:

If I could erase every time I’ve failed on the mat or in competition from existence, and leave only my successes, would I be better or worst than I am right now?

Of course that’s a hard question to answer, but my first inclination is an emphatic no.

Failure has often led me to make vital adjustments. And without it, I just don’t see how creativity is possible. Trial and error is one of the life’s best teachers for a reason.

Case in point:

Many years ago, at Evolve (my original academy), there was wrestler that we all called Smiddy. He had a ridiculous overhook in top half guard, and he loved to break you down with it then snap a guillotine on you lightning quick.

For the most part, I’ve survive through most of the choke attempts, but that overhook was lethal. It put all kinds of pressure on my arm, and at some points, I was just mere inches away from getting armbarred.

Then I made an adjustment.

I started driving my shoulder into his armpit and shooting the underhook deeper. It reduced the pressure in an instant and made the position comfortable for me again.

From there, I could attack.

That whole shoulder drive is a detail that I haven’t yet broken down in half guard trickery (otherwise known as the institute of higher half gyard learning) but it will be explored soon.

And more crucial details can already be found inside.

So if half is your kind of game, go here: