891. Success Through Failure
Jim Harshaw, Jr.
“My podcast is called Success Through Failure. The seed for that was planted when I gave a TEDx talk titled Why I Teach My Children to Fail, which was in large part a story about my wrestling career at the University of Virginia, which was mostly failure. But thankfully that failure led to success. Ultimately it got me on the podium at the National Championships.”
Jim Harshaw Jr. is an NCAA Division I All American athlete, former NCAA head coach, internationally recognized TEDx speaker, and personal performance coach. He has impacted thousands of lives across the world by helping clients and audiences increase resilience, maximize potential, and build high performing teams. His clients include CEOs, entrepreneurs, and leaders from global companies as well as current and former athletes from the NFL, UFC, NCAA, and the Olympics.
The Most Impactful Turning Point?
“To become a Division I All American in wrestling you have to qualify for the National Championships to have a shot, and you have to place in the top eight. I qualified my freshman year at the University of Virginia, but I failed to achieve my end goal because I needed to win four matches at the National Championships. My freshman year I didn’t win any, my sophomore year I won two matches, and my junior year I only won one. I went through that entire off-season before my final year at UVA trying to find what it was that I was missing. I could never quite figure it out. Literally the night before my very first competition my senior season, I gave up trying to become an All American. I was going to do whatever I could possibly do to be my best and sleep at night knowing that I did my best. The next day I went five and 0 at a tournament. I had never had so much fun in my life. And I kept having fun the rest of the season and became an All American. The transformation was this: I realized I needed to let go of the outcome, focus on the process, and enjoy the process. I tell young wrestlers this all the time, and my coaching clients: you cannot control the outcome, but you can control the process.”
The Most Powerful Lessons and Experiences?
1) “My home when I was growing up was full of lots of love and also lots of work. Mom and Dad were very, very hard workers. No college degrees or anything like that. Just work. They’re the hardest working people that I know still to this day. I’m thankful, lucky, and blessed to have those lessons instilled in me at a young age.”
2) “When you step into the center of the wrestling mat and face off with another boy, who’s trying to do to you what you’re trying to do to him, and then you get your hand raised [as the winner], it’s a thrilling, addictive feeling. When you lose, it is more personally humbling than any other sport, because not only is it one hundred percent on you for the loss, it is physically humiliating. You got dominated by another human being and that’s a hard thing to endure. You have to become resilient at a young age. Thankfully, wrestling taught me that resilience.”
3) “It is statistically harder for a high school wrestler to become a Division I All American than it is for a high school football player to make it to the pros. From the outside looking in, I am an All American, a successful wrestler, but my goodness, the failure and struggle and setback and self-doubt I had to go through to get there was phenomenal. The more I interview amazing people on my podcast, the more I realize that self-doubt, failure, and adversity are not unique to me. It is an underlying theme for everybody and anybody who’s ever reached any level of success.”
4) “My first thought after graduation was to get right into coaching. I had some opportunities to become a college coach and a Division I assistant coach, but I turned those down. I’d been competing and dedicating my life to my craft for 17 years. I decided to step away and travel for a year. I went home, painted houses for about three months, and saved up money living at Mom and Dad’s house. I then packed up a backpack, flew to Texas, and took a bus across the border into Mexico. It was an amazing, amazing adventure.”
5) “I put my head down and worked. I worked with everything I had for two years, but when I lifted my head, I realized everything that I was trying to build in my life was actually doing the opposite. We had debt up to our eyeballs, I had a failing business and a failing marriage, and I was in the worst physical shape of my life. It was as close to rock bottom as I ever want to go. One night I was staring at the ceiling in the dark thinking to myself, ‘When I was competing, there were certain things in my life that I apparently don’t have in my life now. They gave me clarity and confidence and allowed me to succeed despite, or oftentimes because of failure and setback and adversity. How do I replicate that in my life now?’ And it was like a camera lens coming into focus. I realized there were four things in my life in the past that I did not have in place now:
– I knew what I valued, what was important to me.
– I had goals that were in perfect harmony or perfect alignment with those values.
– I had a coach in my life who either kicked me in the rear end when I needed a kick, or he lifted me up when I needed it, or helped me course correct by helping me see my blind spots. I also was responsible to my teammates.
– There were things in my life that always propelled me to follow through, but out in the real world, we don’t have that built in. There’s no framework or structure, so I had to create and implement my own system in my life, and it changed everything.
6) I know I knew logically, but I now know deep, deep down in my heart and soul, that failure and struggle and adversity are not an indicator of your future potential for success.
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TedX Talk: Why I Teach My Children to Fail
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