Fail Big: Lesson from Shaun White

“The world is divided into two categories: failures and unknowns.” Francis Picabia

Midday yesterday, I heard the news that Shaun White had taken 4th place in the Olympic halfpipe event, even though he had the highest scored run of the Olympics. I was bummed for him. I love that he shows up to go big every time. No one goes to Olympics to take 4th place; but let’s be honest, no one goes hoping to win the silver medal either.

The name Shaun White would not be one we are even talking about if he was not really good at failure. No one talks about how many times he has fallen flat on his face or any other body part. I am sure there are training days where he never hits the new trick, maybe even weeks. Shaun is not just the best, he is the most innovative. Those that are going to innovate, fail. Find anyone that is highly successful and you will learn they are really good at failing.

What I love about the halfpipe is that it’s not for those who are looking to just show up. You plan on going big, knowing that you may fail big. Sane people don’t show up think they can do flips that even Superman would not attempt. You drop in with the plan to do the biggest tricks, get the most air, and do what has never been done before. There is nothing safe about it. If you want to play it safe, maybe try curling.


I honestly don’t think the biggest motivation for Shaun was just to get a medal, it was to do what no one else can do. He probably could have landed a safe run and won gold because his B roll is better than most snowboarders best. He spends months going big and failing big to push the sport to new heights, literally. They are called “Extreme Sports” for a reason.

Most of us are satisfied with just failing small. Not so much for Shaun. If you are going to be a pro at anything be a professional failure. History in not changed by those that wake up to chase second place. I love how Thomas J. Watson puts it, “If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.”

I’m tired of just settling for safety. I’ve had enough with fearing failure. The only one worthy of my fear is God. You will probably never see me on the medal stand. But you don’t succeed if you don’t show up. That’s what Im gonna do today. I may fall short, but refuse to play it safe. I may fall flat on my face, but plan on doing with with good Olympic form.

Go Big. Fail Big. Those that “go for the gold” aren’t afraid of failure. Let’s refuse to allow today to be a day we just settle for silver.

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