I don’t know a triple lutz from a quadruple axel. Who does, other than Scott Hamilton, Tara Lipinski, and a relative handful of other people in the universe? Nevertheless, I’m sitting here watching Olympic figure skating and giving my unqualified opinion to anyone who will answer my texts about the quality of the jumps … or the falls.

And fall they do—all the time.

ice skater

In a run of about eight men’s short programs I just watched, almost all of them fell at least once. Many fell two or three times.

When they fall, they get right back up, catch up to the music, and carry on as if nothing is wrong. They’re probably adding up the points (or subtracting them) in their heads to figure out if they still have a chance to place in the top three. And they, like those of us watching, are just hoping they don’t fall again.

But what’s crazy is that one person can skate what appears to be an absolutely flawless program, but he scores lower than another guy who spectacularly falls twice. It all comes down to the points associated with the jumps, twirls, and loop-de-loops they do manage to land. (Those are all extremely technical terms, by the way.) There was a guy tonight who skated what the announcer claimed was the worst program he’d ever seen from that athlete, yet he somehow ended up in fourth place.

Basically, you have to try the hard stuff, even if you can’t always land the quads and complete the rotations. It’s your only chance to win. Playing it safe and only sticking the easier moves might get you some rousing applause, but the people who really matter—the judges—won’t be satisfied.

How often do we play it safe and just stick with what we know will be successful, even if it’s not what we could achieve if we just tried to do something that’s more difficult?

I’ll admit I’m often an underachiever. Most people would disagree with my assessment, because there are plenty of things I do well. But the reality is I could do better and so much more if I’d just set my mind to it and not give up after one or two falls.

It’s kind of a shame that when we fall in life, we don’t immediately get back up and keep going like these Olympians do. Do they have to keep going? Nope. Nobody is forcing them to. (Well, that’s debatable in some cases, but stick with me here.) But here’s their reality:

Falling isn’t failing.

Have you ever seen a figure skater just leave the ice in defeat in the middle of a program? I can’t recall ever seeing that happen. They just don’t do it. Giving up is failing. 

Falling Isnt Failing

We cheer for the skaters who get back up and finish their routines with determination and heart. But if someone were to fall and then just skate off the ice? Unless they were injured, we would not be impressed.

When we try something new, we’re bound to fall. Sometimes we get back up, but other times we don’t. We decide it’s not worth it and we just go back to the sure thing.

I’m not saying giving up always equates to failure. There are definitely times we need to close the door on something that’s not working and change course. But much of the time, we just need to try again, because falling isn’t failing. 


What’s interesting is we totally get this concept when it comes to the kids we love.

When your grandchild calls you after the first day of basketball practice and wants to give up because he didn’t make a single shot, do you tell him there’s no need to go back tomorrow? No. You tell him to keep trying. Why? Because you know persistence and keeping his commitment to the team is good for him. You know he’ll learn about hard work, and he might make lifelong friends on that team.

When your baby is learning to walk and she falls, do you enourage her to just stick with crawling? No! You prompt her to try again. Why? Because falling isn’t failing! It’s just part of the process. Eventually she’ll get the hang of it. And you know from experience that walking is so much better than crawling.

So let’s take our own advice to kids when we fall down in the future. Let’s get back up and try again. Why? Because walking opens up a whole new world that crawling can’t even begin to match.

What do you think about the idea that falling isn’t failing? Do you agree? Do you have a story that illustrates it one way or the other? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Mustang Jessie: Fiction for Women that Focuses on Living Well and Serving Others