I felt a bit sorry for Rich really. I’ve been playing squash for a little over six months with a great bunch of guys – we hire a couple of courts and you generally get to play most people each week. When it comes to me playing Rich it is a mismatch. Rich is too nice to say it but at times I’d wonder if his heart sank when it came to playing me because it’s not much of a challenge.
Rich has clearly been playing for a long time. That means he’s developed not just skill but the instinct to know what to do in the middle of a point while I flail madly to just get the ball back. Unsurprisingly, like most of the population, Rich is bigger and stronger than me. He’s also about ten years younger. Still he’d never decline a game – everyone needs practice.
So it was that I found myself 10-6 up needing one more point to achieve the impossible. A couple of moments later it was 10-9 and I feared the worse but somehow a combination of a few good shots and Rich being a bit off his game meant that I’d prevailed. Me Dave, him Goliath. It brought back memories of the collective shock when I beat another of the best players Ally, helped by him dropping his racquet at match point and leading to the attached conquest picture later in the pub.
I have a couple of advantages. I am the consummate underdog so there’s always the element of surprise, particularly when I rarely know where my shots will end up. The other quality is a stubborn refusal to quit. I am known as the chief scamperer. I chase everything because I know I have to, to stand any chance. I lose most games but the majority are competitive.
To play sport means a willingness to fail because everyone loses sometime. It means playing anyway because you might win and you will get better and the process will help the battle of the waistline.
Fear of failing stops people doing a lot of things. It robs people of the potential to become more of who they’re supposed to be because they worry it might go wrong. And yes it might but so what? What’s the bigger risk?
I heard a great talk a couple of years ago from an artist. He said if you ask little kids what they’re good at they’ll tell you loads of things. Ask a few years later and they’ve become more reticent, they’ve learned to fear getting it wrong, to worry about what others might think.
The world is full of people not doing things because they run the risk of being exposed for actually being a bit rubbish at whatever they’re having a go at. The point I took from the talk was to take the risk, to do it anyway – we don’t have to be the best, to have our name is lights. The point is expressing what we were made to be.
I got a book published last year. I got it published, not because of having great ideas but because I had a story to tell – a tragic story of losing our son and of how we got through it all. My biggest asset was not having a way with words but the ability to share our pain honestly. It’s a story of weakness and brokenness and finding faith and a community of faith to recover within.
I’ve always written without every really learning how to write before. My fear of failure meant I lacked the sense to share the ideas somewhere safe where they could be tested and either refined or canned. I bothered the BBC with sit-com pilots and tinkered with screenplays with no end result. With the book I knew I had to test it out so a bunch of very faithful people read it – in some cases several versions. As a result I totally rewrote the second half of the book to end up with something that worked.
So if there’s something you’re putting off for fear of failure, scratch the itch. Do it despite the doubts. It will make you more you. Doing it is a result in itself even if there are no plaudits. Then once in a while, like me versus Rich (though I’ll probably never beat him again) you might surprise yourself.