If I were to ask you what is the most feminine of competitive sports, which sport is the most feminine in the world of competition. So most people have their theories, but I personally believe that it’s figure-skating. And you could see the young women get on the ice with their leotards and they’re so graceful and they’re so feminine, so delicate. Yet, I’d like to share with you a very powerful observation. Coaches have a criterion to define whether a young woman will make it as an elite athlete. What is that criterion? How many times she’s willing to fall on the ice and get back up.
You see, the coach teaches you the jump. You go home and you practice it at home. You jump and you spin, you jump and you spin, and if you fall, not a big deal, the carpet catches you, it’s okay. And then the first time you get on the ice the coach puts a harness on you, you jump and you spin, and if you miss, not a big deal. But eventually the coach takes the harness off and says get out there. And you do the jump. And the only girls who make it to excellence are the ones who are willing and able to push themselves, even though they know fully well that likely they’ll fall. But not once, not twice, many times, time after time.
Because the only way you could reach your potential is when you reach a little bit further than what you’re used to doing, and invariably sometimes you’ll make it and sometimes you won’t. And that ability to fall down, brush yourself off, and then get back in the game is what determines the champions from everyone else.
The young woman who won the 2006 Gold Medal in figure skating was about 16 years of age at the time. She was from Japan, and her coach estimated that since she began skating at the age of five until 16 when she won the gold, she fell approximately 20,000 times. Ten times a day, six days a week, week after week, month after month, 20,000 times she hit the cold ice, got back up, and got back in the game. And would you like to know why most people don’t become great? It’s not because they don’t have the ability, not because they don’t have the talent, but because they hit the ice and there’s a voice inside them that says stop it, you fell again and again and again, and you fell yesterday and you fell the day before. Cut it out! You’re not made for this stuff. You don’t have what it takes.
And the ability to brush yourself off, get back in that game after you’ve fallen, time after time, is what distinguishes those people who become great. And I believe that’s one of the life skills that a person has to know. No matter what you’re going to set your sights for, no matter what goals you’re going to set as your aspirations, you have to be willing to hit the ground, get knocked down and get back up, time after time after time. That’s one of the criteria for being a great human being.