Failure Is The Greatest Teacher

Embrace your failures

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Photo by Victor Xok on Unsplash

On the 27th April 2014, Liverpool faced Chelsea in the Premier League at their home stadium, Anfield.

They entered the match top of the table with three games to go. A win against one of their closest rivals would almost certainly secure their first League Championship in 25 years.

The match was significant for one man, in particular, Liverpool’s captain, Steven Gerrard. A lifelong fan of the club and Liverpool born and bred, Gerrard had won everything bar the Premier League.

His desire to win the one trophy that had eluded him throughout his career led him to nearly joining Chelsea on multiple occasions.

However, the pull of winning the League with Liverpool was too strong. His emotional attachment to the club meant he decided against joining Chelsea.

A League title with Liverpool would be the crowning achievement in a glorious career, which had seen him make over 600 appearances for the club and over a 100 for England.

Win against Chelsea and Liverpool would have one hand on the trophy with two games left to play.

The Match

The match was a cagey affair.

Chelsea was intent on nullifying Liverpool’s attacking threat. They defended deep in their own half throughout the first half, only looking to attack on the counter.

With half-time approaching, defender Mamadou Sakho received the ball on the halfway line.

He passed the ball to Gerrard who was close to the halfway line.

As the ball approached Gerrard’s foot, he slipped.

The Chelsea striker Demba Ba pounced on the ball and raced towards the Liverpool goal. Gerrard picked himself up but was unable to catch the pacey striker.

Ba advanced unopposed towards the Liverpool goal and placed his shot beyond Liverpool’s goalkeeper Simon Mignolet to give Chelsea the lead.

The cameras panned to Gerrard. Anguish and despair were written across his face.

Despite wave after wave of attack, Liverpool could not find a breakthrough in the second half. To add insult to injury, Chelsea scored a second goal in stoppage time to win the match 2–0.

Liverpool’s title hopes were left in tatters. Gerrard’s dream had turned into a nightmare.

The Aftermath

Gerrard talks about this incident candidly in his autobiography.

“In the dressing room, I was a wreck. I sat on the wooden bench, in my usual space in the corner, unable to say a word. I caught sight of my reflection in the mirror opposite my seat. I looked ashen and shell shocked.”

After the match, Gerrard was still haunted by his moment of misfortune.

“I had wanted to win the league with Liverpool for so long that, now it had gone for ever, I could not help myself. The tears kept rolling.”

Despite Gerrard experiencing his misfortune in a pivotal football match, we all experience moments like this in our lives.

Whether it’s failing a crucial end of year exam or forgetting a number of bills, each and every one of us is fallible.

We will make mistakes. It’s a fact of life.

We shouldn’t worry about making mistakes, it’s only a matter of time before we do. What matters is how we react to those mistakes.

That’s what defines us.

Look Back To Look Forward

To escape from the distress, Gerrard decided to take a break in Monaco.

The match was still weighing on his mind, but amongst the anguish and despair, he had a moment of clarity.

“In the deadness of Monaco, with darkness falling on that hushed Monday evening, the night after the terrible day before, I allowed myself to reflect more deeply. I didn’t just obsess over the slip. My mind opened up and I saw my whole career unfold in front of me.”

Gerrard realised that despite how bad we believe these events are, our minds often exaggerate their importance. Remembering what we have achieved, in spite of our troubles, is how we recalibrate after any failure.

Remembering his past achievements helped Gerrard wrestle his way out of the slump.

“Fate, and luck, had sometimes shone down on my skill and hard work. I had scored a screamer of a goal against West Ham, when Liverpool looked dead and buried, in the 2006 FA Cup final. It had been perhaps my finest-ever game for Liverpool. They called it the Steven Gerrard final these days. Who else, apart from Stanley Matthews, gets a final named after him? How lucky was I?”

By looking back, Gerrard realised he had accomplished so much during his career. Yes, the pain of his slip was still real, but in time, it would fade. He would still have all the amazing memories to look back on.

He would not be defined by one moment of misfortune.


Not all of us are lucky enough to be able to go to Monaco, like Steven Gerrard, to reflect on our failures.

However, we don’t need to.

Reflection is something we should be doing on a daily basis.

Failure can feel debilitating at times. We are told to fear failure when we should be doing the exact opposite.

Failure is the greatest teacher.

You will learn 10x more from your failures than you will from any success you have.

You have two choices when you fail.

You can let it overwhelm you, and fall into a spiral of despair, wondering how things will ever improve.

Or, you can choose to accept that failure is a natural part of our lives.

Everyone fails. There are no exceptions.

What separates those who are successful from those who are not, is how they react to those failures.

How will you react?

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