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How last place pushed me to work harder

During my 5am spin class on Monday morning, I wanted to stop pedaling during the challenging parts and just take a break. Every gasp for breath and sharp pain in my legs made me want to quit. But something deep within me kept me moving. It was a familiar feeling deep in my core. A feeling I had experienced during sports practices, studying for finals in college, and preparing for presentations during my career. Where did I develop this fire in the belly, the desire to keep pushing? Then it hit me. It’s because I am a horrible athlete.

So we hear about the kids who are celebrated for their natural sports talents, but what about those who learn more about life on the field than just scoring and passing?

Some may say it’s cruel or even unusual to have a child cut from a sports team at a young age. In a world where “everyone gets a trophy” is becoming more prevalent, it’s hard to imagine that a child was cut from a team or had to experience failure at the ripe age of seven. But the truth is we learn more from our failures than successes, and it’s never too early to learn that you’re not always going to be in first place.

I’m glad I was not a natural athlete.

I loved being a part of a team more than anything. I’m thankful that from a very young age my parents had me involved in everything from soccer to softball to Girl Scouts. While I typically batted last, it was during these activities I experienced teamwork, leadership, strategy, and most important – failure.

Isn’t it crazy how we can’t always remember our grocery list for the store, but there are moments in life that we remember the smallest details? I’ll never forget the first time I experienced rejection. I was in first grade and wearing blue wind pants with a matching zip-up jacket. I was ready for cheerleading try-outs! I practiced my routine every day and thought I had perfected the steps to Spice Girls’ “Wannabe”.

I went in for my audition in front of four adults at a table, and that’s when I froze. The music began (that familiar song we all know so well).

“If you wanna be my…”

And that’s when I lost it. I was completely uncoordinated, frozen under the pressure, and forgot all of my steps.

I knew at that moment I had lost my chance, and it was confirmed when the list of accepted squad members was released. I’m sure my parents wished they could have protected me from this seemingly devastating moment, but by experiencing the moment of rejection I learned more skills than a Spice Girls routine ever would have taught me.

Despite my lack of athleticism, and sometimes not even making it past the first round of tryouts, I continued to try new sports and activities, once juggling band camp and field hockey, hoping to find where my talents would fit on one of these teams. There were days I would run from field hockey try-outs to band camp with my trumpet in one hand and a field hockey stick in the other. Now that’s dedication! This taught me to stick to my commitments, try new things, and always push myself out of my comfort zone.

There will always be someone with more talent, but they don’t have your heart.

I know rejection. I know how it feels to not be the best, and in turn it taught me to appreciate those with natural talents and those who work their tails off. It turns out that field hockey wasn’t much different for me than cheerleading. I tried and hustled. Oh man, did I hustle. I hustled until it hurt and sometimes I just wasn’t as good as the next girl. But this taught me resilience. This taught me perseverance. This skill followed me throughout my entire life and has shaped my business and personal perspectives.

So while I never was able to experience the All-Star team, and I certainly was not a college athlete, I was able to find natural talents elsewhere. Rejection, failure, and striking out all helped me to develop into the person I am today.

After all, life’s greatest lessons are often taught when getting knocked down. We just have to keep getting up.

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