A few weeks back, I was in the doctor’s office waiting room with one of my children. I heard a father talking to his young daughter. She was teary-eyed because he had told her she had to get a shot. “It won’t hurt at all,” he told her. “You won’t even feel it.”

I wasn’t sure what kind of shot she was getting but I remember thinking to myself, “Bullshit!! Shots hurt.” Especially for a kid.

I get what dad was doing. The shot was a necessary evil and he was consoling her so she would stop crying.

I remember getting shots as a kid. I don’t remember crying in the waiting room in anticipation, however. And it is not because I am tough. I still hate needles. Instead of telling me it wouldn’t hurt, I clearly remember my mother telling four-year-old me it WAS going to hurt, maybe a lot. She said though that we had to do it anyways. I remember trying to “get tough” in my head so I was ready for it.

I remember my mom asking me after the shot what I thought. I told her it hurt, but not as bad as I thought it would. I had teared up, but no full on bawling.

I wondered how that little girl reacted when she got stuck.

****

Several years ago, Jeremiah and I were coaching the Roseville High School wrestling team. One of our athletes, DJ, was a good wrestler. He had previously qualified for the state tournament. He was in a pretty tough weight class, however, and his return to the state tournament was not a certainty. He would first have to defeat another previous state qualifier. Skill, talent and conditioning-wise it was a draw at best. Privately, I was concerned that the other kid was better.

I had watched DJ’s opponent wrestle before, He came out very aggressive in the first period and overwhelmed his opponents.

Our kid had grit and, while I figured we could out work him in the long run, I was pretty sure we would lose the takedown battle, get down early, and have to come from behind to win in the third period.

For those who are unfamiliar, wrestling is really dominated by takedowns. I am not sure of the exact statistic, but the kid that gets the first takedown wins the match like 80 percent of the time. In high school wrestling, you get two points for a takedown and one point for an escape. Do the math, if you can consistently take down your opponent, you can take them down and let them up, and run up a good lead.

And there is something psychologically devastating about being behind in wrestling. It is tough to come back.

I was worried. I was pretty sure DJ was going to get taken down several times in the first round. I didn’t want him to break before he had the chance to grit it out. So I told him, “The first round probably won’t be pretty. He may get a few takedowns, we could come out of it down by six or eight points.”

A coach standing on the mat nearby looked at me like I was crazy.

“But that’s ok,” I told him. “He is probably better on his feet but he will tire during the second period and you’ll be able to grind out a win late in the match. Don’t worry about the takedowns if they happen, stick with him.”

DJ took the mat with the confidence that comes from knowing what lies ahead and that you have a plan. And he quickly got taken down, several times. At the end of the first round, we were down 6-1. That is a big gap in the semi-finals of a Sectional tournament. Most wrestlers would have gotten discouraged and given up. But at the beginning of the second period, DJ looked as calm and confident as when the match began. The match was going according to plan.

During the second period, his opponent started to tire, and DJ was able to stabilize.  At the end of round 2 we were down 7-3.

In the third round DJ, repeatedly took him down and let him up, closing the gap each time. A last second takedown gave him the victory 11-10. His arms raised in victory, he came off the mat smiling.

DJ was very clear on the obstacles he’d face in that match – a better takedown wrestler and the discouragement of being behind at the end of the first period.

Typically, a five-point deficit at the end of the first period is enough to get most athletes to give up. But DJ was ready for it, and he had a plan.

****

Many people fail because they fail to recognize the obstacles they will have to overcome along the way.

The mantra of the highly motivated, “failure is not an option,” is simply untrue. Failure is always an option, especially if you don’t plan for it. Too many people avoid talking about obstacles because they think that saying them out loud would make them real. Obstacles are real, whether we plan for them or not.

Recognizing and planning for the obstacles you face is just as important as having clear goals to begin with. Because booster shots really do hurt, and the wrestler who gets the first takedown does usually win. But, if you understand what you are up against, you can be ready and beat the odds.

Failure is always an option. Plan accordingly.

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