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Recovering From Failures and Successes!

Posted on 10/21/10 16 Comments

The last few weeks have been pretty action packed for my dogs and I. Some great thrills at the World Championships in Germany followed by some more awesome thrills at the USDAA Nationals in Kentucky. In between all of my highs I have shared with you all, some of my lows as well.

I have openly failed and shared my feelings about my disappointments. I similarly wrote about some of my failings while training Buzz in Shaping Success. I have received many comments, both on the blog and privately, regarding my opening up about my recent public stumblings. Quite honestly, at first I was a bit surprised by all of the fuss, until I thought more about it.

Even though failing may be one of the most natural things any of us do, many people would rather pretend it didn’t happen. Even worst, some are so afraid that others may see them fail they avoid experiencing a ton of wonderful in life. Yes, many people avoid blemishing the illusion of their own infallibility by not allowing themselves to be seen making mistakes as a competitor in the agility ring. So they make excuses and stay out of the ring or at least out of any “big event” rings.

Now I am not saying you should beat your head against a wall. If you are constantly failing at something well then “h-e-l-l-o-o-o-o” yes take some time off out of the ring and get some good coaching. My point is that failing is an event, it doesn’t need to attach itself to us as a description of who we are and neither, by the way, should success.

As one of you pointed out a line I wrote on my blog last year “I have been blessed with so much in my life I can’t see how any single failure or success could possibly alter any of that.”

We all live in our own agility fishbowl. For some of you that fishbowl may be your local agility crowd where you trial each weekend, for some of us it may be a more of an international-live-streaming-kind-of-an-aquarium that offers a larger group of onlookers a view to all we do in the agility ring.

Regardless of the size of your audience, it is important to keep things in perspective. None of us is Mother Theresa nor are we curing cancer between the A Frame and the Weave Poles. It is important that you stay grounded and free of the effect of your fishbowl audience’s opinions. We are never as omnipotent as our biggest fan may envision– nor are we as incompetent as our worst critic would have us.

For me when I come home, John plays a big role in helping to bring balance to my world. Regardless of how big my wins I come away from the agility ring with, although very supportive, John is always be there to remind me I need not try walking on water any time soon.

I remember in the summer of 1998 John was judging a four day obedience trial and therefore couldn’t accompany me when I competed at the USDAA’s National Championship with Shelby, Stoni and Twister. As it happened I won two of the four height divisions that weekend in the Grand Prix and came home with 2 big shiny Gold cups. John arrived home the day after me and I had the 2 trophies displayed prominently on the kitchen counter with a picture of each dog sitting in the cup they won. 
John strolled through the kitchen, saw the two big Cups stopped and said; “two trophies– I thought you took three dogs with you?” Easy to keep the ego in check with a man like him around:).

The lesson within this lesson that I learned about myself over the last couple of weeks is that I bounce not break when I fall. Just as important, I also learned that I don’t read too much into any one “wow” run. Coming to the line thinking too much about your last success will not allow you to be as sharp as your dog needs you to be for your next run.

Staying in balance at an agility event, rebounding from disappointment, taking any success in stride may seem difficult but it is all a part of a good mental game. Not just for sport but for life.

Personally, I don’t look back. In my heart I always knew that about myself but nothing like a couple big stage experimentations to prove my point! A solid pre-run routine will help you start every run with a clean slate.

I am talking about mental routine and checklist you use before, during and after competition will help you to stay grounded. I know mine has been good in the past but certainly with the guidance that Sports Psychologist John Cullen provided our Canadian World Team this year, my mental game has gone to a new level.

As luck would have it for all of you, John Cullen finally did succumb to my arm twisting and is about to release a program that encompasses everything he shared with our Canadian team about preparing mentally for sport (and life). This will be a game changer for all of you, trust me on this, I will post more when I know more.

Today I am grateful for all of those that helped me perform at my best over the last few weeks. From John Cullen and his mental prep work, to John Blenkey and is constant support to John Hill and his videoing all of my runs (wow I have a lot of Johns in my life:) to Lynda Orton-Hill and Jodi Altman who helped me with juggle my two dogs, to the great chiropractors in Kentucky, to Laura Campbell that took that picture of Encore & I, to my students that made the drive down just to watch us all, to my teammates Terry, Kim, Adrian & Lynda. I hope I am not forgetting anyone, but thank you all, you have made these past few weeks very special ones for me and I realize there is no way I can do any of this without the support of so many.


  1. Lori Kline says:
    Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 1:04pm

    Thank you for writing this. I had to swallow a big failure myself this past weekend when I started my young rescue pup in his first trial. Everything was going along real well until he “discovered” a stranger in his ring yelling out numbers and running with him over the contacts. Poor pup was so scared. Totally my fault for not prepping him for this aspect of trialing. I was so focused on how awesome he is and how much he loves the game.
    It is a failure yes, but a new challenge for me to work through. My other two rescues had/have their own set of issues that have helped me become a better handler. I know this experience is just one more thing will let me grow as a handler.



  2. Helen Verte says:
    Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 11:43am

    If ever there was a picture that was worth a thousand words, it would be this one. What a phenomenal shot!

    My favorite line out of this post is “I bounce not break when I fall.” What a useful affirmation for agility and life. I will borrow this one for my own use. 🙂

    Looking forward to your update on John Cullen’s project.


  3. Patricia says:
    Monday, October 25, 2010 at 9:27am

    I saw a man wearing a shirt at a recent trial that said: “Life without agility? I don’t think so.” Amusing enough, except for that person, who seems to have nothing else, including relationships in his life, it rang a little too true.

    I wished I had a shirt that said, “Life without agility? Gee, I’d sure miss it, but I’d find other things to do.”

    If we base our value on how we do in the ring and become entirely consumed with it, we risk being true AGILITY BORES.

    Part of what I love about agility is that it takes my mind off the highs and lows that are unavoidable with work and other projects. And work, projects and personal relationships prevent me from getting consumed with agility.

    To paraphrase an old saying, on our deathbeds, we won’t be saying, “I wish I handled that rear cross at the Bark Bark Trial a little better.”


  4. Jane n Bobs says:
    Friday, October 22, 2010 at 3:41pm

    Oh my stars Susan, just read my e-mail and being at Basic Level I’m on short time and the withdrawal symptoms are starting already…..I think the best idea would be for you to set up a SayYes school over here in England, what d’ya reckon!!!!!!


  5. Samantha says:
    Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 11:26am

    Fabulous posts the last couple of weeks! You have made me laugh out loud and inwardly groan, and through it all, helped me realize perspective is key to enjoying life and all of its activities. Your ability to bounce and not break when you fall is an important lesson, and one I will do my best to remember at all times.

    Congratulations on a terrific few weeks of competition, and thank you for sharing so much of yourself in your blogs.


  6. Kirstie Dean says:
    Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 10:56am

    My fear of failure has limited me all my life. One day I hope to overcome this. Alas I’m not there yet.


  7. Amy says:
    Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 9:43am

    Bill Parcell’s (NY football Giants coach) was reported to have said something along the lines of the following:

    “You’re never as good as you think when you’re winning or as bad as you think, when you’re losing. “


    • Amy says:
      Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 9:44am

      Parcells (forgive the misplaced apostrophe).


      • lahni thompson says:
        Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 6:01pm

        I get embarassed when I “fail” I too am dyslexic. I actually have a masters degree but no high school diploma. I went back as an adult. I am trying very hard to follow the system but sometimes do not even know how or why some manouver is a “flick” for example. I am very blessed to have two great trainers Paula C and Jane J to mentor me. As well I have made the commitment to “out reach” with Kim Collins and recently she gave me such positive feed back it felt great!!!Also when Susan is near enough I have started to take her seminars and no I did not cry. It makes up for some folks making fun of me when my dogs do not Q. I hope my new guy (Que) shows the results of consistancy, the system and the great recall program which has so much more than recalls. Thanks Lahni

  8. Amy says:
    Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 9:19am

    Thank you Susan for sharing your life with us. These are words of appreciation to know that you touch many of us. You are just the right medicine I need as I prepare myself for a job interview this morning.

    Lifes greatest successes often come after ones greatest dissappointments.


  9. Devora Locke says:
    Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 9:04am

    I hope you don’t mind that I shared your quote about failure and success, with a reference to this wonderful resource!

    Thanks for the insights, and congrats again on some amazing agility!!!


  10. Ferreh says:
    Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 8:33am

    I have to say, I have been very inspired by your last few posts. Not only did you “call yourself out” for your failures, you showed everyone what is possible when you are able to learn from the failure, then release it!

    Many times when I even hear the word “failure”, I think of Jerry McGuire, when he is in the airport and says, “Do you want my jacket? I don’t need it, because I’m CLOAKED in failure!” You certainly didn’t wear your failure like a cloak! You acknowledged it, then shook it off and went on to more successes!

    That example is so very inspiring to me, as I recently had some disappointments at the last stockdog trial that I went to, but I have done my best to release the failure and move on. You have helped me more than you know!


  11. denise says:
    Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 7:59am

    “two trophies– I thought you took three dogs with you?”

    BRILLIANT, you can’t help but laugh 🙂

    Great photo of you and Encore!


  12. Kristi says:
    Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 7:54am

    That fantastic photo captures everything I strive for with my dogs. The hardware’s certainly respectable, but what I want for my dog and me is the joy, the confidence, the comfort in our own skins. Thank you, Susan, for shedding such clear light on your path to help me make the most of mine.


  13. Ros says:
    Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 7:20am

    So true, Susan, so true!! We are a sum of all our successes and failures and it never hurts to balance them out. I had a recent experience in the obedience ring where my young dog had diarrhea and had to go IN the ring. So embarrassing….for a moment. And then we had something to prove…and he came back in the second round with a perfect score and won his class. Sometimes having a mountain to climb makes us better. Thanks for the timely motivation!


  14. Jim says:
    Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 12:55am

    I just added a printout of this post to a book I refer to when I find myself not focusing at trials, Agility Success. Thanks Susan for the inspirational words to live by.


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