Make Failure Your Friend

I’ve been a swimmer for almost ten years now, and I currently swim for Eastern Michigan University. This sport has taught me priceless lessons that will accompany me for the rest of my life. The most important lesson I have learned is that “The battle is not over until you win.”

My dad, an athlete in his own right as a marathon runner, would always tell me over and over, “the battle is not over until you… win.” For years, I could never truly figure out the meaning of this statement. It just didn’t make sense to me. I often began to think, “What happens if the battle is over and the results aren’t in your favor?” You must accept it. That’s life. I remember what it was like being a young swimmer. Everything was much easier, expectations were blurry, and the pressure was minor.

At the age of 16, I began to learn the importance of setting goals for myself and how to work hard to achieve them. One winter night, my dad and I were driving back after an important championship, where I experienced failure for the first time. After taking first place at the previous championship, seeding second for this race was a hard pill to swallow.

The determination to win was running through my veins for this race, I was sure I was going to win. I even told myself: “You must protect the champion title!” With all the pressure I put on myself, I false started my race, got disqualified and was forced to finish my championship without racing.

While driving home after the exhausting four-day swimming championship, in pure silence and my  body swollen in the car seat, my dad said to me, “Michal, the battle is not over.” I responded with rage, “Yes, it is.” “NO!” He attacked back. “The battle is not over until YOU WIN,” he said, “You will come back next time and you will claim that win. You will work harder, wish stronger, focus better, and then you will win it. It’s over when you say it’s over.”

I sat in the car silently and finally understood what he meant. This battle is personal. This win was a deeply personal goal of mine. I had to tell myself “I will come back next championship, better, stronger, and wiser – and I will win.”

Winning is an abstract and subjective achievement, not a fixed task determined by others. No one else can tell you if you have won your battle, but YOU. I will come back, I said to myself, and I will win. I sat quietly in the car as a tear dropped down my cheek. On that day I faced failure for the first time, but it was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. The lesson I learned from that day has followed me ever since. It has become a dear friend. Two years later, I didn’t only win in my age group, but won the entire meet!

Still, every time I fail, I remind myself, the battle is not over until you win. As a swimmer for Eastern Michigan University the goal now has become to win the MAC conference with my team, EMU women swimming and diving. Together, we will WIN! It’s not over yet.

About the Writer

Michal Liberman is an swimmer at EMU. She is a junior, majoring in public relations. Michal is from Israel originally, works part time in the EMU Division of Communications, and is featured in EMU’s #YouAreWelcomeHere banner campaign.