The Success of Failure: 5 Things I Learned From Failing


I’m an Olympian.

Saying that never gets old. It’s hard to wrap your head around preparing 4 years of your life for one moment- a split second in time that will define who you are to the rest of the world. Back in 2012 I did exactly that when I won a bronze and silver medal in long jump and the triple jump respectively. To say expectations were high for me is an understatement, but nothing compares to the expectations I placed upon myself.

I failed to qualify for the long jump this year by one centimeter. I was shattered, and the world moved on to the next guy, leaving me in the dust as 4 years of mental and physical prep went down the drain. I had failed. It turns out that failing was exactly what I needed because 3 days later, I placed first in the triple jump, and now I’m packing my bags for Rio. 3 days was all it took for me to get up and brush myself off.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Pain is meant to be dealt with. My very first track coach sat me down and told me “You are going to sit here and talk about what happened. After that, you’re going to move on.” That’s exactly what I did. And I came out stronger on the other side.
  2. Remember your family. When I’m training, I tend to spend time to myself, closed off. But after this blow, I needed my family. I spent 3 days with them, being reminded of who I was and where I came from. I was completely re-energized.
  3. Seek love. Another Olympic team member came up to me after I failed to qualify and said, “Will, you performed. You know you can do this. Take that confidence into the triple jump.” I barely knew this guy, but he went out of his way to tell me this and it stayed with me.
  4. Give it to someone else. The night before I qualified for triple jump, my girlfriend came in 4th in hurdles and failed to make the team. Suddenly, I was able to put aside myself and place my focus on her.
  5. Success requires failure. I used to be focused on being great at everything, but now that I made the team in just the triples, I can focus my attention on being great solely at that. I’d rather have 1 gold than 2 silvers. And I’m going for gold.


-Will Claye, Long Jump and Triple Jump Olympian and Designer of the Will Claye Collection

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1 Response
  • Joseph Littledown
    July 21, 2016

    A very cool read.