By Karen Eden
Olympic medalist and World Champion figure skater Nathan Chen has a claim that, to this day, no other person in history can make. Nathan is the only figure skater to ever complete six quad jumps in competition. He has officially been deemed “the Quad King.”
A quad, or quadruple, is a figure skating jump with at least three, but fewer than four, revolutions. It is the jump that separates professional skaters from champion skaters. On average, Chen has practiced four hours of figure skating a day since the age of three. He is now 19 years old.
One day, Nathan did the math and figured out that he has jumped a minimum of 350,000 times in his life. As impressed as everyone who heard that was, they were taken aback when he followed it up with, “That means that I’ve also fallen at least 150,000 times, too.” That statement stunned me.
As a society, we like to praise our champions, often without knowing that failure that is part of any winner’s story. The bottom line is, you can’t be good at figure skating without falling — a lot!
I’ve often noticed around babies that they, too, fall a lot when first learning how to walk. Some babies will get right back up. Others will sit there and cry, waiting for someone stronger and more capable to come along and pick them back up. These babies aren’t hurt. There’s just something about falling that’s so frustrating and embarrassing, we feel it even at our most primitive level.
As a mother, I would often stop myself from consistently running to pick my baby up every time his butt hit the floor. Everything was fine and he learned how to pick himself up. It’s a lesson in life we all have to master if we want to survive.
As an instructor, I relate this story to my own black belts who teach under me. Sometimes, we have to let our students fall because it’s the only way they are going to learn how to be better.
I myself have fallen many times, and not just in martial arts. I’ve fallen in business; I’ve fallen in relationships. I’ve fallen so hard at times I’ve literally had to stay down there for a while to try and figure out what just happened. In true Nathan Chen form, I, too, have had many successes in my life, but half of the times I tried to be successful, I fell down.
So, if by chance you should ever see me in a photo, smiling while holding a trophy or plaque, just know that behind the success is a ton of falling. I had to get good at what I do, too, and I’ve got the bruises to prove it.
Today, I’m a proud martial arts instructor who has successfully helped hundreds of karate students fall down and pick themselves back up. I don’t help them up when they fall, either. As a matter of fact, sometimes I have to turn my head so they don’t see me laughing.
As for Nathan Chen, the young Olympic contender who isn’t afraid to talk about failure, he’s got a lot more falls ahead of him. But it’s refreshing to see that he has mastered the art of failure so gracefully. You see, you can’t win if you don’t pick yourself back up, and you can’t pick yourself back up if you don’t first fall.
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