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Business, Leaders

Thrown Under the Bus – Part 6: Failure

nathan-chen_free-skate_2018-winter-olympics

Nathan Chen – 2018 Winter Olympics Men Free Skate Competition (Source: ABC News)

The 2018 Winter Olympic Games will conclude later today, Sunday, February 25, 2018. While I have not been glued to the television every evening for the past two weeks, I did my share of event watching – especially those events involving snowboarding and ice skating! The current U.S. medal count (Ref 1): 9 gold, 8 silver, and 6 bronze (23 total) – is well below the number of medals predicted. Countries with more medals are Norway (38), Germany (30), and Canada (29).

As one sports writer put it, while Team USA’s medal forecast is lower than predicted, the 2018 Winter Olympic Games haven’t lacked for thrilling gold-medal moments including awesome performances by Sean White and Chloe Kim for the half-pipe snowboarding events. Some surprises and missed expectations surfaced, however, in the men and women’s figure skating events. One of my favorite athletes going into these winter games is Nathan Chen.

Chen, an 18-year old American, has been described by some as possibly the greatest athlete in men’s figure skating history. The 2018 winter games would be his first Olympics and it was acknowledged that he was competing in a talented field with other hopefuls. Last week, in his first two events, he made errors in his short program in the team skating event and botched each of his jumps. He did the same in the men’s short program. This landed him in 17th place for all competitors including Team USA’s Adam Rippon who placed 7th and Vincent Zhou in 12th place.

On his less than stellar performance, Chen said, “It was rough. Nothing really clicked together. I did all the right stuff going into it, so it should have been different. But stuff happens. I’ll try to take it for what it is and move on.”

We all know that stuff happens. It really does happen! And it happens even with the best laid plans and preparation. Some days, nothing clicks! Life is all about stuff happening. A reality that too many of know all too well — that everyday life can be extremely hectic and stressful. All too often, we imagine and dream the perfect life with all ups and no downs.

The reality is that there is no such thing as a perfect life, and that sometimes we need an attitude adjustment or re-evaluation of our lives to address the disappointments and curveballs that may come our way. In Maria Shriver’s new book, I’ve Been Thinking…, she reminds us that:

  • We spend so much time looking for the perfect life, that we miss what’s good and working around us.
  • We are all in this together.
  • We are the ones that we have been waiting for.

Therefore, good, bad, or indifferent, life is happening now! As humans, we tend to do much better when good things are happening. However, when those curveballs or the bad shows up, it is what we do or don’t do that has often made a world of a difference in the lives of many persons. Before discussing how Chen handled his less than stellar performances for the two short programs, I need to point out that this is my sixth post in the Thrown Under the Bus Series, however, it is the first one that focuses on our own actions or inactions and not what a second or third party has or is attempting to do to us.

Regrettably, failure and fear of failure has thrown many persons under the bus. Equally important to point out is that the failures of others can also throw one under the bus. Most successful persons, if they are being honest with you and themselves, will tell you that they have had their share of failures in life. Here are some quotes from a few of those persons:

  • “It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” Bill Gates
  • “There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.” Brene Brown
  • “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” Colin Powell
  • “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” Michael Jordan
  • “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Henry Ford

Finding himself in 17th place, Chen still had the individual men’s free skate long program ahead of him the next day. He’d already planned to include five quads in the routine, but he mentally choreographed the addition of one more. After mapping out the routine in his head, he said “screw it” and went to bed. He woke up the next morning knowing that he was out of medal contention. What did he do? He skated like nobody was watching!

Chen skated in an early group on Saturday morning, February 18, 2018. It was there that he made history by becoming the first man to attempt six quads and land five cleanly in a program at the Olympics. He earned a score of 215.08 in the free skate and a total score of 297.35 to move up from 17th place in the short program to finish in 5th place for men’s figure skating.

“I know at this point I had literally nothing to lose so I decided to just try it,” Chen said. “I planned it after last night. (I said) I am not going to hold myself and play it safe today. If I made a couple mistakes, so be it. I decided I was capable of doing it, why not try it? I definitely did want to redeem myself after the first two short programs.” [Ref 2]

He didn’t win a gold or silver medal, but he did make history at these games, and proved that even if you don’t start well, you can end well and finish strong. Chen and his team mates did earn a bronze medal for the men’s team figure skating event. It appears that the pressures of the game and the hype surrounding his debut was a bit too much for him. He allowed this to get in his head and as a result did not skate as well as he could have during the short programs.

At 18, Chen learned a very valuable lesson and with all the world watching. “I was just glad that at least I ended it like that,” he says. More important, he has learned a lesson that many who are 10, 20, 30, or 40+ years older than him have yet to learn. He adds that he was “kind of glad people realize that I’m human, I make mistakes.”

Nathan Chen makes mistakes. Vi Brown has and will make mistakes! We all do. As Maria Shriver reminds us, “A meaningful life doesn’t mean a perfect life. It means making mistakes. It means getting up and trying again and again. It requires strength, faith, hope, and love.”

Photo Credits: Nathan Chen – ABC News, Golden Gate Bridge – Myrna Ray Johnson,

Sources Cited:

  1. 2018 Medal Standings, https://www.usatoday.com/sports/winter-olympics-2018/medals/?year=2018 (last reviewed on 02.24.2018)
  2. Nathan Chen ends his 2018 Winter Olympics experience on his own terms, by Martin Rogers for USA Today Sports, Feburary 17, 2018, https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/columnist/martin-rogers/2018/02/16/nathan-chen-ends-his-2018-winter-olympics-experience-own-terms/347638002/
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About Vi Brown

Vi is principal and CEO of Prophecy Consulting Group, LLC, an Arizona firm that provides business and engineering services to private and public clients. Prior to establishing her consulting practice in 2001, Vi worked with Motorola, Maricopa County Government, Pacific Gas & Electric, CH2M Hill, and Procter & Gamble. As an adjunct faculty member, Vi teaches undergraduate calculus classes and graduate level environmental courses. She is also a professional speaker.

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