The gun goes off.
My teammate blasts off the blocks, sprinting down the first curve of the track towards the 2nd leg to pass off the baton to my other teammate.
After a smooth exchange of the baton, our team’s 2nd leg came flying down the backstretch of the track like Usain Bolt, giving us a convincing lead for our 3rd leg to maintain.
My time under the spotlight was coming up. I was the 4th leg a.k.a “the anchor” — the runner who is supposed to keep the lead or chase down our opponents.
As our 3rd leg received the baton, my teammate came running down the second curve with a full head of steam. He was MOVING. Nearing closer, it was my cue to take off so that we could pull off a successful baton exchange and finish the race.
All I had to do is grab the baton, and hammer down these last 100 meters. Piece of cake…but that never happened
As I stuck out my hand for the baton, I began to panic. We only had 20ish meters in the passing zone to exchange the baton, and half-way through it still wasn’t in my hand.
My hand started to move uncontrollably from side to side, becoming a moving target that only made it harder for my teammate to pass the stick. My fingers began to wiggle, grabbing nothing but the air, hoping that the baton will magically find it’s way into my grip.
My nervousness got the best of me in which my hand began to fumble with the baton once I felt it hit my palm, leading me to drop it.
I didn’t want to let my teammates or coaches down knowing that we had practiced this very situation all season, but to no avail, I failed.
I did the walk of shame off of the track as the other teams passed the finish line. We were so close, but I f*cked it up.
I felt so disappointed in letting my team down.
Despite my mistake, my teammates understood that we all goof up. They continued to reaffirm their faith in me and each other to continue working together as a team. They understood that this moment was an opportunity to learn from collectively, rather than an excuse to blame one another for our loss.
The perceptive way in which teammates reacted to my failure taught me a valuable lesson about trust:
- With the gift of trust, we gain the confidence to perform an ability we are doubtful of being able to do.
- Without it, we have the excuse to reaffirm our doubts, preventing us from expanding upon our current capabilities as an athlete, as a creative, as a partner, as a friend, and as a human.
I could have chosen to let my discouragement get the best of me.
I could have let my imposter syndrome trick me into believing that I didn’t deserve a spot on the relay squad.
Had it not been for the trust and reassurance from my teammates, those negative “what if’s” may have gone to define who I was/am as an athlete.
Even though I dropped the baton, my teammates never dropped their trust in me.
“Trust is our ability in some way to live with what we will never know, but to somehow tolerate that unknown enough that we can move and take risks and love, and all of those things.” — Psychotherapist, Esther Perel
My Team Trusted the Process
They understood that my mistake was part of the process of improving as a team.
They understood that my mistake would be one of the many mistakes we will all make, individually or as a group, in this process of becoming a better team.
They understood that those mistakes will serve as a lesson to learn from, rather than an excuse to blame one’s shortcomings.
Seeing that my teammates held unsurmountable faith in each other to execute when it matters most — it boosted my confidence and trust in my ability to execute at the same level.
Upholding these values of trust in ourselves can liberate our minds from thinking that we have to live up to perfectionist standards. Reciprocating that trust onto others can liberate our teammates, co-workers, friends, family, etc, from feeling the need to live up to perfectionist standards as well.
Truth be told, the perfectionist lifestyle is unrealistic and ultimately, a miserable experience.
If I ran for a team where everybody pointed fingers and berated anybody for every single error, the track would turn into a fricken battlefield. Trust is about understanding where we go wrong so that we can understand what it will take to go right.
Beyond the spectrum of sports, I learned that keeping a sense of trust in the capabilities of ourselves and our peers enables us to focus on what we can control — rather than meditating on past faults that are now out of our hands.
Take it from me, an athlete who has dropped the baton.
An athlete who has been disqualified for false-starting from the blocks.
An athlete who has forgotten his track spikes to one of his meets in high school.
An athlete who learned not to eat a breakfast burrito 30 min before practice (trust me, don’t).
An athlete who implores every single person, in and out of sports, to garner trust in themselves and the peers they collaborate with.
Trust that the walls you will encounter on your creative, entrepreneurial, and personal endeavors are a set of challenges meant to test your willingness to break through the mental and emotional barriers that intimidate you from taking another step forward.
Despite my errors on the track, my teammates refused to drop their trust in me. I hope that you will do the same, just how others may do for you.