Acting, Athletics and the power of failure....

"Mental toughness is the ability to forgive yourself and MOVE ON" ...Howard Fine Acting Coach. 

"Every problem introduces a person to himself"... John McDonnell (Most successful coach in NCCA history) 


John McDonnell, the most successful coach in American college athletics history, went to the same primary school as I did in the tiny west of Ireland village of Moygownagh , and ran barefoot through the field of rushes and damp grass opposite, running into the sunset hills for the sheer joy of it. I played gaelic football on that same soil, now a modern sports field and remember how I would mentally berate myself each time I ill-judged that pass, mis-kicked the clearance and lost my marker. The fear of the next mistake would wrap cold me in an unforgiving vice and I would curse my stupidly or cowardice under my breath. I wanted to just get to the end of the game without making another mistake, so played it as safe as I could. Limiting my mistakes by limiting anything creative in my football.  As a safe mediocre player I sought to avoid being jeered or cursed at (mainly by my inner self!). I choose relief at the final whistle rather than being truly creatively alive during the game - which was after all surely the whole point of playing football - for the joy of it.

I am studying at the brilliantly challenging Howard Fine's acting school and tonight for my homework I read John McDonnell's story and something clicked, or rather slapped me with a tennis racket and ran after me with a shovel,  Against all the odds John McDonnell grew from that barefoot boy from Carn national school, running for the joy and inherent life of being alive in the Mayo fields to an iconic mentor and coach, inspiring the best from his young athletes. John believed in mental toughness - but where I believed it meant you never made a mistake - he knew it meant that only those who were strong enough to strive while failing and persevere in their struggle - were of such strength. To succeed I now realise, especially through Howard Fine, is to make mistakes, to fail and learn from failing, to forgive and get up, face the storm and do it again. 

A man named Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail". So while I fail, and have failed so many times and know I will do so again tomorrow, I am more of a man for it and closer to that finish line past the rushes and damp grass, to those sunset hills.

John McDonnell's story and Howard Fine's words are not just for athletes or actors.. they are for everyone who tries and fails - namely us, humans.

LA