How to Fail Successfully: Picture Yourself Winning

"When you fail, you have to come back and push yourself harder"

by Liza Mundy
weight lifting image

Brittany Riesenberg, who was a competitive gymnast growing up, went back to the gym after having her fourth child. There, a regular started chatting with her and—noting her compact, muscular physique—suggested she take up weight lifting. She asked him to train her and quickly began winning state championships and national competitions. It was great until the day she stepped onto the platform during a state championship and prepared to do her “snatch”—a competitive lift—using a barbell loaded with 70 kilograms.

Most terrifying moment: “I ended up missing all my lifts. I had lifted the same weight in my warm-ups two minutes before. And then I missed it three times. I couldn’t get it overhead, or I’d get it overhead and couldn’t stand up. I had stage fright or something. You train for months for this one moment, you take all your supplements, do all your massage therapy, and then you go out there and botch it.”

How she got through it: “I think I was able to come back and do well in other competitions because of my drive to prove myself and show what I am capable of. I fought through the nerves, pictured myself winning and talked myself through any doubts. I went on to win the Utah Summer Games in 2013, setting new records there, and then went to California and won the state championship.”

What she learned: “You change your perspective on what’s important. Missing my lifts wasn’t the worst thing that could happen in life.”

What she should have done differently: “I should have worked on my mental preparation. A lot of times I’d have negative thoughts going out there—like, What if I miss it? I should not have been thinking like that.”

How she bounced back: “My coach would say, ‘Look how well you’ve done; look how much you’ve improved. Yes, you had a bad moment—but look at a guy who went to the Olympics and bombed. See how he’s come back from it.’ People who really put themselves out there sometimes fail. You can always hide and never try to do something, but if you’re trying to pursue something, you’re going to face these obstacles.”

Photo: @erics/

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First published in the December 2013/January 2014 issue

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