Think your week had a rough start? Just imagine how Vikings kicker Blair Walsh feels. With 26 seconds left in Sunday’s game, all he needed was to make one field goal from the 27-yard line. It felt like a sure thing, allowing the Vikes — the perpetual underdog — to advance in the playoffs.
Snap, kick and … wide left. Walsh had been 33-for-34 on field goal attempts from inside 30 yards in his career, according to ESPN stats. In fact, he led the NFL with 34 field goal attempts in the regular season. He should have been able to make that goal blindfolded.
The anticipated glory was snuffed out in an instant and the hearts of Vikings’ fans everywhere were crushed. (Seriously, people were upset. Check out videos of Vikes fans watching that kick. It’s so funny yet so sad.)
LinkUp is headquartered in Minneapolis, so of course Monday any mention of this notorious kick was met with despair. This got me thinking about the big picture. How do people, not just professional sports players, come back from a major career failure?
Fortunately, many failures the average worker experiences are much more private than Walsh’s, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are any less devastating. Failure is a fact of life, and it can define you in a good way or in a bad way.
When faced with career failure, the first step is to not let it become your identity. It’s true that most of us are our worst critic. It can be difficult to focus on anything else besides the negative, especially right when it happens. But failure is not who you really are, unless you let it be. Resist making it personal and try to focus instead on times of success.
“I’ll take the blame, because I deserve every second of it,” Walsh said of his botched kick. He took responsibility for the loss despite being the only team member that put points on the board that game. Without him, it would have been a 10-0 blowout. (And let’s not forget that terrible Adrian Peterson fumble, among other team blunders.)
What Walsh needs to do is take a break. And that is the second piece of advice I offer professionals trying to overcome a failure. Fresh off career embarrassment, it’s impossible to be objective. A few days to a few weeks can be rejuvenating and allow you to revisit the failure with a fresh perspective.
Finally, it’s time to learn from your mistakes. Put aside any feelings of anger, take stock and persevere. How can you ensure this mistake doesn’t happen again? How can you make a positive change in the future? There’s something to learn from every failure, and oftentimes a failure can be inspirational, if you allow it to be.
Football is notoriously cutthroat both on and off the field. It was particularly refreshing to read responses from Vikings team members who spoke out in support of Walsh after the dreadful playoff mistake. Support can be key to overcoming the suffocating weight of the negative.
“He’s stepped up big for us and won games for us in the past,” said safety Harrison Smith. “Not going to abandon him now.”
Wide receiver Nate Burleson tweeted, “I know today seems like a dark day in your athletic career but you will bounce back better & stronger from this brotha. You have kicked game winners before and will make game winners in the future. And not to mention you were a huge part of why the Vikes were in the game with 3 field goals so hold your head high.”