American Ninja

Life, Sports

“Failure- why define them as failures? Let’s focus instead on what was learned.


So much is said on the value of setting goals & following through.  But very little guidance is offered on how to cope with failure, once you’ve committed everything you have to that goal.  It is crushing- debilitating- to care so much- want it so badly- work and sacrifice in pursuit of one end, that slips farther and farther away.  How long do you keep fighting for it? All the motivational speakers I’d heard said “You push until you succeed, and accept no excuses”. And that is exactly what I did with pole vaulting.  I set goals with deadlines, and every time I fell short, I would double up on conditioning:  Add extra reps, extra sets, more workouts, less rest days.


In hindsight, that’s the reason I stopped progressing, and if I had understood the value of rest, perhaps I would have succeeded.  But because I failed to grasp that concept, I had to watch helplessly, as the one thing I wanted most crumbled out from under me.  It became a pattern.  I’d have a goal, commit to it, get invested, care too much, push too hard, accidentally self sabotage, and ultimately fail.  This line of thinking was intolerable.  I have always been so inspired by dreams and goals, and I felt crippled by this concept.


 I was afraid to dream- afraid to care.

Jessie Graff: American ninja warrior and first woman ever to complete Stage One


In order to cope, I had to learn to value the strength, skills, and lessons I had learned in pursuit of the goal more than the end itself.  Goals are invaluable in motivation.  They push me to work harder, smarter, and be better, whether I reach them or not.  If I hadn’t cared so much about the Olympics, I would not have dedicated the time, the efforts, or the study to pole vaulting that I did. I would not have learned the skills that have made me a successful stuntwoman and ninja warrior.  Although I wasn’t able to apply them to achieving the initial goal, they came back to support me in goals that I never knew I had.


When I first started training for ninja warrior, I promised myself I would NOT get emotionally invested and I would NOT care about the competition. I would work hard to get stronger and more capable, With each hour I devoted to training, and every small success on the show, I cared more, which inspired me to work harder.  And the harder I worked, the more I cared.  I couldn’t help it.


In season 7, I was so deeply invested in beating stage 1, that I drilled the warped wall and the jumping spider over and over to eliminate any chance of failure. The excessive sprints, jumps, lifts, and overtraining ultimately backfired, causing a stress fracture in the neck of my femur.  My attempts to maintain leg strength only succeeded in slowing down the healing process, so by the time I competed on stage one, three months later, I had lost most of the muscles in my legs. I failed the warped wall, because my legs were too weak and too slow.  I was devastated, but what had I gained?  Not only was my upper body stronger than ever, I began integrating a lesson that I should have learned years ago from pole vaulting. If you want to succeed, you have to be disciplined enough to rest, when you don’t want to.  It’s not in my nature to give half efforts, but I came to understand that the optimal amount of training is about ¼ of what I think is appropriate.  Having the discipline to sit through the discomfort of stopping before I feel exhausted, is what allowed me to get stronger than ever. Instead of thinking “what would make me the most badass?” I’d ask “what will realistically make me stronger and healthier long term?”
And because I finally learned from my past failures, this year, I succeeded.



Jessie Graff: American ninja warrior and first woman ever to complete Stage One, Stunt woman (X-men, Transformers, etc.), Television personality, Pole vault champion, black belts in Taekwondo and Kung Fu

Category Life, Sports


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