Fear of Failure: My Olympic Story

vivian adaobi nweze nbc olympics sochi russia“Mom, Dad…I’m going to Russia!!!”

After a year of endless rejection…e-mails, letters, phone calls, and in person…I was chosen. I was selected. My “losing streak” was over in a way I couldn’t even fathom.

When you are a competitor in a game where everyone is fighting to be the best…you face a lot of rejection. I was used to rejection in athletics, memberships, jobs, internships, pageants, student elections, relationships, etc. Despite any negative outcome, I always tried to pick myself up and keep going. At the end of my junior year of college I couldn’t see a point to that. In one year I had been rejected nearly 100 times. So when I was vivian adaobi nweze nbc olympics sochi russiarecommended to apply to NBC for the Winter Olympics in Russia, I didn’t plan to. Why waste more time and effort just to feel like a failure again?

The day the application was due it barely crossed my mind. It was a Friday and I was about to go out with my friend Sondai. I mentioned the application to her and she questioned me. “Are you sure you don’t want to submit something?”  I sat at her desk and sent in the application with two minutes to spare. I knew I wouldn’t get it, but Sondai made me think of all of the people who would leap at the chance vivian adaobi nweze nbc olympics sochi russiajust to be considered. An anticipated rejection couldn’t hurt me.

That application led to  interviews and despite how well the process seemed to go, I had no hope. I didn’t pray about it. I didn’t dream about it. I didn’t tell anyone. I was scared of people knowing about my impending failure so I kept it to myself. How does one keep dreaming when they doubt themselves to the point of paralysis? That’s a question I wrestled with as I didn’t await our final notification. It didn’t matter that I had years of television vivian adaobi nweze nbc olympics sochi russiaand media experience under my belt, won national awards, and believed I had some talent. One hundred previous rejections meant I wasn’t good enough.

So when the e-mail came, I wasn’t just ecstatic. I was humbly surprised.

Cramming my whole senior year in to one semester left no room for me to fear success or predict failure. All I had energy for was to get shit done. When I finally arrived at the Olympics I had a clear mind and no expectations. Our Olympics schedule was grueling. With basically no days I was forced to stay out of my head and let ‘get it done’ become my motto. Any task thrown at me was handled swiftly, precisely, and eagerly. By focusing on the work and accomplishing difficult tasks my confidence in my skills grew, as well as my credibility with the entire NBC staff. Two years later I’m happily still with NBC thanks to my time in Russia.

vivian adaobi nweze nbc olympics sochi russiaWatching the Rio Olympics this year was a reminder for me to not let fear of failure hold me back.  The voices of doubt in your head can be silenced by shifting your perspective. Just look at the world class athletes who traveled to Rio despite financial issues, injuries, Zika virus, and Brazil’s sociopolitical chaos. If they can do all of that, what’s keeping you from achieving your dreams? We are all human. The actual goal itself may not be reached, but taking yourself out of the game makes it impossible. Focus on the work. Believe in your abilities. Let go of past disappointments. Reach for every opportunity. Get out of your head. 

I almost blocked my own blessing. Don’t stand in the way of yours.



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