"Failure is fuel": Abby Wambach summons "Wolf Pack" in commencement speech

Last Wednesday, soccer champion, equal pay/LGBTQ activist, and badass extraordinaire Abby Wambach delivered the keynote for Barnard College, an all-women's liberal arts college in Manhattan. She shared with the graduating class, who she deemed the "Wolf Pack," the four rules she used to unite her own soccer team "pack," the team which went on to win Olympic gold.

Here's the first rule, "MAKE FAILURE YOUR FUEL":

Here’s something the best athletes understand, but seems like a hard concept for non-athletes to grasp. Non-athletes don’t know what to do with the gift of failure. So they hide it, pretend it never happened, reject it outright—and they end up wasting it.

Listen: Failure is not something to be ashamed of, it's something to be POWERED by. Failure is the highest octane fuel your life can run on. You gotta learn to make failure your fuel.

When I was on the Youth National Team, only dreaming of playing alongside Mia Hamm. You know her? Good. I had the opportunity to visit the National Team’s locker room. The thing that struck me most wasn’t my heroes' grass-stained cleats or their names and numbers hanging above their lockers—it was a picture. It was a picture that someone had taped next to the door so that It would be the last thing every player saw before she headed out to the training pitch.

You might guess it was a picture of their last big win, of them standing on a podium accepting gold medals—but it wasn’t. It was a picture of their longtime rival—the Norwegian national team—celebrating after having just beaten the USA in the 1995 World Cup.

In that locker room, I learned that in order to become my very best—on the pitch and off—I’d need to spend my life letting the feelings and lessons of failure transform into my power. Failure is fuel. Fuel is power.

Women, listen to me. We must embrace failure as our fuel instead of accepting it as our destruction.

As Michelle Obama recently said: "I wish that girls could fail as well as men do and be okay. Because let me tell you watching men fail up—it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating to see men blow it and win. And we hold ourselves to these crazy, crazy standards."

Wolf Pack: Fail up. Blow it, and win.

To learn her other three rules, watch the video above or read the full transcript of Wambach's inspirational speech.

(Cheryl Strayed)

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