• The EDUTable

From Failing to Extraordinary by Adam Kotowski

Updated: Feb 15


I was in the 6th grade, staring out the window. My vivid recollection of this memory is due to the massive headache I was battling, in addition to being born and raised in Chicago, the weather was unusually warm and sunny for February.

Drawing my attention away from the classroom, gave the pounding in my head some relief. Daydreaming, failure to pay attention and learn, my teachers historically would reprimand upon holding me after class. After dismissal, all I could do was think of several other times this past school year when I failed.


There was a basketball game when I missed a layup that would have tied the game. There was a Science Test I had vigorously studied for, only to obtain a D. And, there was a beautiful girl I had finally mustered the courage to tell I liked, only to find out she liked one of my good friends.


In the short minutes it took me to walk from one period class to another, my 6th grade self was able to emotionally attach to memories, in support of my belief that, I was insufficient.

How did this happen? All because teachers communicated to me that I couldn’t learn. The disheartening part is how I’d carry these teacher’s perceptions around as my own, for some time. Even as I moved on to other grade levels.


What I didn’t know at the time, but came to understand and discover, is how I was De-Riving.

In The Extraordinary Me Program, De-Riving is simply when we attach to an emotion, and then vigorously search our memory banks for previous experiences in our life with that exact emotion and production of result. In most cases, it’s what kids/teenagers/young adults define as Failure.


We internally dialogue, “See here’s other examples of how I failed before! I can’t do it! I’m not good at it.” And, this is where we begin to form habits of thought, that turn into beliefs about what we can and can’t do.


It is then, that our approach to present situations and current sets of circumstances, become what we allow our awareness to pull from our past emotions, in which we typically bring to our future quests.


De-Riving starts at a very young age and progresses through a child’s schooling and athletic career. Sadly, it’s brought with them into adulthood. I compare it to riding on a boat with your body turned backwards staring at the wake the whole time.


We’re physically moving forward, but mentally we keep searching backwards! Can it serve a purpose? Yes, if we use it as a platform to learn and grow from. Yet too many times, it’s where we focus most, if not all, of our awareness. We can “live” mentally by De-Riving in a past, created by interpretations, and then storing them as memories.


So, how do we transform this? We Drive!! Driving is when we proactively set the feeling we want to perform with, take on that feeling fully, and we bring it to our performance in the classroom and in athletics. Driving is Thriving!


I teach a way for student/athletes to remember that they are Extraordinary. I have them bring in times in their life when they knew they could Achieve something, and they did it.

Did they have obstacles and challenges? Of course. That’s what makes that achievement more valuable. Yet, when they know they are Extraordinary and they take on a feeling of Confidence to propel them, they truly Drive!


Driving is creativity, authenticity, and productivity. When students/athletes know who they are and hold this feeling of confidence with them, going backwards is not an option. In addition, they start to realize that they can use this feeling to transform those emotions and the mindset (De-Riving) that have tendencies to pull them back into those challenging times.

They’ll look at those challenging times with a new set of eyes instead of the darkness they had with them in the emotional moments before.


This process is so simple, yet its impact is a life changing foundation for our youth during their childhood development, where they are learning, growing, identifying, achieving in academics, athletics, and life.


Fast forward to age 33. I had signed up for an Iron Man Triathlon. Swimming was not natural to me. And Swimming in open water was terrifying due to an experience at a young age at a lake with my family.


I had practiced for 6 months at my local YMCA pool, only to find myself staring at the vast waves and darkness of no bottom underneath me at the starting line.


I breathed deep several times and applied The Extraordinary Me, creating that feeling of Confidence and transforming that childhood experience into a current opportunity. I was able to swim the 1.2- mile loop around the markers in the lake. I Drove! And as I did, while I was competing in the bicycle and run portion of the triathlon, I even questioned many of other doubts and challenges that I entertained as a kid and a young adult. What else was now possible that I didn’t entertain before? What did I learn before by De-Riving, that I now wanted to revisit with a new feeling and perspective?


So I ask all teachers, parents, coaches, administrators, and etc.… How will you inspire and guide your kids on Driving? How will you teach them to look forward in the boat and not be immersed on the attraction of the wake?


Be Extraordinary! It’s your choice.


Adam Kotowski

@Coachadam34 on Twitter

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