As we head into the testing season I just wanted to reiterate, if only for my own peace of mind, something my teacher said on the way to Ise last year: that you shouldn’t think of testing in terms of success or failure. Of course we all want to pass the test — there’s pride, desire, and even money mixed into it — but she said that’s the wrong approach. Better to have a goal that is far off… (8-dan? Win the nationals? Enlightenment?) and think that the level you’re testing this time is just a step along the way. Instead of making a big deal about passing or failing, you’re simply asking the shinsa-in a question: How am I doing? What level am I at right now? Then you take that result back and feed it into the effort to achieve your long-term goal. The only way to fail is to not show up.
PS Zen has a good quote on this subject from Zhuang-zi here.