Normalizing Failure

Photo Cred: Amy Humphries

The number of times in my life that I have done anything at all, perfectly is approximately zero. I’ve done some things well, other things even better, but nothing in life have I executed or carried out perfectly. As a matter of fact, some things I’ve attempted in life… many things… I’ve absolutely failed in. I’ve failed to show up for friends and family when they’ve needed me. Failed in carrying out duties at work. Failed in my workouts and fitness life at times which I take pretty seriously as a lifestyle and habit.

And yet through my failures I’ve learned. Overcome. Transitioned. And grown. Through my failures I’ve seen things from a new perspective I didn’t know mattered. Through my failures I’ve been able to stand up and try again.

John Maxwell, a bestselling author and expert on leadership says, “A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.”

Applying this concept to my life, I’d like to introduce the idea of failure being quite normal even freeing. Because in failure we get the chance and opportunity to try again and overcome.

An example of this could be a child learning how to read or trying a sport for the first time. It would be insane to expect that child to perform a new task perfectly. The beauty of being a child is they are given the right (for the most part) to make mistakes in things, learn consequences if there are any, and get better.

I remember my first swim meet ever, I was 7 years old, maybe 8, and was supposed to swim a 25-yard breaststroke. I got to the end of the lane and popped my head up, thrilled to see I had won. For all of 3 seconds when the person running the timer in my lane said I was disqualified. I actually swam freestyle, not breaststroke. Oops! I learned the lesson and never made the mistake again I don’t think through all my years on a swim team. I had failed. But no one held it against me.

So why would we hold failure against ourselves as adults? Why do we take such considerable strides to HIDE failure on social media and with friends and family? I’m all about putting our best foot forward in life, but what if that is actually crippling us at the end of the day rather than living authentically with our stories of not being where we want to be yet that could be encouraging and helpful to so many people.

I submit to you now that failure is more normal than carrying out any task in life perfectly.

I’d like to see failure normalized, not hidden behind pretty social media posts and trying to hide our faults and failures to the enormous extent that we do.

Another example comes from my own life with working out and Triathlons. I used to compete in regularly 1 to 2 times a year in Triathlons around the northeast of the US in new cities and towns each race. My first year I had a HORRIBLE race time. I put so much effort into training and making a goal time for the race, yet I completely blew it the day of the race. I briefly thought to myself “I’m not made to do Tris.” I almost gave up this hobby and lifestyle because of a bad race. It took about two weeks until I missed the swimming, biking, and running and chose instead to say, “Well, it seems I have a lot to learn and become better in with regards to workouts and training. I can do better next time.”

I think giving into the first statement, “I’m just not made to do this” isn’t going to help me win and become better at the next thing I choose to focus my time and energy on. It isn’t going to help me succeed. It isn’t going to help me really at all. Though I failed in reaching all of my goals that first race, I chose instead to see my end time as a reason to adjust, get educated on workouts, include other people in my training by talking to a couple of other athletes who had done way more racing than I ever have.

I chose to realize that “failure” was just a matter of personal definition, not an absolute that determined an end to something that I really enjoyed— in this case swimming, biking, and running—despite my slow pace and poor choices in the race that really set me back.

Normalizing failure for any and all can be a way to rethink failure in general. If you personally “did bad” in something— could be anything from baking a cake that turned out horribly that you meant to give to someone for a special occasion, to showing disruptive and “bad” behavior at an event that in retrospect you realize you shouldn’t have acted that way—and you choose instead to learn grow and change based off of that perceived failure, have you really failed at all?

I don’t know a single person on planet earth that has done ANYTHING perfectly in life. But everyone I know has messed up in big or small ways around me my whole life, including myself, and the world still moves on.

Instead of getting caught up with our failures, beating ourselves up, ruminating on went wrong, what if instead we chose to focus on the positive that might be a result of that failure? What if that time we didn’t show up as we should for someone we learn the art of apologizing and making amends? What if we recognize that no matter how old we are, we are fallible human beings and failing is a part of life. Failing is actually… normal… and can bring about positive change including overcoming obstacles and achieving greatness in some area.

This new year, let’s embrace our “failures” as we might call them and realize that as Maxwell said, “The only guarantee for failure is if we stop trying.”

As long as you admit the mistake, change the course, make a new decision next time you’re faced with a problem or dilemma that you “failed in” then truly failure isn’t the end of the story.

I’m sure many people are making new year’s resolutions and vowing changes for 2021. Let’s not see 2020 as a failure, but a year of learning and growth. Let’s choose to walk into 2021 refreshed for amazing opportunities that if we keep going, don’t give up, and try again in we can have the greatest personal success imaginable, no matter what our goals are be them relational, financial, spiritual, physical, or any area of life that you may be holding onto failure in.

There is always hope. There is always room for growth and change. There is always a new time to keep the faith and change the course for better next time. At the end of the day, without failure we will never fully understand the deep feelings that success brings.

Balanced Triathlete

Balaned-Triathlete

Go. Go on days you don’t want to. Push yourself in training. Don’t be afraid of speed or injury. Fear will hold you back from most everything in life. Fear kills. Even fear of taking a break, a day off to recoup. After all, your body recovers during those breaks and reaches its max potential at rest! The R&R is what builds and strengthens for the next workout, which tears muscles and pushes heart and body to health.

But still.

If you want to rest well and work out well you have to know, it’s gauging what you want in your fitness goals with what you need to get there. It’s all about balance.

Training With Others & Knowing my Limits

I learned that I’m not the best –that I need others encouragement, motivation, and advice to become a better triathlete. But in that, not everyone knows what my body feels. If I skip a morning workout because I worked my body too hard the previous two days, that’s okay. I know that the best way for me to grow as an athlete is by sharpening and honing my fitness from others around me –but as I ask questions and learn from others, I judge what’s best for more. It’s a balance.

I’m in Control of my Body & Sometimes my Body Needs Grace

I learned that I’m in control of my body. But my body is also in control too. I need to treat it well for it to do what I want. I need to drink more water, take in more plants- fruits and veggies, and protein, and I need to train my body in the moment, to work with my mind. Breathing, posture, and burning in my muscles all matter to keep pushing and not give up. I am in control. But as I have that control, I guide and train my body with gentleness and patience when it doesn’t do what I want on a “bad workout day.” I cannot let those days get me down. It’s a balance.

Saying “No” to People & Spending Time With People

I learned that I need to be okay with saying “no” to people, to events, to even family when it is important that I sleep and take care of myself as I push. I feel like I’ve learned that “no” word a few seasons in my life, and once more it matters as I drive through the distractions in life. So often I feel I don’t want to be left out of an event, or miss a hilarious “you had to be there” moment. But that just means that I prioritize the fear of missing out, over the reality that I need to take down time to perform at my highest potential. Saying “no” is a way to get that down time, so I can get to that early morning work out, feeling rested and good about it, instead of grouchy and upset all day.

But I don’t want to be one track minded –that the ultimate, most important thing is going to bed and working out early, with work and even second trainings in between. People matter. Events matter. Life outside of training matters. It’s a balance.

Rejoicing in the Triumphs & Continuing to Push

Lastly, I learned that I need to rejoice in the gains I have made, while determining where I still want to go. I swim fast and bike hard, but run slowly that my feet feel like they are dragging, THAT’S OKAY. Rejoice in the swimming and biking, and look forward to tomorrow when I can run again on a new day. Rejoicing in today, while looking forward to and planning tomorrow’s workout. It’s a balance.

Olympics Inspired

Have you seen this ad?

 

Relentless. Strong. Fierce. Driven. Self- controlled.

Many words come to mind when thinking of the men and women who compete in the Olympics every 4 years. The night is a battleground for many who fight for their dreams of making it to the top. And for all that they put in, they deserve their 15 minutes in the light with hundreds of cameras and billions of eyes on them.

To fight and to risk blood and sweat for the honor and glory that comes with being number one in the world requires a dedication that some might say comes from within, but there has to be depth to a person who doesn’t quit, and doesn’t quit, and doesn’t quit, each and every time their body and mind scream “Stop!”

A piece of me is jealous of those who compete. And a piece of me wants to want anything as much as the athletes that go for the gold.

Then I pause and think. Wait. Don’t I have a reason to be like them??

I’m not the strongest, fastest, skinniest, or most athletic person out there. But don’t I have a reason to want to be the best that I can for Him? To give more, serve more, love when it hurts, and stand for what’s right? To take care of my body with fitness and nutrition? To work for my dreams, even if it means waking up early to write that next paragraph for my writing projects? To help with a film project that isn’t my own, so that I can begin stepping toward the goals He’s placed within me?

He sacrificed EVERYTHING for the sake that I might live, but I waste away half my days and nights in front of Netflix and Facebook. I sit in front of a screen that doesn’t see me. Doesn’t care for me. Doesn’t help me with anything except in becoming a cliché, inorganic daughter of the world.

Why am I not fighting tooth and nail for anything bigger than myself? Be it a gold medal in the spotlight at the Olympics or learning a new piano song in my living room, there is life to be lived and had, but sometimes I struggle to care.

It’s easier to eat food that comes from a box, rather than something I cook on my own. It’s easier to spend my money on clothes that will sit in the back of my closet, instead of giving back to the community around me. It’s easier to love this sacred screen, over volunteering at church or helping my Mom with the dishes that pile up behind me. And I’m so sick of doing what’s easy.

Do you know how counter cultural it is to act on being healthy? To act on giving more from my pocket than I keep? To act on wanting to glorify Him with my mind by picking up a book and reading, rather than passively listening the to buzz around me of new hit songs and the latest Hollywood (or political) scandal? I learned from the Bible that my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and living God. Then why do I so easily give into the whims of the world around me with boxed food, Band-Aid medicine, consumer shopping, and couch potato entertainment?

I think in my conviction of my blasé attitude to the depth of passivity I see in my life, I wonder at the authenticity of others around me who claim Jesus, joy, and freedom all the while turning to the worlds doctors, psychologists, next form of entertainment, or giving into our seductive stores and “Quick Fix” “Feed Me” mentality of our consumer culture.

Back to the ad at the beginning. There is power in story and the athletes who compete in the Olympics have stories of defeat, wearing down, and tripping up. But they keep going no matter what because of the depth and passion within, that relentless pull to be the best version of themselves. So their stories are also stories of passion, driveness, working through the night, and fighting in the morning. They see the worth in continuing to grow themselves, not accepting defeat or a trip up at face value. And every 4 years, when all eyes and cameras are on the athletes at the Olympics, the world sees the fruit of the fight and stands inspired.

I am far from perfect. But as I stumble through life, I’m learning that if there is anything I can control- it is to not give up on this journey that God has me on, but instead to become the best version of me for His glory.

I want to “go for the gold” so to speak, not just on Sunday morning, but in the daily decisions of pursing dreams, pursuing relationships and friendships, making my physical and mental health a priority like my spiritual health, and living a life beyond the screens that I can’t seem to escape (which is ironic because I work in TV, but I don’t want TV to become my life).

Though I will fall hard sometimes, flat on my face imperfect as I am, I don’t intend to stay there. I owe my life to the One who bought it with His blood. He gives me an option of either being a passive, inorganic daughter of the world, or fighting to be the best as His daughter, living authentic in the world around me. When I fall, I have no excuse not to get up again, obey, and live, as He would have me. I’m letting go of passivity and choosing instead to go for the gold in all areas of my life, in order to best live in the Light.