“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt
This week one of the themes that was put forward at our gym was the topic of failure avoidance. This really struck a cord with me. You see, something that I’ve observed in the three countries that I’ve had the privilege to call home over the last year is that there seems to be this massive trend towards being afraid to fail publicly. In a society that collectively places an emphasis on the outcome, we often tend to lose sight of the process and get hit with motivational taglines like “What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”.
In a world that’s constantly asking us what would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? I’m here to ask you what would you do if you knew you could fail?
Since when did failure become such a bad thing? Can you imagine what life would have been like if you had given up on walking the first time that you fell? Doesn’t that seem silly to you? Guess what, that’s the ideology that as a society we’ve learnt to embrace. We don’t reward “failure”, we reward “success”. What if I told you that each time you attempted to walk your brain and the rest of your body was creating feedback loops and processing information about how to make you more efficient at doing that movement. What if I told you that you were learning about how to interact with the world around you? Said another way, each time you fell you were learning, you were failing forward. You probably wouldn’t remember that nor would you think that you were naturally doing that but as a human being you’re kinda hardwired that way. So why is it that we’ve become afraid to try new things, to try new movements, to fail forward?
To be quite honest, failing isn’t sexy- it isn’t cool, it won’t doesn’t get all the likes and all the follows on social media, nor does it make your followers envious of your awesome feats of strength or fitness. Failure makes you real- it strips away the opportunity for people to look at you and label you as being perfect. It takes away the leverage that they have on themselves and holds them more accountable for not reaching their goals, yet.
Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone who ever accomplished something great gave up when the going got tough and they “failed”? It’s easy to say that someone else would have just filled that person’s place, but what would have actually happened if everyone just gave up when they failed?
Personally, I know that I wouldn’t be sitting in New Zealand typing this blog. Why? Because, I was born and raised in Canada and we wouldn’t have planes without the daring feats of the Wright Brothers nor would blogging, let alone the internet, be a thing.
So what does all of this have to do with the gym and training? Whether you’re chasing after a new pr on your squat or on a snatch, or you’re getting exposed to a movement for the first time, ‘failure’ provides us with the opportunity to learn and keep moving forward. Each attempt that we take creates the opportunity for further adaptations to occur. Those adaptations- whether at a neurological, muscular, or psychological level- are at the heart of what drives our evolution as an individual forward.
The next time you ‘fail’ remember to ask yourself, “How might I learn from this situation”? Because that in and of itself, is one of the keys to moving forward.