“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
- Henry Ford
As a preface I want to state: In my lifetime I have failed a thousand times and before I am through I will fail at least a thousand more. This is the art of failing.
But wait … aren’t we trying to achieve, not fail?
Therein lies the conundrum of this fallacy. This fear of failure has been so engraved into us that we spend more time obsessing over the plan itself and waiting for that perfect moment to act that we forget the very simple concept of practice and why we fail in the first place. We fundamentally rob ourselves of the learning tool that is failure.
When talking to a friend about his writing process for raps, I asked him, "What's your secret to writing great lines?" He looked at me and said their was no secret, just hours and hours of pumping out bar after bar. The words he said next resonated with me and still do to this day. "You have to get all the crap out of the way first before you find the nuggets of gold."
With that in mind, I want to tell you a story...
A ceramics teacher divides students into two groups. One would be focused on quality and the other on quantity. The quality group would be responsible for a single clay pot and had the entire semester to plan and perfect their piece to submit for a grade which would be graded based on geometric rubrics and artistic merit.
The quantity group was tasked with completing fifty pounds worth of clay pieces and would be graded on the combined weight of their projects.
When it came down to the end, the quality group had spent so much time fussing over the theoretics of the project and the planning phase that their unpracticed hands were only able to produce a rough design. In comparison, the quantity group, while their first rounds of designs were rough, by the end of their fifty pound mark they started to produce refined quality pieces that showed evidence of practiced hands.
So what does this all mean? I said to you earlier that I have failed a thousand times and I would fail a thousand more, but what I left out is that for each of those failures, each of those mistakes, I also learned a
valuable lesson and through failing was able to refine something for or about myself.
The most physical representation of this concept we can see after spending a few weeks in the gym practicing mindfulness of our movements.
Each set, every rep, is an opportunity for us to dissect what we are feeling and improve our mind muscle connection. Over time, this creates a smooth and refined visual quality to our movements. One thing that I get a lot, is after showing a client a movement and asking them to do the same, without fail they say "Wow! You made this look so easy!"
But it isn't easy. They are watching the end result of many sets, many reps, and many hours of refining technique and movement. Within that time frame, there were many moments of failure. Each moment, an opportunity to learn and develop.
Another physical example of this process we can see in the gym, is how over time, and after exposing our muscles and central nervous system to loads that cause "failure" (either tissues being forced to produce more than their threshold causing micro tears and ultimately hypertrophy, or the wearing down of the CNS from heavy compound movements flooding the body with stress hormone that the body must then recover from) we see strength increases and muscle growth.
Trying new things in your diet such as fasting, macro adjustments, and especially elimination diets provide us with an opportunity to learn what works well for us and conversely doesn't work well for us nutrition wise.
Have you ever heard of a band producing a greatest hits album before they released several albums over possibly decades? Of course not!
Let’s look at another example and tie it in to the quantity versus the quality of failures with opportunity to learn.
Think back to when you first started learning to write your name. You knew what the letters looked like, but manipulating the muscles in your hand and teaching your brain how to work them was a challenge that required many hours over days, weeks, and months to perfect. Do you think about how to tie your shoes, or has it become just a natural part of your life?
Life is a continuity of ebb and flow. You cannot control the direction of the current as we live linearly and always travel forward, but you can always look back for new ways to move forward.
So get out there and fail.
Stop worrying about the process of getting to the goal and start working towards the goal. You’ll learn more and be one step closer in trying and failing than you possibly can debating the best place or way to start. That all being said ... you also need to be mindful of your failures and willing to learn from them.
Afterall ... if you keep doing the SAME thing over and over without actually learning, or expecting a different result, you have stumbled onto the very definition of insanity.
“Why do we fall down?”
“So that we can learn how to pick ourselves up.”