Live Impossibly Newsletter #3: Be an Epic Failure

What comes to your mind when I say these words? Many of you likely cringe a little. Maybe your neck tightens. Or you are catapulted back to a moment when you felt lost in a sea of fear or sadness of your potential or accomplished failure.

Today, I want to challenge your idea of failure.

Do you remember learning how to ride a bike? How many of you were wildly successful on your first go down the block without those training wheels? With the guidance of an adult, many of us likely got back on that bicycle fall after fall. We decided that we could continue to push forward and locate that balance that could give us the freedom of finally achieving the training-wheel-free ride.

Failing is not something we strive for, naturally, but thinking that we can experience our greatest level of success without experiencing failures along our own personal paths is not realistic. That is why I refer to myself as an epic failure. The difference between a failure and an epic failure is simply having the courage to keep going.

Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”

What if you choose to become an epic failure in your moments of not hitting the mark?

Being an epic failure means you flip the script on the story you tell about the value of failure.

You believe…

Failure is a bridge to the defining moment that will change your life
Moments of failure help create a deeper awareness that you couldn’t previously access
Failure is a key to the door of your own transformation and growth and our greatest teacher
In the value of being different by living a life that is true to your wants and needs
Being an epic failure consists of a perpetual state of surrender and faith

So why are we so afraid to fail anyway? Is it because we feel embarrassed and we’re afraid people will laugh and make fun of us? Success or failure is not a matter of luck, fate or circumstances. I believe the people that don’t make mistakes are the people that don’t try. They are keeping themselves tucked away in the safe zone of life which is alluring to many because its easier and lacks the immense uncertainty of putting yourself out there. The problem with this is you never really achieve what you truly want.

I distinctly remember my very first failure. I was 4 years old. My father loved track and had me join a local track team at the nearby high school. My first race ever was about to start. The coach showed me and the other children how to crouch down on one knee and go through the motions which accompanied the “on your marks, get set, go!” I was so excited as I knew I was fast. The children lined up, we went down on one knee, placed our hands behind the thick white chalky line and on the word “go” we set off! I did not get far as my overexcitement caused me to take off and propel myself into the hard track, knee first. I remember standing and seeing the skin ripped open and blood oozing down my leg and I did what any little four-year-old might do. I cried. I was a tough little kid, and I didn’t cry very often from pain. This wasn’t one of those times. I believe I cried from the frustration and embarrassment of my failure. When one of the girls from my neighbourhood looked back and saw me crying, she stopped and began to cry too, which set off a chain reaction. A little blonde boy noticed the commotion and stopped and screamed for the rest of the kids to stop also. Luckily for me, after a few minutes we were all allowed to start over. This time, I got a great start and crossed the finish line!! I remember it like yesterday. The pride in my father’s eyes still bring a smile to my lips today (yes, I’m smiling now!)

I learned from a young age to use my failures as empowerment to keep improving and striving to do my best. Remember that there is no such thing as an overnight success. Looking at others, we can look at how they have success and often neglect to witness the entire journey that got them to that point and I can say for certain that the path was most likely punctuated by many failures.

Okay, now that I got that embarrassing little story out in the open, I might as well tell you a really embarrassing failure from a few years ago. It was my first triathlon. This one can definitely be considered an epic failure.

Leading up to my first triathlon, I had been training in a way that I believed was best for me, often ignoring the advice and guidance being offered by others. I trained so hard and had the expectation that I would be successful because of the effort I was putting in. However, there was a lot I didn’t know and when the big day arrived, I was not prepared.  First off, I had a broken rib, which I didn’t realize until after the race when I was in so much pain, I drove myself straight to the hospital. I had played soccer the night before and got elbowed in the ribs. The first part of the triathlon was the 7km swim. Everyone swims using the front crawl. Everyone except me. I thought it would be fine to do the breaststroke, as it had always been my best stroke. However, in a wet suit, this is just not possible. The group of competitors were angry, and they literally swam over me, elbowing and kicking me as they passed. I found myself in last place as I ran out of the water towards my bike. I had always considered myself an athlete, but in this moment, I felt like a fish out of water.

I got to my bike while feeling an immense amount of embarrassment. I tried to remind myself that I was doing it, making it happen. I had always dreamed of competing in a triathlon, but now, I felt like the biggest loser. The bike ride went a lot smoother, but I was so far back that it was very difficult to get ahead. So, I placed terribly and went home to lick my wounds, realizing that the road to becoming a triathlete was very long. I decided to keep going, keep showing up and I kept training, despite my failure. I decided to hire a highly esteemed triathlon coach from my area and got to work learning how to be a true competitor. 

I’ve now completed six triathlons and I’m currently aiming my sights on a much longer race, and let me tell you, I am not a natural born runner. Sprinting, yes, long distance, no. I began last May on Mother’s Day by running one kilometre around my block. I continued for a couple of months, adding another kilometre here and there and by the end of the summer I’d run 16 kilometres all in one shot. I felt invincible. By the end of this summer, I’m hoping to complete my first marathon!!

Holding both your failure and success as part of what make you the unique and awesome human that you are will help you to achieve great things. Remember, if you want it bad enough you can have it. The key to being a brilliant success is to be an epic failure. Get clear on what you want to achieve and go for it. Dream. Wake Up. Fail. Rinse. And Repeat.