I’m no stranger to failure.
Playing baseball was about all I did growing up and playing in high school was a goal of mine from the time I was nine years old. So when I was cut while trying out for the JV team my freshmen year, the failure hurt.
This was a turning point for me, as failures always are.
Whether we like it or not, failures are moments of truth and decision.
We can learn from it, use it to make us better, address what led to our failure, and choose to continue working toward our goal. Or, we can give up.
There are times when quitting is the best decision. When quitting working toward one goal opens up your time to focus on a different goal that will provide you greater satisfaction or benefit, this can be a valid reason for giving up.
Nevertheless, such circumstances will be disregarded for the remainder of this posting for the simple reason that this isn’t why most people call it quits. It’s certainly not why I gave up on my dream of playing baseball in high school.
I quit because all I allowed myself to focus on was the pain of how hurt and rejected I felt to have worked for years at something I loved more than anything only to be told I still wasn’t good enough. What if I worked even harder for another year only to be told that I still wasn’t good enough?
Was this something I was willing to risk? I decided that it wasn’t. The pain of being cut was so fresh that all I could focus on was the fear of having to endure it again, instead of focusing on using the feedback the coaches gave me to work hard, better my skills and achieve my goal.
I allowed the fear of failing again to alter my perception. I let fear dictate my future.
The truth is, making the team wasn’t any less important to me after being cut. My decision to quit had nothing to do with making room for a new, more important goal.
Like Ricky Bobby’s paralysis, my perception that getting cut was the end of the road was completely psychosomatic.
In reality, my getting cut from the team wasn’t a failure. It was a momentary setback.
The failure came when I made the decision not to pick myself up, dust myself off, and get back to work improving my abilities.
So what if I didn’t make the team again? At least I’d have no regrets in knowing I gave it my best shot.
It would also be a lesson that failure doesn’t have to be final.
And so it is in fitness… And in life.
Fast forward about ten years and I came to another failure. This was more a failure of the passive variety.
It wasn’t a result of working toward something and falling short. This failure was a result of completely ignoring something I valued almost more than anything: my personal health and fitness.
I was so preoccupied with earning a degree, starting my career, and having fun with my friends, that I completely disregarded taking care of my body. The result was 60 pounds of fat being packed onto my body in just a few years that also came with a pre-hypertension diagnosis at the young age of 25.
I was well on my way to an adulthood of having heart disease, limited mobility, lacking energy levels, and a high risk of experiencing a premature death; all solely as a result of how I was treating my body.
I found myself at another moment of truth and decision. Would I resign myself to this fate or would I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start taking care of my body?
As you might have guessed, I chose the latter.
Even after making the decision to take control of my health, fitness and physical appearance, I experienced more setbacks than I can count.
I’ve learned that the only thing that differentiates a setback from a failure is the decision to quit.
Whether in fitness, business, or any other area in life, every setback is an opportunity for improvement or excuse for failure. It’s your choice.
It’s been well said that you can choose to suffer the pain of discipline or give up and suffer the pain of regret.
Failure Makes Us Better (If We Allow It To)
We’ve all been told during a time of adversity that whatever doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger. While it can sound cliché in the midst of difficult circumstances, it’s a sound reminder that we should look for what we can learn in all circumstances,
including especially failure.
The Apostle Paul had this perspective as he reminded his fellow Christians being persecuted in Rome of this truth when he wrote to them that suffering for the sake of Christ produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope (Romans 5:3-5).
Notice, Paul didn’t say that suffering is a time to become downtrodden and throw in the towel.
It’s a time to endure. It’s a time to persevere. It’s a time to be refined in character and our hope for the future.
Like it or not, resistance in the form of momentary failure is a part of life.
We all understand that muscles don’t grow and develop without being strained by resistance (see The Best Way to Build Muscle). For whatever reason, we fail to make the connection that our minds, bodies and spirits require challenges and resistance to realize their potential, as well.
There will be haters. There will be challenges. There will be setbacks. There will be resistance. There will be momentary failure.
Regardless of the final outcome, we succeed when we choose to use the resistance we encounter to our advantage by allowing it to teach us something and build us up. The only way we truly fail – in fitness and in life – is when we quit.