Tuesday, March 4, 2008


It seems I am stuck on some somewhat grim topics these days. But through it all, I am certain that I am coming out with very optimistic opinions on all of them. It seems this is what I like to do; take challenges and find ways to get the positive out of all of them, no matter what happens, always come out with one or more good lessons learned.

So I've been stuck on the idea of failure; what it means, what it feels like, how to react to it, so on. I have talked to many people about it, pessimists, optimists, apathetic folk (there are a lot of self proclaimed apathetic people around by the way). Talked to my mom, my dad, clients, friends and all along, I really sat down and thought about how I felt about it.

What I have found is that everybody seems to have a different definition, everyone feels one way or another about it especially when it's surrounded by specific events. People have positive views on it when it's about things they love, they leave with great lessons learned and happy for the experience. But when they are experiencing something they do not like, failure becomes an excuse, something that's dirty and bad. I came away from all these chats and self-analysis with a very new perspective on what it means to truly fail, and I think I like what I've found.

"True failure is never having tried at all"

What I think this means is that failure (the kind it seems we all think about...you know, the negative kind) can only really happen if you just don't try something you want to try. As I'll explain here, just because you do not succeed does not make YOU a failure (in the negative view of it). I really only think that being a failure (being or doing something that could be looked at in a negative light by most people) is when you want something, but don't do anything about it. Or, if you did not succeed and then never try again because of that lack of success. I really think that a lot of people construe what failure really means; and because of this, they make life very hard on themselves.

The definition of failure is simply: to not succeed. If it was always simply looked at like this, I think there would be way more happy people in the world. Failure is not a negative thing, it does not mean you suck at life, or even at the thing you are trying, it simply means you put forth a goal, and you did not achieve that goal at that time, or in that effort, that is it.

Now I don't want to take away from the disappointment of failure. It does hurt to not achieve ones goals, and a lack of success should never be taken lightly. But that old saying "it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game" really has some meaning to it. What I mean here is that if you set forth to achieve a goal and train for it, and work towards it, and never compromise your pursuit in any way and still somehow don't get there, that is not true failure, that is reaching your limit. From there you know that you gave it your all and the only thing you can do now is work harder to achieve it next time. You learn from your experience and you push forward. During this time of pushing to your goals you'll realize that every day is filled with smaller versions of what you are attempting. Every day, every moment you try something (a miniature goal) and you either succeed and move on, or "fail" and try again a new way; or, after you re-evaluated your first attempt. The next day is filled with much of the same, as is the next, and the next, until you final goal is either reached, or just out of reach. If you really looked at failure in such a negative light all the time, according to this process, you'd probably be the most depressed human being in the world, even if you reached your goal. I say this because all along, you just keep failing over and over again. But the funny thing is, most people don't see those failures as failures. Trial and error isn't failure, it's trial and error. Well, not achieving a bigger goal can really be seen as just trial and error on a grander scale.

Be pissed, be frustrated, be bothered that you did not succeed. But then take that and use it as motivation to learn from your mistakes and go after it again. Too many times have I seen on the ball field, or in the gym, or (and this is the scary one) in life, that people do not succeed and proptly call themselves failures and walk away with their head hanging. Well if you walk away and never come back then yes, the harsh truth is, you are a failure! But if you sit back, look at why you did not succeed, and come back in a new and stronger way, you never really truly failed, you just hit a speed bump, found a door that was a little difficult to open, or tried to run before you could walk.

If you take this attitude, you will never truly fail in life. I can say this because if you are constantly pursuing your goals, without giving up, you will come to two conclusions no matter what:

You will succeed.

You will learn that you actually can not do it in a healthy manner.

The latter is not failure by the way. If I have a goal to squat 1000lbs, but every time I keep pushing I just keep injuring my back and knees. Well, perhaps, if I were smart and very concerned for the well-being of my back and knees, I would stop. I would accept that my body can't handle it, I reached my bodies limit (a wonderful thing to find by the way) and hold off from pushing further. And if I want to return to this goal another time, well, so be it, but for know, I am at a limit. That is not true failure.

But, if you make a goal and never really put all (and I mean all) your effort into achieving that goal; then walk away. You failed. Or, if you put it all and just went about it the wrong way, and in the end you don't succeed. Then, you re-evaluate the process and still want the goal but still just walk away. I think that is failure too. This last one is a little iffy but let me tell you a story...

A guy wants to pack on about 15lbs of muscle and become a better athlete. Without knowing a thing about lifting he hits the gym six days a week and spends a good two hours in there working and working and working. After a couple months of great results he starts to realize his strength, energy and level of play start to deteriorate. So what does he do?

Well, if he says "shoot, I guess lifting just doesn't work, what a waste of time, I can't do this" and walks away; well, I think that's a failure. But if he says "man, maybe I went about this all wrong", then he reads up on lifting and nutrition, and his sport, talks to some professionals and begins again from a better angle; well, that is a process destined for success.

The point here is folks, life is full of little failures; but if you sit back, look at what happened, and keep on going failure is not a negative thing at all. In fact failure can be one of the greatest lessons we can learn, and should be welcomed as one of our best teachers. I have not succeeded many, many times in my life; but when I look back over the years I can say with much confidence that I am not a failure. I have always pushed for more, for better, always wanted to find that limit with the hopes that I would never reach it and could keep on pushing. My experiences have been and will continue to be recorded in this blog.

Share with me some of yours...

Never Stop, GET FIT

Josh Courage

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