Good Failure

When the new year began, EA and some of her fellow teachers started doing the exercise routine Insanity after school. For the last couple of weeks, I have been getting updates of how . . . well . . . insane the workout is. So two days ago, we were talking on the phone about me getting the boys to bed solo while she was at a class Tuesday night.

"And then when I get home, we're going to do Insanity."


"I'm going to miss it for this class, but I don't want to skip a day. Can you do it?"

"Uh . . . yeah, I guess."

"Please. If you just sit around on the couch, I'm probably not going to do it."


"Great! And you probably shouldn't run tomorrow."

That should have been my first red flag. I'm in pretty decent shape. Don't get me wrong, I am not at the pinnacle of health, but I try to run 4-6 miles at least three times a week. I typically have more energy after I go for a run rather than less. So I was kind of skeptical about EA's advice. I ultimately followed it because I trust her. But throughout Tuesday afternoon and evening there was a voice in my head saying, "You shouldn't have wussed out of your run this morning. Pansy."

That stupid voice was wrong.

So I sit here the next day and my body is still somewhat in a state of shock. Long dormant muscles were activated and then forced into doing work that they did not want to do. And we did the cardio and the crunches and God knows what other kind of medieval torture disguised as exercise over and over again. I held on to the routine by the tips of my fingers the best I could until the bitter end. All the while, there was another voice in my head saying, "Uh, Christopher . . . (because my rational voice always calls me Christopher), you're not as in good shape as you thought."

As an oldest child and a people pleaser, I am repulsed by the idea of failure. I built a lot of my early identity around succeeding in school and thus "F" is a scarlet letter. I don't want to run into something and discover that I cannot do it well. It cuts me in a place that is particular vulnerable to a myriad of insecurities (okay, there are actually multiple places where that is true).

Going back to school, we all learn that failure is something that makes the momentum of your life completely jump the tracks. You fail a test, you're in a deep hole. You fail a class and you might end up watching everyone else advance to the next grade while you eventually turn into the only kid in 8th grade who shaves. Failure is a bad word.

I think fear of failure has a place in our lives. I don't jump off cliffs because I am 99.9% sure that I will fail to fly. But I think that fear also keeps me from taking risks. I don't want to try because I don't want to fail. The older I get, the more I realize that is no way to live a life.

Because here's the thing: I think failure is actually a good thing. We need to know our limitations. Like last night, it's good to know that despite my running, I could be in better shape. Or take this example: I used to think that I was unbelievably patient person. But failing to always have impenetrable patience while raising a strong-willed (though still wonderful) four year old has taught me that I still have work to do in the area of patience. Failure can be an excellent teacher.

Failure teaches us that we are never as strong as we think we are, which (if we learn from those failures) can actually make us stronger. At the very least, failure can make us more humble, honest, and real human beings. So I'm going to slowly try to take more risks and stretch myself to areas where I might fail. 

Except Insanity. That nonsense is . . . well, you know, insane.

Do Not Let Me Go

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