Joel is a Team Mash Mafia Online Team Member and a Brother in Christ. A lot of people submit pieces to me, but this one was both well written and presented a powerful message. I hope that all of you enjoy this piece. You can follow Joel on Instagram at: @joelslate
Go Out and Fail
The Oxford English Dictionary defines failure several ways, including a “lack of success”, “an unsuccessful person or thing”, “a lack or deficiency of a desired quality”, and “the action or state of not functioning”. Some examples of the word in use might be “he was a failure in business”, “the plane crashed after engine failure”, or “my father was diagnosed with heart failure”. Not one of those examples gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling about how failure can be a good thing. I’m going to show you how to leverage failure for increased success, on the platform, and in life.
Where am I coming from? I’ll tell you. I’m a 42 year old mid-level manager at the paper mill. I’ve got an engineering degree and an MBA, and a wife and four kids age 8 and under at home. I grew up in a middle-class family, was pretty good at football and track, and I like to barbecue and maybe drink a couple of beers from time to time. In other words, I’m probably a lot like you, or who you will be a few years from now.
I’m probably like you in a few other ways too…my job can be stressful at times, there’s never quite enough money in the bank, I too have some skeletons in my closet, and most of all, I’ve failed at a few things that I really wanted to succeed in. Maybe a business went under or a relationship didn’t last. Maybe you didn’t get that promotion when the guy who did had no business getting it. All those things have happened to me too. Maybe, like me, you didn’t hit that PR weight on the platform that you really wanted to hit. It was almost there, you gave it everything, and just couldn’t stand it up. Good…now where do we go from here?
If you failed at a lift, failed at a business, in your job, or in a relationship because of a lack of preparation, or worse yet, a lack of effort, you’ve got a serious decision to make, right now. You’re at a fork in the road and the long term consequences of which way you decide to turn are serious. If you can admit that your failure was due to your poor decisions about training, effort, or preparation, and you reflect on those factors to enact genuine change in your life, you can move on. If you want to blame others and not make the requisite changes, prepare for a long miserable life full of excuses and disappointments.
The other side of failure is positive. Maybe you missed a PR attempt, but it was close. You gave it everything you had and kept fighting but just couldn’t get it up. Maybe you did your very best at work, but there was someone just a bit better. Maybe your business idea was really good and you tried your best, but someone else was better capitalized than you. These are failures we can learn from and we WILL use for inspiration and motivation to get better next time.
Let me tell you about two great failures that I had last weekend. I entered a powerlifting meet, the USAPL Louisiana State Championships. I haven’t powerlifted competitively in nearly 20 years. I’m a weightlifter and a hammer thrower, not a powerlifter. However, I’ve been training hard at my squats and deadlifts as part of my weightlifting programming, so I figured “what the hell, why not?” I’d hit some good numbers in training, including a 470 lb. squat and a 550 lb. deadlift (from 4” blocks), so I knew I’d be able to be reasonably competitive once I got on the platform.
I opened with a 452 lb. squat that came up really easy. I went to 474 lb. on my second attempt, and got it. Since there is no better place to go big than the meet platform, I went for 502 lbs. on my last attempt. I haven’t squatted over 500 since 2003 or 2004. My name was called, so I came out, got under the bar and walked it out. I squatted down, felt that awesome bottom position, and exploded out. I made it part way up and the bar stopped moving. I could hear the crowd cheering in encouragement. I dug down deep, tried pushing that floor away and driving my chest up, but I couldn’t do it. I started sinking back down, the spotting crew did their job and we re-racked the barbell. I found my wife in the crowd, where she was giving me a big smile and a thumbs up. She’s the fiercest competitor that I know. Was I down on myself because I missed the lift? Honestly, I wish I would have made it, but I was proud of myself for giving everything I had and stepping out and trying it. Did the lift fail because of a lack of preparation? Nope, one look at my training log proves that. Did it fail because of a lack of effort? Nope, I gave everything I had and I fought that bar as long as I could. Why did I fail at the lift? Simple…the bar was too heavy for where I’m at today. Now I know where my wall is. Now, it’s time to make a plan to break through that wall. Nothing is going to stop me. It can’t be done.
Several (long) hours later, it was time to deadlift. I opened with an easy 502. Next came 540. It was heavy, and it was a PR, but I made the lift with a 2-1 decision. My final attempt was coming up. I went over to the table and told the girl to go to 562 for my final attempt, a huge PR. I went back behind the platform to the waiting area and sat down in my chair. I had my hood up and my head down, feeling the music, visualizing the upcoming attempt. As I felt myself nodding my head to the beat, my jaw jutted out, and my upper lip began to curl as I got into the groove. Time slowed down and I felt ALIVE..!! Many things flashed through my mind. I could see all those mornings grinding out workouts at 4:30am in my garage. I could hear my defensive line coach telling me to “kick his ass” when I went in on a goal line stand. I could see the view that I had one time from the fire truck approaching a burning house with a report of kids trapped inside. It was a moment, like those others, that I was going to give everything I had. I might win, I might lose, but I was all in. My name was called. I tightened up my belt, chalked up, and walked out on the platform. I could feel that cold steel in my hands as I got in position. The head referee nodded and I sat back and pulled with everything I had. I stood up with that barbell, got the down command, and what did I see…3 red lights. According to the referee, I didn’t lock my knees out completely at the top of the lift. Did I fail? Yes, I missed the lift. Did I walk away with my head high? Hell yeah. I gave everything I had and now I know what I need to do to get better.
Now it’s your turn to go out and fail. Go out and fail because you pushed your boundaries to places you never imagined. Go out and fail because you tried something new and didn’t get it just right this time. Go out and fail because you weren’t afraid to go heavier than you’ve ever done before. Then try it again. Before long, you’ll do it and it will be time to set that next frontier. Get out of the way, because you won’t be stopped.
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy
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