On Failure

My photo storing program crashed during my road trip and for the past few weeks I have been on a mission to make sure all of my pictures have been saved.  In a way, the system crash was a stroke of luck because I am finding tons of photos I had forgotten about, like this little gem….

This is from 2006 (maybe?) when I was determined to master the art of the flying trapeze.

Turns out, I really suck at it.

In order to swing gracefully through the air, first you have to climb a very old, very rickety ladder that bends and sways with every step.  Climbing up that tall ladder was beyond nerve wracking, and by the time I would reach the platform I was already trembling.

When you are on the platform, you have to move forward until you are on the verge of falling off.  Then you grab the bar with one hand, tilt your pelvis farther out than you think you can, bend your knees, and jump while reaching up to grab the bar with the other hand.

Once airborne, you flex and swing your body to maximize your height and speed, flip your legs onto the bar, and let your hands swing free, reaching for your partner who is swinging from another bar, waiting to catch you in mid air.

It is supposed to be a beautiful movement, and when my partner would catch me I would feel like a beautiful bird flying through the air.  Unfortunately, that is not at all how I looked.  I was clumsy and a little spastic, but time after time I climbed that ladder and jumped.  I kept up the lessons until my schedule became to hectic to continue.

I never progressed past the beginner level so looking at this endeavor from a skill standpoint, I am a complete failure at the trapeze.

The thing is, I couldn’t care less.

I had a great time swinging on that rope, imagining that I was the girl in the circus captivating everyone with my death-defying flips and turns.  I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Another thing I consistently fail at is running.

I am by far the worst runner I know.  When I was in boot camp I was actually held back (they call it being “recycled”) a week because I failed the qualifying run to graduate.  At the time I was humiliated and so ashamed of myself.  For years afterward I hoped that my friends from boot camp would somehow miraculously forget that little episode and I would never have to talk about it again.  The entire time I was in the military the PT tests were the most stressful times for me.  I never wanted to fail another run again.

Years later when I started running for myself I realized that I like running.  It is still hard, and I am still comically slow, but I don’t beat myself up about it.  When I started admitting to my friends and co-workers about how hard running is for me and how I was recycled in boot camp for running, no one cared.  Not a single person in my life gives a crap about my running ability, and I love that.  Nobody thinks I am a failure at life because I run like a drunken hippo.

So, my big shameful failure that I thought defined my military career turned out to be just another boot camp story.

My point is that failure is not a bad thing.  I fail at things all the time.  Some of my failures are small and annoying, and some are big and emotional enough that I am left crying on the floor.  Failing (especially when everyone around you is succeeding) is humiliating and almost always feels like getting kicked in the face, but it is so useful.

I truly believe that the people who are most successful in life (and I don’t mean just job and money wise) are also the ones with the most stories of failures.  Failing means you tried, and trying is nothing to be ashamed of, it is the only way to succeed.

I can find a direct link from some of the most wonderful things in my life to failures that preceded them and made them possible.  If it were not for my failures, the life I am living (and loving) now would not exist.

So go out there and FAIL today, you never know what wonderful surprises will happen because of it!


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