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  • Terry Miller

I Failed


What happens when you fail? You try to do something like lose some weight, read a book a month, go out for a date with your spouse every week, and fail. You were trying, but it didn't go as planned. When they were trying to eat healthily, I have heard many people say that they succumbed to something unhealthy, so they thought, well, I blew my diet, I might as well enjoy more (fill in the blank). Some people give up, some get back on the horse, and some identify themselves with the failure. Which are you?


I will admit that I am pretty hard on myself when I fail. It is not a good trait. It takes time to get over a failure. I know that Thomas Edison figured out over 2000 ways a light bulb doesn't work, but I am not Thomas Edison. It was at 1000 chin-ups that I thought I had bitten off more than I could chew. I had planned and prepared to complete 2000 chin-ups for my birthday, but about 3 hours after I began, I thought 2000 was too lofty of a goal. I took a break for about 15 minutes which didn't work to my advantage. I was hurting. I managed another 300 and had to stop again. I knew I wouldn't reach my goal. I was getting discouraged. I had told everyone I knew that I was doing 2000! With hands and shoulders killing me, I couldn't push past the pain any longer and stopped at 1500. I wasn't quite devastated, but it took me a few minutes to pick my head up. Being an authentic deep thinker, I accessed what my problem was. The problem wasn't that I didn't complete my challenge. The problem was my attitude. Here are a few things I mulled around in my brain until these positive thoughts stuck.


#1 I tried and failed. That is better than not trying. I kept thinking about the 500 I didn't accomplish, but I started focusing on the reality that I tried something big! I am well aware of SMART goals, where the A stands for attainable. 2000 was a significant number, and I had never done more than 25% in a single sitting. I was out of my league but wanted to try to do something that few had ever attained. My positive point was that I tried something challenging. I went for it. I was all in. That is success in a sense. So many today are afraid of failing, so they never try. Why not try? I did.


#2 I completed 1500 chin-ups! It took me a little over 5 hours. I pushed through intense pain and exhaustion. I could barely lift my arms to the bar. I was cramping something awful. It was more than uncomfortable, and I did 1500 chin-ups. So often, we think of what we didn't accomplish rather than what we did accomplish. I submit that you will never build momentum by looking backward and only seeing what you didn't do. I did 1000 more chin-ups than I had ever done. We have got to be people who see the positive aspect of accomplishments rather than dwell on the fact that we failed. You only lost 5 pounds instead of 20. It took you two months to finish your first book. You went out on a date with your spouse twice in a month. Celebrate the wins. Every motivation school teaches us to celebrate wins. It is time that you allow yourself to celebrate even small victories.


#3 I found my capability. That doesn't mean that will always be my limit, but now I know what I am capable of and can improve from there. While the anecdotes break down a bit with this point, you still begin to understand what you can do. If you did it once, you could do it again and expand your capacity. To be honest, I don't want to do that again, but if I wanted to do something like that, I would have a better idea of what a better goal would be. For instance, if you planned to lose 20 pounds in a month (I do not recommend trying to lose weight that fast), and you only lost 5 pounds, now you understand what you can lose in a month. You can nudge that number a little higher by changing strategies, but staying with a more reasonable expectation may be mentally helpful for your long-term goals.


There is one thing I want to end with, don't let failure define you and don't let the fear of failure stop you. (That's two things). We have to meet failure head-on and overcome it. Every great painter, musician, scientist, athlete, journalist, pastor, tradesman, and beyond have faced failure. Greatness insists that it doesn't stop you. Fear insists that you become reduced as an individual. What kind of person do you want to be? Ultimately we get to choose how we are defined and who defines us. It took me about 30 minutes before I let my choice to try, my intense effort, and the fact that I completed 1500 chin-ups moved me from feeling like a failure to feeling accomplished. I pray it doesn't take you that long, and you can celebrate your wins as they come.

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