Updated: Oct 12
Welcome to the thirteenth episode of the Return To Fit Podcast: You Are A Failure... I Hope.
In this episode we'll address how to view failure with a different perspective in order to improve your relationship with it, let go of the fear around it, and eliminate the shame from it.
It’s time to accept the fact that you are a failure. At least I hope you are. I’ll tell you why.
Hello friends and welcome to the Return To Fit Podcast where we believe you can get fit and live a happier, healthier life. Each week we discuss health topics ranging from essential mindset skills to fitness & nutrition habits, and more. I’m your host Coach Sabin. And in today’s episode I’m going to tell you why I hope you are a failure.
“The things which hurt, instruct.” Benjamin Franklin
“Your attitude toward failure determines your altitude after failure.” -John C. Maxwell
“I didn’t fail 99 times. I discovered 99 ways in which not to make a light bulb.” Thomas Edison
And lastly, something from my childhood: “I don’t lose. I win and I learn.” by I have no idea.
Failure is not a tragedy. Failure is not the end of a thing. Quitting is the end. Most of us have or had an awful relationship with failure. You could even call it a fearful relationship with failure.
It’s not our fault, but it is our responsibility. Let me explain that.
It’s not our fault. Who’s fault is it? We are conditioned to fear failure through our educational experience. A low grade isn’t called a low grade, it’s called a bad grade. And by the time students get to college, they’ll drop any class where they’re getting a bad grade, because it will “hurt their gpa”. Most of the statistics available out there are self-reported and therefore not reliable, but even with self-reported statistics, 41% of college students have dropped a class in their first two years of college according to a 2019 survey of 1200 college students conducted by Zion and Zion.
In the workforce, failure could mean a loss of job, loss of bonuses, or other negative consequences. When measuring production with a standard rate that all individuals must meet, those who struggle to meet those standards under normal circumstances will cut corners in regards to safety and quality in order to meet quantity. Most of us have done it at some point and all of us probably know people who do this regularly in their jobs.
I used to think failure was a tragedy. I used to believe that it should be avoided at all costs and when I couldn’t avoid it, I felt shame and stress. What makes all this worse is… Failure is inevitable. Unless you resign yourself to doing nothing the least bit significant or challenging, you will fail many times in life.
Imagine that for a minute. Imagine being afraid of something that is guaranteed to happen and then feeling stress and shame when it does. Talk about an unhealthy relationship. And unlike our relationships with people, we can’t break up with failure. We are stuck in this relationship. You might be tempted to think that this is an abusive relationship and life is unfair. No. Remember: It’s not our fault, but it is our responsibility. Let’s address the second part of that.
But it is our responsibility. Fear of failure will stop us from achieving our most meaningful aspirations. We are stuck in this relationship and it’s up to us to fix it. Failure is what it is. It does not change. We have to work on ourselves. In this case, the relationship is unhealthy because of how you view failure. We have to remove the fear. To do this, we have to better understand what failure really is.
Failure is a teacher. It teaches us what doesn’t work. Failure is a navigator. It tells us we went the wrong direction. Failure is an accountability partner. It tells us we didn't do enough. Failure is many things, but evil is not one of them. Failure is our friend and the key to success is to visit this friend often and embrace them every single time. Soak in everything they can teach us and then move on.
The move on part is important. Imagine showing up at your friend Chris’s house and it’s been a while. You have a great time, you learn a lot, maybe you laugh, maybe you cry, and then the time comes to an end but you don’t leave. Chris is just standing there like… I want to go to bed. You’re like oh no problem. Chris responds, aren’t you going home. You come back with: I’m visiting my friend though! Feeling more uncomfortable, Chris says yeah we just did that, but now it’s time for you to go.
This is what your friend, failure, wants for you. Not to sit there with it in self-pity. Soak it up and go. Quality time and then live your life better for it.
I’ll be back with the rest of this episode in just a moment.
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Back in the late 1960s, Dan Gable was on top of the college wrestling world. He was undefeated going into his senior season and a two-time NCAA Champion (in 68 & 69). His last match of his senior season was the 1970 NCAA Championships 170lb Finals Match against Larry Owings. Owings shocked the world, Gable lost 13-11 to finish second place and end his college career. He then went on to win a World Title in 1971 and the Olympic Gold in 1972 without surrendering a single point. Dan Gable has given credit to that loss on countless occasions, both as a source of inspiration and a learning moment.
“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” - Often credited to Winston Churchill
I came into the wrestling season my freshman year with something to prove to the guys on my team. Making them see me as someone who could make an impact important to me. I worked very hard. I cut down to the 112 weight class to get a starting spot and went on to have a relatively successful season. That said, what really stands out to me was a conversation I had with my coach, Chad Kik, several times that year. It usually went something like this:
Coach: “What are your goals this year Sabin?”
Me: “I think I want to make it to regionals.”
Coach: “At 112? I think you could probably qualify for state.”
Me: “I don’t know. That’d be cool, but I’m going to focus on qualifying for regionals.”
Coach: “I’m serious, I think you could.”
To me (and everyone really), the State tournament was a big deal. I had it up on a pedestal. Regionals was the step before the state tournament and traditional goal setting advice is to set realistic, achievable goals. So, I played it safe and focused on the goal of qualifying for regionals. And I was devastated at the end of my season. Not because I didn’t qualify for regionals. I accomplished that.
I managed to advance to the consolation semi-finals, often referred to as the “blood round”. In this round, if you win you qualify for the state tournament and wrestle for 3rd place in the regional. If you lose, you’re done. The season is over. In the blood round, I was losing in a very close match late in the third. My opponent had control on top and if I could reverse that control, I’d score two points and make it a one point match, but still be trailing. If I could reverse that control and put him on his back, I could score up to 5 points and come away with the win. And that is exactly what I did… well almost. He was on his head, I had a leg and was pulling him down from on top of me to his back. Another 4 or 5 seconds and I would have had the reversal and a couple back points. But I didn’t have another 4 or 5 seconds, the whistle blew and my season ended. I accomplished exactly what I set out to do and it felt awful. I was sick to my stomach and the conversation with my coach played over and over in my head. I got a lot of “good job it was a great season” and “that’s a heck of a freshman season, you should be proud”. I wasn’t, I actually felt numb. If I had listened and believed I could qualify for the state meet, would that have been different? I don’t know.
I went for a run shortly after regionals and I took my medal that I got when I qualified for the tournament. I stopped by where they were building the new middle school and I chucked it into the construction site. I promised to never set a “realistic goal” again. I was going to set my goals so high, that my only choice was to fail or be the very best. Succeeding in my goals my freshman year felt worse than any goal I failed to accomplish the rest of my career.
Now’s a good time for me to warn you of another trap. If you’re listening to this and you’re fired up for failure, then great. Don’t get reckless. What I mean is, the goal is not to pursue failure. You are to pursue success knowing that failure is going to visit several times along the way. Just like avoiding failure at all costs is unhealthy, going to the other extreme can be just as unhealthy and hazardous.
This is like showing up at Chris’s house everyday and ignoring your other friends and family… don’t do that to Chris!
Seeing failure as a friend and teacher will help you from going to one extreme. Pursuing success will help you avoid going to the other.
Today I want you to take a moment to think about something. You can write this down if you want, but think about the things in which you are afraid to fail. Parents are afraid of failing their kids. Have you ever sat in your car, maybe even cried, feeling like a failure, completely overwhelmed? Being afraid didn’t serve you. And actually failure is something you can learn from. Go through each thing and ask yourself, if this happened what could I learn from it? How could everything still be okay?
If you believe like I do that everyone can get fit and live a happier, healthier life then I’d like to invite you to join me in my mission to help people do just that. You can start by subscribing to this podcast and sharing this episode with a friend.
Maybe you want to believe this can be true for you, but you’re not quite there yet. Check out our other episodes, subscribe so you don’t miss future episodes, and reach out to me on Facebook or Twitter. I'd love to hear from you and talk about why I believe you can get fit and live a happier, healthier life.
See you next time and until then, say hello to failure for me.