Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Do you fear Failure?

One of my coaches asked us the question - Do you fear Failure? It is an interesting question - he said that a lot could be learned by our responses as to how we train and compete.

My initial gut response - was ahhhhh - YEP. But then I thought about it some more. I guess it depends on what your definition of failure is. Yes in some ways I am afraid of failure and honestly I don't think that is always a bad thing. I think you have to look at the situation or the event. Bungee jumping for example - yep if the cord fails I am afraid of that. Sky diving - yep fear of failing at that because probably means death..... However I am not so afraid of failure as to not try something for me that would be sad - think of all the things you would never try. Someone close to me wanted to change careers - they were extremely unhappy and talked incessantly about how unhappy they were and how they wanted to change careers - after listening to this for an extremely long time I finally said why don't you just do it and they were like but what if I fail and my response was but what if you succeed? Thankfully they finally took the leap and changed careers and are so much happier but I think of all the years they wasted because they were afraid of failure. Fear of failure can be bad in that it may stop you from following a dream but it can also be healthy in that it motivates you to work or train harder to succeed so you don't fail. To me that is healthy.

I guess in my mind - and I said this to coach - you can't fail if you never try or better yet you can never succeed if you never try. And well to be honest most of the time it never occurs to me that I can't do something. Usually by the time I realize I might be in over my head I am, well, in over my head and I just find a way to succeed because I don't want to fail. But I don't think that is a fear of failure it is a dislike of it. And that dislike motivates me to find ways to succeed - even if that means just finishing. But this applies to all areas of my life - I would not be in the career I was in if I was not afraid of failure - that fear goaded me to buckle down and study harder and prove everyone else wrong when they had all thought I was out of it. That fear was what helped me finish my first Half-Iron even though technically I did fail - I did not in my mind because I finished what I started even when everyone else told me I was done.

Also sometimes failure is good - it teaches you to be humble and accountable - I remember my first time through college I made the decision to go out and party rather than study for a final. I figured I had it in the bag - I mean I was going into the final with 92% avg all I had to do was get 51% on the final. Well you can see the writing on the wall - I got 50% - apparently my brain does not function hungover and the instructor gave me a fail for the course. Everyone told me I should fight it but I never did - I knew I had failed and I deserved that grade - I had not respected the course or the exam. I ended up taking the course over again and graduating a term after all my classmates - embarrassing yes but lesson learned don't get too cocky. Always better to be humble.

If I had not failed to complete the half ironman in regulation time I would not have learned some valuable lessons and gained the insight and experience I did - which I know will help me to succeed for Ironman. As I told Coach nothing like a DNF to motivate you to not skip workouts. Lessons I learned from that race: respect the distance, train more consistently, eat, take anti-histamines, yada yada. I think when you fail it is important to look at the experience and see what you can learn from it.

But most importantly I told my coach - I am not afraid to fail and I don't look down on people who fail. I think what is more important to me is to not quit or quit trying - I told him that I despise people who quit. My husband says this and I agree - Quitters never Win and Winners never quit. Final answer - yes I have a healthy fear of failure.

Peace out


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