A fractured foot and a temporarily shattered dream led to one of my greatest successes, a lifetime of failures and strong confidence. Shocking but true, failure is sure way to succeed.
Back story of an unlikely runner.
When I was younger I was an athletic debacle. It seemed that my running glory years ended somewhere around the 2nd grade when I last took home a blue ribbon for track and field day participation. I was the scrawny, almost invisible kid, who was invariably picked last for any team. The biggest thing about me was my mouth, and that was always running, which always ensured an introduction to the principle at every school I attended.
In spite of this, most of my life I had wanted to complete a marathon. My motivation? I thought it would sound cool if I could say I had done one. (Which thinking about that now makes me want to go a little easier on my kids when they have similar reasoning for the things they want to do.)
The first ever marathon runner had a slightly better reason for making the 26.2 mile trek back in 490 BC. He had an important message to deliver to his fellow Athenians and apparently transportation options were limited that day. So he ran.
Upon arrival at his destination, and after he delivered his news, he promptly dropped dead. Which logically shouldn’t be a big motivator for a scrawny unathletic kid who hated to run. I knew the risk – I could die.
However, I was determined. During my college years I ran a sum total of about 100 yards once. That amount of physical exertion wore me out and so I took some time off after that… the next 10 years.
After my extensive recovery time I once again decided I was going to be a runner and began my marathon quest which spanned the course of the next 15 years. I ran an odd assortment of races, and then one day decided that it was time to get on with the marathon training which ended abruptly with a fractured foot. Twenty-Five plus years and a fractured foot was what I had to show for it.
What do I call that first attempt? Failure. There’s no other way to term it. It was a complete and utter failure. The necessary failure to make me successful.
It was a turning point in my life. Failure deepened my resolve and made me stronger.
Instead of it just being cool to say that I had completed a marathon, it was now something I needed to do. I came face to face with myself and discovered what I was made of.
Long story short – after a year of doctors visits, physical therapy, trips to the gym and numerous early morning runs, I finally was able to show up at the starting line again. Only this time I was also able to cross the finish line at the end of the 26.2 miles.
What is learned from failure?
Resilience. Doing something so physically demanding requires ALL of you mentally. Anyone who has completed an extreme physical challenge will tell you that the race is won inside of your head.
In the book Lone Survivor, author Marcus Luttrell tells a story about when he asked Instructor Reno about an incident of an unfairness to a fellow comrade. In response Instructor Reno had this to say,
“Marcus, the body can take damn near anything. It’s the mind that needs training.”
This is true of anything, not just challenging physical endeavors. Returning from a failure starts in your mind. The choice to begin again. It’s the choice to not let the failure define you and what you can or can’t do. The confidence to say that this is not how the story will end.
What does it look like in real life and how does it build confidence?
After I completed my second marathon (I wanted to make sure the first one wasn’t a dream so I did it again.) My confidence was so strong I believed I could do anything. I went on to write a book and start a business and I continue to try new things.
My confidence was strong not just because I completed a couple of marathons but because I experienced failure and didn’t die. Unless you’re disarming a bomb, your failure probably won’t lead to death. (If you’re disarming bombs failure isn’t really an option.)
I continue to experience more failures and more successes.
As a professional speaker some failures have been very visible, not just the secret failures of eating chocolate Easter eggs in the pantry while on a diet.
I’ve had a powerpoint fail just as I’m ready to present to the highest level executives of a company. I had to focus on what to do immediately to salvage and redeem the moment.
I’ve had an audience participation activity blow up during a speech. Whoops.
I’ve had blogs go out with incorrect spelling, and I’ve said and done things to those closest to me that I shouldn’t have.
It doesn’t stop me because in all of it I have learned what works and what doesn’t work and therein lies my success.
In essence, because I breathe I fail and because I fail, I succeed. God isn’t finished with me yet!
Failure and success are inextricably intertwined and therein lies the confidence building.
When you realize you’re not going to die, then you try more, fail more and succeed even more.
Recommendation: Fail often and fast
The most successful entrepreneurs will give you this same advice. They will tell you that it’s the only way to know what works. Just try something!
A little at a time. Small steps each day.
The more you try, the easier it gets.
Any toddler learning to walk will tell you the same thing. They walk, they fall. They walk, they fall. In spite of that, I have never overheard a conversation between toddlers that sounded like this, “You know Sara, I tried walking once. It’s just not for me.” That simply never happens.
Your true confidence can be founded in this truth – God doesn’t create failures. He creates people who fail but rest assured, He wastes nothing, even your failures.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
BOLDly Go Forth!