So the Eng. Lit major in me has a little chuckle at the title of this post, which is deliberately ambiguous. It should really read ‘failing in order to succeed’.
This is of course a reference to the famous Michael Jordan quotation:
I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games.
26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.
I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
Michael Jordan succeeded because he was prepared to just do, whatever the consequences. He kept doing the thing and kept learning from it. And all that learning helped him to refine his game to the point where he was able to be very successful.
It’s taken me almost 40 years to really absorb this lesson. And I still need to remind myself of it from time to time, both in training and in business.
It’s something I work to instill in my clients from day one, as it is essential to being successful in strength training. You have to be prepared to fail a lift in order to eventually succeed with it. If you never fail, it means you never really pushed yourself.
But ‘failing’ goes against every instinct in our brain, right?
First of all, there’s the danger instinct. I might hurt myself if I try this weight, so I will just stop short and not do the full range of motion.
Secondly, there’s the ego getting in the way. I’ll look stupid, everyone will laugh at me. I’ll just stick with this weight that I know I can do, so that I don’t have to suffer any embarrassment.
Thirdly, there’s the discomfort. This is going to be hard and uncomfortable, I’ll just do an easier weight.
In order to make progress and push yourself, you need to go at your attempts with full commitment, understanding that you may not succeed the first time, or even the second or third time.
To get over fear of failure, you need to change your perception of failure completely. Failure is something to be embraced because you can learn from it and explore your own boundaries.
Training is learning. If you learned something from your training session, it was a success. If you didn’t learn anything, it wasn’t a great training session, no matter how much weight you lifted.
I would love to hear your thoughts on failing to succeed. How do you interpret the Michael Jordan quote? How do you feel about failure?
Need some practical tips on how to fail weights safely? Read How to overcome fear of lifting heavy weights
Are you currently struggling to improve your lifts? Read When you’ve not had a Personal Best for a long, long time
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