Failure

Another CrossFit Open season is over and the one thing that I know about the Open is that it reveals where you have failed in your training. This year was no exception.

I’ve been contemplating about my failures recently, and not just in my workouts or training regimen: I have failed in meeting my nutrition goals for the past four months, I failed in several areas at work because of multiple factors and various responsibilities, I failed at writing or publishing something from my dissertation on care (going on two years now), I failed at pursuing meaningful work in care, research, and advocacy, and I have failed at calling my mom every Tuesday. Sorry mom!

And that’s just a few of the big ones, not to mention the everyday or weekly failures at the gym…of not getting the score I wanted on the workout, not hitting the personal records (PRs) in lifts, not coaching certain standards, and while at work, failing to accurately read a teammate’s comment or intentions and [over] reacting that made the situation worse.

I know that focusing too much on any of these failures or all of them could take me down a pretty dark road of feeling worthless and self-doubt. Being afraid of failure could keep me from taking the risk of attempting another PR, coaching more classes or new people, doubting my writing skills or in getting published, or paralyze me from applying for a new job.

I think the fear of failing is natural.  And many of us create goals to try to OVERCOME our fear of failure. But what would happen if instead of trying to get rid of the fear, I use the fear of failure as motivation?! Motivate me into action rather than in a paralyzing way.

I use my fear to commit to a training and nutrition regimen, not because I want to make PRs, but because I want to compete and be a better athlete. I use my fear of being published to commit to a regular writing schedule because I believe in the science and research I conducted and my findings are important to the field of care. Or I use my fear of failing at coaching or work to keep me thinking, striving, and relentlessly trying to be more prepared for both the known and unknown, and how to creatively handle contingencies.

I have learned to use fear as a motivator in order for me NOT to become complacent or paralyzed into inaction. Fear of failure forces me to be more self-aware of my actions, to pursue to be a better athlete, a better writer, a better teammate at work.

I was recently called out by someone who heard through “the grapevine” that I had gossiped about her. As soon as she heard, she contacted me and told me how she felt. She wanted no excuses, no explanation. She simply wanted to express her feelings and heartfelt disappointment in me.

My initial reaction was defensiveness because whatever it was that she heard, I know was taken out of complete context in how I meant or intended during my conversation, and I did not consider it gossip (semantics really). But I was driving at the time, and I was forced to really think about what she said, to listen to how she felt no matter how I justified or wanted to defend my actions.

Once I took the time to listen with my own defenses down and understood where SHE was coming from, I felt like a real failure! Failing at a better WOD time or a specific goal does not compare to hurting someone’s feelings – even when not intentional. She stated her disappointment in me, not just because she trusted me but because she looked up to me as a leader (Ugh, another pang in the gut!).

There was only one way for me to respond: apologize and own up to talking about her (that part was true but not in any ill-will or discontent), and promised that it would not happen again.

I meant this in a genuine way – not out of anger – and chose this approach because I couldn’t help but have a sincere appreciation of her to confront and call me out on failing to meet the standards of what we both value in a leader. As a leader, I failed her and I failed myself, I had not thoroughly thought about how my actions could be misperceived and hurtful. Although we cannot fully know when this might happen, our true leadership will come through when we are put to the test.

Failing as a leader will happen but inaction and a lack of commitment to becoming better or improving is unacceptable. It may take someone else to make me aware and hold me accountable when I do fail, but I choose to believe it is because they care enough to let me know I failed them. Failing is necessary in order to be successful and to improve, it is not comfortable, and may even hurt at times, but it is in recognizing these failures and learning from them that I choose to help make me a better athlete, a better coach, a better teammate, a better leader, a better me.

  1. What do you fear most in failing?
  2. When was the last time someone called you out on failing at something you may not have been unaware of?
  3. When was the last time you owned up to your failure and learned from it?

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