I didn't have a lot of success as a teenager. Lack of direction and gross over-confidence created a vacuum in which motivation and fear did not exist. And here's the key, I never failed at anything either. I had a few interests and in those areas had modest goals, but they were easily attainable, and if not, soon forgotten.
My first taste of failure came after high school. I enrolled in college, taking my father's sound advice. But I knew better and should've listened to myself. I wasn't ready. Between both semesters I earned one D and the rest were F's. I never went to class. I fell into a partying life-style, living only in the moment, whatever that may have been.
After I was kicked out of college I was washing dishes and hanging dry wall. I knew that wasn't the life I wanted. Only through failure did I come to such a realization. I had no skills and no career. I could barely support myself and knew I wanted more. The only way out of my small town void of industry and opportunity was to join the military, which at that time in my life was like hitting F5 on the keyboard.
During basic training I had one major hurdle. It wasn't the physical training or the yelling, it wasn't dealing with sleep deprivation operating in stressful situations. My hurdle was qualifying with the rifle. I don't remember the minimum accuracy required, but I was beneath it during all of the practices and drills.
A sergeant pulled me aside and in a less-than-gentle fashion informed me that if I didn't figure it out, I was going to be gone.
That would've been failure.
I learned to focus and act with purpose. For the first time I was forced to do something that wasn't natural and wasn't easy. On the first official test I qualified with the highest possible ranking. In fact, of the hundreds of people on the range that day, I tied a few others with the highest score, 38 of 40. I received some celebration and enjoyed that, but the fear of failing was something I identified as powerful.
On a side note, every time I had to qualify during my service I scored exactly 38/40, regardless of conditions, type of range and so on. No more fear, no challenge there, and obviously, I hadn't learned to work for perfection.
Standing in the face of potential failure is what pushes me to accomplishment. I think of Michael Jordan in that light, and you've probably seen the quote about how many potential game-winning shots he missed and all of his failures.
Failure is awesome, provided we don't accept it as final.
Failure is awesome, provided we identify its source.
Failure is awesome, because without the legitimate threat of its occurrence, success is impossible.
What drove this line of thinking on today's long steady ride was the fact that yesterday I failed to reach my 5K goal. I wasn't even close. In fact, I was further from the goal than I had been when I didn't have the goal!
The number one cause is that I've failed to be disciplined in my diet over the past six months. I've not gained weight, and have lost body fat in the time span. But I've had to learn the hard way that you can't out-exercise a bad diet.
I'm reading Racing Weight, by Matt Fitzgerald. It is so on-target with addressing my current struggle of balancing intake with elevated exercise and so on. I know my bad habits but the book really sheds light on how bad they are.
So the next time I run a 5K, I may or may not reach my goal. It will happen eventually and then I'll set another goal and fight it all over again.
Fail, persevere, succeed.