This week I would like to expand further on our last topic about goals and getting there.
As a preface I want to state: In my lifetime I have failed a thousand times and before I am through I will fail at least a thousand more. This is the art of failing.
But wait Ferret … aren’t we trying to achieve, not fail?
And therein lays the conundrum ladies and gentlemen. This fear of failure has been so engraved into us that we spend more time obsessing over the plan its self and waiting for that perfect moment to act that we forget the very simple concept of practice and why we fall down in the first place. Before continuing on with that idea, I’d like to share a story with you.
A ceramics teacher divided students into two groups. One would be focused on quality and the other on quantity. The quality group would be responsible for a single clay pot and had the entire semester to plan and perfect their piece to submit for a grade which would be graded based on geometric rubrics and artistic merit.
The quantity group was tasked with completing fifty pounds worth of clay pieces and would be graded on the combined weight of their projects.
When it came down to the end, the quality group had spent so much time fussing over the theoretics of the project and the planning phase that their unpracticed hands were only able to produce a rough design. In comparison, the quantity group, while their first rounds of designs were rough, by the end of their fifty pound mark they started to produce refined quality pieces that showed evidence of practiced hands.
So what does this all mean? I said to you earlier that I have failed a thousand times and I would fail a thousand more, but what I left out is that for each of those failures, each of those mistakes, I also learned a valuable lesson and through failing was able to refine my practice.
Let’s take a more physical example of what I mean; when I first started working out, I knew little behind the science and the technique of what I was doing. Over the years I have caused myself injuries and improperly worked joints and muscles. I’ve lived with chronic knee pain and could never avoid ridiculous amounts of back pain following a squat and or deadlift day. I even once tore my groin muscle through improper safety techniques while using a power rack and doing squats. So in the gym, leading up to where I am now, I made many mistakes, both mental and physical. But, with each mistake I refined my form, every physical action taken brought me closer to proper technique, every injury taught me what to avoid, and every article and document I read increased my foundation of knowledge from which to work.
Today, I have been officially knee pain free for eight months. Not the weather or a heavy leg lifting day has even caused a slight nagging pain. My spine, no longer hurts after bearing an incredible load, instead, the muscles that are supposed to support it feel the stiff aches of a good workout. Beyond that, I can run further, faster, climb higher, and lift more than I ever could when I first started. I learned how to avoid plateaus and how to work through them. I learned patience, persistence, and perseverance that has now carried me through one race, and will lead me down the path of many more.
Let’s look at another example and tie it in to the quantity versus the quality. I have always enjoyed writing, but save one play and less than a handful of short stories and poems, I’ve never really been able to finish a product let alone sit down and invest my failures into it. This is because I have always been afraid of failing with my writing, but not anymore. This blog you are reading, this dedication to present an article every Friday, is my attempt at quantity. Will every article I write be gold? Absolutely not! But, I will present myself with the opportunities to fail at it and move on, to refine my voice, style, and skills so that I may transition this over to other areas of writing as well and achieve goals I have set out for myself.
So, linking back to last week’s post, specifically Step 3 of the brain book, I emphasized the importance of setting aside that time to work on the notes you left yourself in the book. The goal is not as important as the work you put in. Rather than objectifying your destination and how you want to get there, jump into the mud and get your feet dirty. If you wander down the wrong path for a while, learn all the lessons you can, because it is not the destination that is important, it is how you get there and the work you put in. Repetition becomes habit, habit becomes behavior.
Think back to when you first started learning to write your name. You knew what the letters looked like, but manipulating the muscles in your hand and teaching your brain how to work them was a challenge that required many hours over days, weeks, and months to perfect. Do you think about how to tie your shoes, or has it become just a natural part of your life?
Life is a continuity of ebb and flow. You cannot control the direction of the current as we live linearly and always travel forward, but you can always look back for new ways to move forward.
So get out there and fail, stop worrying about the process of the goal and start anywhere. You’ll learn more and be one step closer in trying and failing than you possibly can debating the best place or way to start.
“Why do we fall down?”
“So that we can learn how to pick ourselves up.”