When You Fail (Goal Series #4)

Winter storm course at Zumbro 100 before Susan Donnelly DNF'd.

One of the toughest parts of pursing a big goal?

You’ll fail somewhere along the way.

At the start of Zumbro 100 this year, the race director told the assembled crowd I’d be going for a historic 10th finish. I’d finished every one. All eyes looked my way. I raised my arm and everyone clapped.

And then I DNFed - got pulled - for all to see.

Yes, there was a winter storm, which is about as airtight an excuse as you can hope for, but I know myself. That would be an excuse. 

Other people ahead of me finished, proving finishing was possible. I finish races, and the conditions, as extreme as they were, were not beyond my gear or capability. 

But I failed.

As I walked to the warming tent afterward to sit, I knew what to expect. Hurt, lots of second-guessing, and self-doubt, no matter what well-meaning platitudes people offered.

You know failure’s a possibility, but you’ve believed so hard you can achieve your goal that failure still surprises you into letting doubt take the wheel. 

“I’m too old/slow/out of shape…” 

“I shouldn’t have…”

So failing isn't fun.

But the problem with failing isn’t failing.

The problem with failing is when you make it mean something about yourself.

Failing isn’t a statement about your character, it’s just a natural part of the process of achieving a goal. Like falling off a bicycle the first time before you get back on.

It’s something you do, not something you are.

Seeing it as part of the goal-achieving process lets you investigate it with curiosity, find the weak spots, and fix them so you can do better than expected in the next race.

It becomes a treasure chest. 

“What lessons can I mine from this?” 

“How can I turn this to my advantage?”

I learned so much from Zumbro that I had to take notes.

Failure is how we learn enough to take two steps forward next time instead of one. Making it mean something - anything - bad about you wastes the investment.

Failing isn’t something to seek out but it’s certainly something worth getting good at if you want to achieve bigger things.

It's just part of the process.

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