Failure IS an Option - by Donna

Disclaimer:  This is not my arm

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” 

I've worked out with a personal trainer for quite some time now.  It's definitely a love/hate relationship.  Part of the "love part" is I feel stronger and healthier.  Part of the "hate part" is the failure.

I especially despise this one exercise called tricep dips.  It involves raising your bodyweight up and down using your tricep muscles.  My bodyweight is ....ummm..."sufficient"...enough to make this exercise especially challenging.  So, on the third set, and the forty-fifth rep (but who's counting, right?), I stop.  My arms are shaking, my muscles screaming--and I can't do one more repetition. 

I stop.

I give up.

I quit. 

I fail.

Instantly, that horrible "failure" baggage (that has nothing to do with dips) crowds into my head.  Anne Lamott captures it perfectly.  "My fear of failure has been lifelong and deep. If you are what you do- and I think my parents may have accidentally given me this idea- and you do poorly, what then? It’s over; you’re wiped out. All those prophecies you heard in the dark have come true, and people can see the real you, see what a schmendrick you are, what a fraud.”Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

But here's the thing. When you're building muscle, you have to fail to get stronger. In the gym, the goal is to NOT SUCCEED.  If your body was strong enough to do what you're asking it, there would be no need to build more muscle.  It's when you fail, that growth happens.

You can probably see where I'm going with this.

It's the same with writing (and probably everything else in life).  Here's just a few of my failures:
  • I stopped writing creatively for ten years
  • I started several manuscripts I never finished.
  • I finished a novel I never sold.
  • I published a novel some people didn't like.
  • I could only do five tricep dips.
You may notice a progression.  I didn't know it at the time but, with each failure, I was building muscle.  Last week, my second novel was accepted for publication and moves on to copyedits.  It was a hard road and took a lot of writing muscle.  New, stronger muscle.  Forged in the despair and uncomfortableness of failure.

My personal trainer, Leah, is also a therapist (and very wise about such things).  She gives this wonderful advice:

"Think of your lives and moments when you were blinded by getting to the outcome, achieving the goal no matter what. Maybe there was shame in the idea of “Giving Up”. Maybe you associated “Giving Up” with FAILURE. Here’s my suggestion. Let’s not call it “Giving Up”. Call it anything else that connotes Wisdom, Moving On, Letting Go. Or, call it “Giving Up” and embrace it!" Leah Barrett

So here's my hope for you (and me) today.  That we embrace our failures and use them to make more muscles. 
My actual arm - work in progress

“by then I'd figured out the gift of failure, which is that it breaks through all that held breath and isometric tension about needing to look good: it's the gift of feeling floppier.”― Anne Lamott


"The gift of feeling floppier." I love it. And a much needed message. By the way, the arm looks awesome!

I greatly dislike tricep dips. But I <3 this blog post!

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