Get Good at Failing

Not to long ago I failed to achieve a goal I had set: Deadlift 500lbs. Up to about three weeks prior to trying to hit that goal, I had been progressing like a monster and going beyond all expectations. But something changed.

The day of reckoning was at hand. I started warming up – 135, 225, 315, 365, 405… and suddenly 425 felt like a monstrous amount of weight. I ended up hitting 455 and failing 465.

What happened?

I failed.

It turns out success is not the sum of sporadic failures and success. Ultimate success cannot be achieved by means of sporadic success in the everyday things. That means when we fail, we have to look back and identify places we were not consistently successful.

For the last three weeks leading up to my testing phase I had become complacent. I was working on finals and final projects and decided I needed relaxation time. I needed immediate gratification in the form of dopamine releases. Once I committed to this, the battle was already lost. I was staying up late, being sedentary, and not eating like I should have. These were the little failures that undermined my otherwise hard work and resulted in the failure of achieving a goal:

  • Not getting the same amount of sleep due to staying up late.
  • Sitting down for long periods of time (5-10 hours) doing homework, playing video games, and watching shows on Hulu.
  • Consistently being 500-800 calories below what was necessary to sustain muscle repair and muscle growth.
  • I didn’t deload before a peaking week (terrible idea in retrospect).

These three things were enough cracks in the foundation to sabotage the goal I had set.

There’s two ways to approach failure: I can mope and hang my head, telling myself to give up because if it didn’t work last time there’s no way I can make it this time. Or, I can analyze the past mistakes and be extra vigilant about not making them.

Failure tells me now just how important things are. Previously I undervalued moving around frequently and eating enough, thinking I could will those things out of significance when the time came. Now I know differently, and now I can act differently.

Failure provides a mental stimulus to adapt. It’s the same thing our body does when we apply stress to it – it adapts over time or gives out. Our mind will do the same thing. We will either adapt to new information and respond accordingly, or we will be crushed.

Don’t choose to passively be crushed.

Be active.


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