A Happy Fall-Ure

My dad and late grandfather are the two men I look up to the most.  My work ethic comes from them.  So does my passionate nature.  My sense of honor and integrity.  And yes, my temper too. One of my favorite things about my father is that he always sends me articles to read.  Whether they're on business, life, or sport, it doesn't matter.  They all have one thing in common: Improvement.  My father lives that credo every day himself.  He's constantly reading and more impressive, applying those learned principles in his 30-year-old automotive repair business.

Once a week, I can count on there being an article in my inbox that he'd like me to read and comment on.  Today's article was so good I'm going to share it with you and offer both him and you my response.

The author is Jonathan Fields, who sounds like a really cool dude.  My kind of guy.  Into a lot of different kinds of things.  In today's blog post, Jonathan wrote about what legendary author Jim Collins said is the difference between failure and what he calls "fall-ure" For the non-click inclined, here's his definition (using rock climbing as a metaphor):

"Failure is when you get to the crux, start to feel your legs shaking, your forearms and fingers flaming out, your nerves rattling and focus flagging…then just choose to give up, peel off and hang on the rope.

Fall-ure is when you get to that same place. Heart pumping, sweat pouring from places you didn’t know you could sweat, ground a distant memory and, instead of choosing to let go, you commit fully to the next scary-as-hell move. You go for it with everything you have…and still fall.

Failure is about going most of the way, then bailing on your defining moment.

Fall-ure is about going all of the way, then falling in the utterly committed pursuit of a quest.

And, the difference, the willingness to go all-in and fail at the biggest moments, is very often the difference between epic journeys and a lifetime of excuses."

My father thought this aptly described my journey towards Ironman Arizona and wanted to know what I thought about that.

Well, Dad, here's what I think.

When I first read this post I was so moved that I lost my breath for a moment.  I believe that I have pursued fall-ure my entire life, weird as that may sound.  And now there's a made-up term to describe that feeling.  Words to define an instinct.  Whether my desire to pursue fall-ure was taught or self-learned, I'm not sure.  I think, Dad, that you and I are the same in this regard.  So I believe we both learned it from your father, my grandfather.  Whether it was trying out for teams I had no business making (how many times did it take before making Hillside's basketball team?), or winding up in places I never belonged (how many times was I told "no" before scoring a press pass to the Reagan Library opening?), I've never let that fear of rejection or the unknown stop me.  And one need not look further than my relationship with my fiance to confirm that in all areas of my life, I've risked everything (and sometimes failed in the process) to do what I think is either best for me or a goal I want to achieve.

So, as it pertains to this odyssey that is the Ironman, I could very well drop off the proverbial cliff come race day.  I might get sick.  Or crash.  Or just have a bad day.  But, one thing I won't do that day is fail.  I've trained 550 hours so far not to fail.  The actual race is 17 hours or less.

Were I not to finish at Ironman Arizona, I would not consider it a failure.  Unless I simply quit, which would never happen.  They will have to drag me off that course or I'm crossing that finish line.  This is my final build week before heading into a three-week taper.  I've done the work.  I've passed the tests, week after week, rain or shine (like today, where I biked two hours in the damp, rainy LA basin).  At every crux, I've climbed.  And when I've slipped, I've found a new crux to leverage.

I think that's the bottom line in triathlon.  If we continually push ourselves, we can't fail. If we bonk, it's a lesson, not a judgement.  If we crash, it's a DNF, not a Did Not Compete.  We show up.  We race.  We practice.  We learn.  We grow.  We do it again.

No matter what the results say, there is no failure in that.

But if we're not trying to outdo ourselves each time, there cannot be fall-ure either.

So, Dad, I hope you can live with your son being a total fall-ure.

And for what it's worth, I think you're a fall-ure too.

30 days and counting.

PS: In case you missed it, my latest article for Lava Magazine is now live on their website. It's about balancing relationships and training.  I think we could all use some help in this area!  Here's the link.