“Failure is not an option,” is a famous quote that comes from the film about the Apollo 13 moon landing mission, and coincidentally is also on a poster that I have hanging in my dorm room. For those involved in this dangerous mission, failure was indeed not an option as it would have resulted in the loss of 3 astronauts’ lives. Luckily for most of us, in our everyday lives, we do usually have the luxury of being able to fail.
My high school system fucked me up pretty good. The teachers and school board only cared about one thing: grades. They pushed the importance of getting straight As, taking as many APs as possible and pushing yourself as far as you could possibly go. There was crazy grade inflation and they did little to handle the rampant drug use, depression, and anxiety amongst the teens at my school. From a young age, it was instilled in me by my school system that failure was not an option. I even remember when I failed my first test in 6th grade, I called my mom crying telling her my life was over and I would never get into college (spoiler alert: I got into college).
Luckily for me, my parents were the opposite of my school system. They taught me that it was okay to fail and even to this day, if I am stressed or overwhelmed about a test, my mom and dad tell me, “So what? So what if you fail? There’s always another test. Your mental health is more important than some arbitrary number.”
Still, our minds are molded by all of our relationships and experiences and unfortunately, I had more interactions with my teachers pushing me to not fail than my parents telling me it was okay. Because of this, there have been more times than I can count where I have pushed myself to tears and mental breakdowns because I was so afraid of failing or even just not getting an A. So, I sit here, writing this blog post not only for you guys, but also for me, as a reminder to myself to take my own advice and that it is okay to fail from time to time.
Failing is simply a part of life and you learn more from failing than you ever will from succeeding. I asked a girl to homecoming in 9th grade without ever talking to her just cause I thought she was pretty. Needless to say, she didn’t even know who I was, and I got rejected pretty badly. What did I learn? You need to talk to girls in order for them to notice you. I failed multiple Spanish tests in High School. What did I learn? Maybe, just maybe, I should be spending more time studying Spanish and less time watching TV. Success is great and all, but it doesn’t teach you jack shit. The biggest life lessons and changes for the better occur when we are at our rock bottoms--when we fail.
In school; Don’t stress so much about getting a perfect grade on every test. So what if you get an F? Obviously try your best and don’t give up on it, but maybe this one-time, sleep and your sanity are more important than a 4.0.
In relationships; Shoot your shot. Ask that person out that you’ve been thinking about all semester. So what if you get rejected? You’ll never know unless you try and hey, maybe they like you too!
In the job world; Take that chance to do what you truly love, even if it may not work out. I started this blog because I wanted to help people, and especially college students, to stay fit and healthy. Obviously, I am worried that nobody will read my posts and all this hard work and effort will be for nothing, but so what? Is not trying better than not failing?
You will never succeed if you are afraid of failure. You will be trapped in a mindless job, in a loveless relationship, with no goals and aspirations for the sole reason that you want to feel safe. So, do what you love, ask that person out, start that new hobby, apply for that exciting job. Because if you do not learn how to fail, you will only fail.
So now you may be thinking, “hey that’s some great advice and all, but how do you learn how to fail and learn from it?” I think that the answer is simply through living life and experiencing failure firsthand and accepting it. Obviously, this is easier said than done, but by starting small and realizing that it is okay to put yourself out there even if you may fail is definitely a great start!
I think that sports and games in general are also great ways to learn how to accept failure. The first experiences I had with learning that failure was just a part of life was playing baseball. People always say that baseball is a great sport to play to learn how to fail as even the best batters only ever get a hit 30-40% of the time! I think this is true for any sport, or even any game for that matter. Bobby Fischer, the great chess player, lost 3 games in his famous World Chess Championship match with Spassky of the USSR! But does that make him a failure? No!
Since this is a fitness and exercise blog, you know I have to mention weightlifting as well. Lifting is another great activity to do to learn how to fail. Most of the time when I am lifting, I am lifting till failure! The goal is to fail! To expend the muscles as far as they can go so that you can tear them and rebuild them back bigger and stronger. This is also just a great analogy to life as well because failure may tear you down, but you will learn from the experience and only come back better, stronger and smarter than ever before.
Failure is an option.
A special thank you to all my friends and family who have not only supported me on my journey but have helped along the way. None of this would be possible without them. Remember to take time to appreciate those in your lives!
Copyright © 2020 Nick Siegel, all rights reserved