Thursday, October 14, 2010

Learning to Lose

I like to think of myself as a winner.

Don't we all?

I was pretty close to a straight A student in school. I have a good social circle of good friends. I've had some pretty cool achievements. I live a comfortable life.

I also have some big dreams. And I would really like to see some of them materialize. Someday.

There have been a lot in life that has come easy to me. Academics. Friendships. Jobs. Promotions. Love. I promise I'm not tooting my own horn. All these successes are because of a higher power. But I have been blessed nonetheless. The problem with easy success is that failure is a terrifying aspect. You grow use to getting what you want and getting praise for your achievements that you begin to distance yourself from things you might fail at, so you don't look like a loser. Like the kids in high school who got straight A's without trying then went on to college and really struggled because they didn't know how to buckle down and study.

That's totally me.

I've been trying to push myself. Not push myself to win. Push myself to fail. Because new, courageous things are hard. They are beyond my comfort zone. And I am ready to be more. I read a quote once, I can't find it now, so paraphrasing, it said something along the lines of "You'll never know how much you can do until you do too much."

I'm ready to do too much.

This Saturday, I am running my first 5k. To many, this would not be a big deal. For me, it is a big deal. See, I'm kind of allergic to exercise. I hate physical exertion. It's painful. It's taxing. It's time consuming. And I have yet to experience any benefit whatsoever from it. If I were to rewrite the Divine Comedy, the seventh circle of hell would be a gym full of treadmills. That's how strongly I feel about exercise.

I am not good at running. A month ago, I couldn't run 60 seconds. That is not an exaggeration. I have slowly been building my stamina and strength. Today I ran/jogged/walked 2.4 miles in 32 minutes. It was brutal and not fun. And I think the "runner's high" is just a stupid myth. I even got lapped by some tall Nordic looking dude. He ran the entire 2.4 loop around the river and lapped me in less than eight minutes.

Saturday I am going to show up. I am going to not win. I am going to fail. But I am going to cross that finish line. Hopefully I won't be the last one, but even if I am, that's okay.

But I believe that failure is an essential part of success.

I have always wanted to be a published author. It's hard to admit that dream. Whenever I say that, people inevitably ask what kinds of books I would write and I am bashful to say because I am afraid my imaginations and thoughts are stupid and unworthy. I started dozens of books over the years. Dozens. And finally, I forced myself to finish a novel. It is a huge achievement in my book. And I queried literary agencies. And I have least 30 rejections. Maybe even closer to 50.

Maybe my book isn't good and will never see the shelves of a Barnes & Noble. But I discovered something. Those rejections didn't kill me. They didn't injure my pride. Sure, there was disappointment. But I took it in stride and every six months or so, I send out a few more queries, just in case. There's a lot of crap published these days. Someone is bound to like my crap. And I am working on my next novel. Maybe this one will fare better.

My point is, failure isn't as bad as I thought it would be. It's kind of strengthening in a way. I hope I find the same sense of strength for failing on Saturday. Because all winners must start as failures. Hopefully you can cheer me on in spirit as I learn to lose. And in turn, I will learn to win.

"Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It's quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn't at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that's where you will find success."

- Thomas J. Watson


Liz Smith said...

you're very brave to write this. I admire you for being willing to put yourself out there and let us read your thoughts. I think we all struggle with this from time to time. I will say though that running and finishing any kind of race, whether you finish in first or last place, is the complete opposite of failure. You are accomplishing a goal and that is worth a ton, regardless of your mile time. I love to exercise, but i am AWFUL at running, so i understand. I am proud of you for running a 5K! Good luck and know that you have someone rooting for you in the windy city! :D

Just Us said...

Your description cracks me up, but I used to agree, the seventh circle definitely should have been a gym! I am finally feeling the exercise high, though, and I love it! I think I could call myself an addict. Unfortunately you could say that my success is my enormous amounts of failures. Unlike you, though they aren't on purpose. My challenge is the attitude that I take about my failures. I should learn to embrace them as you have. Very inspiring!

Shellie said...

Man if I lived in Idaho or you lived in Georgia... we could form a writing team of some sort. You've accomplished something that many do not and I'm VERY VERY VERY proud of you! You are very brave and hard working. Congratulations on finishing your first novel!!! and Cheers to the next one!

kelley said...

I totally feel the same way about the runner's "high". I've started running every week and I never feel "high" about anything! My goal too is to eventually run a 5K. Props to you for doing it! And with the novel. When I get to that point in my writing, I'll definitely hit you up for some advice since the whole thing completely freaks me out. Good luck! I'd definitely be interested in reading what you've written.

Beckie said...

Way to be a loser!!! I know what you mean -- I try to not do things- I know I will lose at!! EEK!!! Or at least not tell people I am doing them -- until I succeed! then only I know I lost!!


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