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Story Time – Redefining “Failure”

Nike. Michael Jordan. Mat Fraser.

These are powerhouses in their respective fields, but they all dealt with massive failures as part of their journeys.

Dealing with Failure from CrossFit Ireland on Vimeo.

As The CrossFit Open is coming up, we like to joke that “I really hope this test of weaknesses doesn’t expose any weaknesses!”

There’s a danger to avoiding “failure”, it that it severely limits us long term and sets us up for potentially bigger loses. Say in CrossFit, for example, we’re really good at the barbell but not so much with gymnastics. So we avoid bodyweight work in favour of just the barbell. What happens when your back squat inevitably tops out. Now you’re left with deadlifts, snatches, and clean & jerks. But your Oly lifts will eventually top out, are you just going to deadlift now. Your field of ability has diminished, most likely your enjoyment of training along with it too.

With increased variability in our training, we can avoid overuse injuries AND increase our overall ability and fitness gains. Working on that thing you’re “bad” at will over the greatest return to your training, and most likely aid in developing that thing your’e good at too.

Failure in the gym is rarely catastrophic, and we can use this as a learning or growth experience. So we missed our muscle ups, what can we learn from it? What in our approach to the metcon or our training needs to improve so we don’t miss it next time? Taking this approach, which is tougher than just coming in and throwing down, is way better for your fitness, and your mind state, long term.

Sometimes, there’s days when we really want to excel. The few days a year when we’re competing instead of practicing or training. We’re going for that big PB, or repeating an Open workout with a score we have to get today. How do we deal with failure then? In this case, we give ourselves a set time (say 5 minutes) to dwell on it. Then we move on. George Mumford, who famously came back from being a heroin addict to becoming Michael Jordan’s mindfulness coach, said “Don’t take the last play into the next one.” If you miss your snatch, does it help you to get angry, throw a strop and keep replaying that when you step up the next time to the bar? Or does it help you more to shut the door on that lift, and focus on what you need to do for this lift now?

For further reading on this, check our Carol Dweck’s “Mindset” and Angela Duckworth’s “Grit“.

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