I had an interesting experience a few months back. I utterly and completely failed at something. Luckily the consequences have been minor… I started competing in something called the Crossfit Games Open, which is an international competition designed to find the fittest men and women on the planet. Big surprise, I’m not the guy they’re looking for.
A little back story on the competition.
In the Crossfit Games Open, each competitor needs to complete a certain workout and submit their scores online. Their scores are validated by judges watching the workout and everyone is ranked on a giant list. When you post your score you can see exactly how many people are better than you. Great!
I did the first two workouts, and posted my scores. I wasn’t doing great, but I was hanging in there in the bottom third of competitors. Life was good. I was having a good time, and I was able to sooth my competitive drive by reminding myself that even though I wasn’t the best, I wasn’t the worst either. That is, until the third workout came up. It was incredibly simple, only one exercise, done as many times as possible in 5 minutes. Unfortunately that one exercise was a 165 pound squat clean and jerk.
I can’t do a clean and jerk with that weight. Not a single one. And it’s not something I can really “work on” either. I have pretty good technique, and enough strength to get the bar up and off the ground and onto my shoulders, but my legs and back (mostly back) simply aren’t strong enough to front squat that weight. So what did I do? Started a timer and for five minutes I tried repeatedly to clean and squat that weight… my goal was 1… just do 1 rep…
I tried to submit my score of 0 to the website… to which they responded “sorry, you can’t do that”. So not only did I fail, but I was so much of a failure that I wasn’t even given the chance to tell the world about my failure. No one was interested.
It was a pretty disappointing saturday. I took myself out to breakfast at the local diner and while I was sitting there realized that based on my original criteria of success I had failed, but viewed through the lens of history I had actually achieved something that morning. I had on my list of fitness goals for a while to be able to clean my bodyweight. I weigh 155, and in cleaning 165 pounds from the ground to my shoulders, even though I hadn’t finished the squat part of the workout I had done something I had never done before. I also got to add another item to my list of personal goals. It’s still sitting there today, taunting me. But I’m going to hit the Olympic Weight Lifting class at the gym today and see if I can’t chip away at that goal a little bit more.
Hat tip to Nerd Fitness for blogging about failure and helping motivate me to finally finish this post.
Tipping the other hat to Seth Godin, with more info on dealing with failure.