Sunday, August 3, 2008

Permission to Fail

I wanted to make my first post something meaninful, something to give you an idea as to what future posts might be about. Something to show the essence of what this blog might be about.

This is one of my favorite articles from Again Faster. In my training, I have a difficult time with patience. I want, not instant gratification, but gratification sooner than I should receive it. Gratification and success take time -- patience. This article has helped me keep things in perspective. Thanks Jon Gilson!

Give a guy with four pull-ups and two dips a set of rings, and he’ll pine for a muscle-up. He’ll pull on those rings two or three times, confident that the next rep will be the one. On rep five, his gaze finds the ground, and the little muscles surrounding his eyes relax. By attempt ten, he’s defeated, and the swearing starts.

The curse of the novice is two-fold. Along with a wanton desire for progress comes a concomitant failure to realize that advanced skills are not the province of the beginner.

Little attention is paid to such lowly matters as the air squat while the newly christened athlete seeks the clean. The push press is left aside in favor of the split jerk, and the pull-up gives valuable practice time to the muscle-up.

This phenomenon is unavoidable in our culture of instant gratification, so there is little point in disparaging our collective lack of patience. Without fail, we’d rather be the CEO than the mailroom clerk, and ambition should not be dampened.

Nonetheless, our ring-wielding athlete is unprepared to succeed, and he hasn’t given himself permission to fail--a surefire recipe for rage.

The first step to mastery is preparation. The dips and the pull-ups need to be there prior to the muscle-up attempts, or the frustration will be unending. Our athlete needs to own the basics, or advanced movement will never happen.

Even with proper preparation, the athlete must be willing to fail repeatedly, practicing the impossible until it is no longer so. This journey, a seemingly endless parade of incompetence, is hard on the psyche. At every moment, it’s easier to quit than continue.

The ensuing struggle between ego and reality is won by the ego more often than not, and practice ceases in favor of easier tasks and quicker victories. This keeps experience within narrow bounds, impeding athletic progress for the sake of transient happiness.

Recognize that competence lies on the other side of slogging failure. Make your preparations, and assault your target, never forgetting that victory is the end state of persistence. You’ll find that the curse of the novice is no longer yours, as you’ve recognized that success comes only by embracing failure at every stage of the game.

Article courtesy of Again Faster Posted on Thursday, July 24, 2008 at 12:10PM by Jon Gilson

Picture courtesy of J. Craig Zelinski, supreme dot commander of

Fast and Light 2.0, atop An Teallach in Scotland.

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