60. Success by Failure

60. Success by Failure

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

Success by Failure

Even if I don’t reach all my goals, I’ve gone higher than I would have if I
hadn’t set any.
 ~Danielle Fotopoulis

I had failed again. It was the day of the big marathon. I had resolved three years ago to train for the half-marathon event and take home a medal. There I sat, in front of my TV, while I watched others cross the finish line. It was just the latest in a long string of failures. I had never met a single weight loss or fitness goal that I had set in the last three years. I was majoring in the art of failing.

We are a family of explorers and often plan active, adventurous vacations. It seemed that on every vacation I was the one who couldn’t go the distance. I had sat on massive stone steps, halfway up ancient Mayan pyramids while my family explored the antiquity and the views from the top. I had almost made it to the Great Gallery, a rare and ancient display of Indian art work painted on the side of Horseshoe Canyon in Utah. Perhaps the most humiliating failure was sitting on a mountainside in Arkansas as an old man, carrying an umbrella to shield himself from the sun, practically skipped past me on his way to the summit. He nodded to me. “Nice day for a walk,” he smiled. Yeah. Sure.

Each time I urged my family, “Go on without me. Bring me lots of pictures and videos. I’ll be fine just sitting here taking in the view.” I lied.

Sick of being left behind, I resolved that it would never happen again. Sure I was in my 50s, overweight and obviously out of shape, but if an old man with an umbrella could skip to the top of a mountain, surely there was still hope for me. I always spent weeks of walking to prepare for our active vacations. If I hadn’t, I would probably have waited in an air-conditioned car while my family went on exciting adventures without me. I had lost weight, the same weight, many times. I just always seemed to fail to get where I needed to be.

But this time I would do something different. I was going to train to walk a half marathon. Surely I would lose weight and get in shape if I could complete over 12 miles in four hours. Besides, this would be training. Training sounded cooler than diet and exercise. I was revved up and ready to go. I bought the appropriate gear, checked out what type of drinks would be handed out at the marathon and stocked up on them. I had a plan! Now two years later, there I sat, watching thousands of people of all ages succeed where I had failed.

I walked out onto the deck, frustrated with myself, sat down and held myself a pity party. I was a master at the art of pity parties, having a great deal of experience in throwing them. “I bet the old man with the umbrella runs marathons,” I said to two robins on the fence. Having observed their plump bellies, I was sure they were allies.

I closed my eyes and reflected on the failures of the last three years. It was much too depressing to go back any further than that. What was my problem? Where was I going wrong? I stopped and considered each failure, one by one. I made some very interesting discoveries.

I had failed to climb to the top of that Mayan pyramid, but I did climb it and stood on those ancient stones. I failed to climb to the summit of the mountain in Arkansas, but I almost did and I had a wonderful view of the countryside and the Arkansas River. I failed to see the Great Gallery in Horseshoe Canyon but I did hike almost two miles down a steep canyon trail, three more miles through a sandy wash to see the other galleries, and then hiked two miles back up the canyon wall. I may not have gone the distance, but I didn’t sit in the car either. “I have some great stories!” I shouted to the robins, who promptly vacated the fence.

I had failed to meet a single weight loss goal and yet I had lost 43 pounds. I couldn’t walk 12 miles in four hours, but I could walk 12 miles. Shoot, I was even starting to do a little running.

All my failures were sounding suspiciously like a success story. Feeling much better about myself, I sat back and closed my eyes again. This time I was giving thanks. I was thankful that I had been given the spirit of failure because failure meant that I was trying, that I didn’t give up, I didn’t quit. I decided that at the rate I was failing, I would be crossing that finish line next year.

~Debbie Acklin

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