I have heard Lazarus Lake, the mastermind behind the Barkley Marathons, say many times that truly testing yourself is signing up for an adventure you’re not entirely sure you can complete. That’s the whole point. He laments that many of us, myself included, try to engineer adventures that may be tough but that we feel pretty confident we can achieve. We aren’t, in all honesty, looking to be tested, we are looking to be gratified.
Does that mean that adventures you feel secure in accomplishing are wrong or disingenuous? No, they just aren’t really limit pushers. They are playing into our confirmation bias. We feel pretty sure we can do it, and when we do, then we are affirmed. And there is value in that.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like testing myself so much that there is a great likelihood of failure. In the past, I have not been a fan of failure. Truthfully, I have avoided it with great effort and care.
In recent months, though, I am beginning to entertain the idea of failure in a whole new context. A friend of mine said that failure is part of the process to success. It’s just the cost of doing business.
Wow, OK, I never thought about it like that. I always took failure to mean that I was less than; that I didn’t measure up.
Then I saw an instagram video, which I fruitlessly searched for and could not find again, that offered up all these successful people’s take on failure and all of them were firm believers in failure. They all said, basically, if you are not ever failing, you aren’t really setting very big goals. Well OK then. My mind was being opened by this.
I am starting to warm up to this little friend, this former nemesis, called failure. This cat shows up when I am attempting something challenging; when I am pushing my own personal limits regardless of whether they happen to be someone else’s. That’s the key, is it YOUR limit?? Are you pushing YOUR comfort zone? If someone is doing something you think is wildly terrifying but they don’t, they aren’t necessarily doing something amazing. They are doing something that feels safe. It’s all about context.
All that to tell you that this past weekend I went into an adventure with the intent that I was going to find my limit. I was setting myself up with the framework that I may, in fact, fail.
And friends, I came darn close. Failure and I flirted a lot along the way. We Snapchatted, we texted. Sometimes we gave each other the side eye. Other times we looked deep into each other’s eyes and dared the other to blink first. Kids, I faltered more than once. I wanted to cry. A few times I did cry. I called John. I called Lowi. I sat down in a chair next to my mom, who I think feared I may be too far over the edge, and put my head in my hands. I was so close to my goal and it felt farther than ever.
Never in my life have I been 2 miles from a goal and thought, “I really don’t know if I can do this?” Usually at 2 miles to go I think “OMG I am almost home!!! YES!!!”
Me, failure, and my current personal limitations were now in lockstep for loop after loop. None of us was willing to drop. Not me, not failure, and not limitation. They were all in it to win it. And they all had lots to say. I mean, a lot to say.
What kept coming to mind was Laz saying “But you haven’t tested your limit until you’ve tried something you can’t do. Then you know where your limit is. It’s right there where I quit. That was it. That was the limit.”
After 22 hours everyone had their day in the sun: me, failure and personal limitations. I did hit my goal of 75 miles. But failure got to win the day because I was unable to make it a full 24 hours. And personal limitation showed me just right down to the granular level where my limit truly is… it was right there where I quit. It was right in those moments where I was unable to physically, mentally, or emotionally ask any more of myself.
The difference this time is me. I am seeing failure and personal limitation as the next horizon instead of the final nail.
Sunshine & Sarcasm,
Lowi & G