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Fail Forward Fast

Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.  

C.S. Lewis


My topics often focus on motivational themes, fitness, proper nutrition and general higher function living. We all secretly want to be high performing goal crushing machines.

But sometimes that doesn’t happen.

Case in point, I recently signed up for a Go Ruck event as a personal challenge. A Go Ruck is combination of hiking with a 30+ pound pack while performing vigorous calisthenics and various military inspired challenges. The event is a 12 hour grueling process with the primary goal of developing personal grit and the ability to work as a team.

My event was run by a former Army Ranger. An avid cross fit athlete, former collegiate sprinter, I felt that this type of event was right up my alley. I thought it would prove a challenge but I had no doubt about my ability to complete such a test.

Boy was I in for an attitudinal course correction!

2 hrs into the 12 hr event, my night was done. By the end of the event I learned only 50% of the participants crossed the finish line.

Sparing many details, let’s just say the night started with intense numbers of pushups and at one point 150 burpees (Remember the weighted pack). One team member passed out during the first 75 burpees….I remember thinking….”Uh-OH”

We had timed runs, marches, and tasks where we had to organize ourselves as a team lead and be led.

The end came for me during an inverted pushup evolution. After about 30 pushups with my combined 45 pound pack riding up on my shoulders, I began having intense pain in my lower back. The pain started on my right side and triggered cramping in both my hamstring and calf.

Fighting the sensation, I flailed to maintain my core posture to no avail. Sensing my pending doom the cadre (Instructor) zoomed over and monitored my death spiral.

My mind said go…my body began failing. The instuctor called me aside. Nearly unable to right myself to stand, he summised I had hurt myself and abuptly, unceromoniously ended my night “Dude, your ‘F…ing’ back is screwed, your done, go home, come back when you get your ‘sh*t’ fixed!”

Alone, dejected, physically crushed I limped back to my vehicle parked a mile or so away.

It took about 48 hrs for me to collect my emotions on this event and begin piecing together the lessons from this epic fail.

Failure Lessons

  • Failure means your striving:  Failure can mean you attempted something bold–nothing ventured nothing gained.  If you play in the safe zone consistently you may never get anywhere fast.
  • Don’t Overestimate Ability:  I learned I’m not as fit as I thought and have weak points in my core strength…now I can re-focus my training.  
  • Fail to plan/Plan to fail:  I learned I should probably have trained more specfically.  Cross-fit workouts alone did not prepare me for the weighted pack activities.  With any serious challenge, take the time to drill down key elements.  Tailor preparation to fit the activity.  
  • Life is not fair:  Ok, I didn’t “Learn” this as I’m well versed, but my GoRuck experience served as a great reminder of this universal and sometimes painful lesson.  
  • Failures lead to Successes:  When you fail, you learn.  Applied lessons equates to wisdom.  I think modern life discourages the failure experience.  (ie.  Everyone gets a ribbon)  Challenges make us stronger, more resilient.

I shared this personal experience because I know each reader has “Bonked” at some point physically and/or emotionally.  I hope this post serves as a reminder that individual failures do not define you as a person.  Failures serve as learning opportunities and points of reference on how to improve, evolve, and successfully keep moving forward.

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Dawn posada June 25, 2015, 2:21 pm

    First…..congrats on takimg on that huge challenge. I didn’t even know people did crazy stuff like that (haha). Your article was an awesome read with a great message……we must fail in order to grow….I’m “failing forward fast” (I just love that! ).

    • William Curtis MD June 26, 2015, 8:34 am

      Thanks Dawn! People avoid talking about failure. I think we should embrace these moments more. As you know, this is an important message for our younger generation (and our own) which often emphasizes success, winning, etc….without acknowledgement of the value of lessons learned from adversity.

  • Pam June 25, 2015, 5:27 pm

    Thanks for sharing…..I’ve fallen off my healthy track and am struggling to gain control. While it’s not quite the same, I have still felt a failure. I appreciate you being real with us as it is a reminder that perfection isn’t realistic. And we are all work in progress and ever-changing… Blessings.

    • William Curtis MD June 26, 2015, 8:38 am

      I understand your sentiment and I’m glad you caught the gist of my message. Perfection is an illusion. Striving, focusing on process and improvement IS what matters. Diet, fitness, and lifestyle choices are a moving target. In fact, they really arent “Hard Targets” that one can say “Check–done that.”

      Success is a process. It’s a habit that involves failing and exploring failure to determine new ways to move forward.

      Thanks for responding! This really was a difficult message to share.

  • Melba Marciales June 25, 2015, 6:19 pm

    Nice article,Thankyou for sharing.we don’t have to be perfect in life but working hard and do your best is the key .Good job

  • Jennifer Guerrero June 25, 2015, 9:14 pm

    Job well done.
    Thanks for sharing & inspiring..

  • Wes Burns June 26, 2015, 11:27 am

    I too am concerned about where the moral compass of the currently vocal minority is leading our future…participation ribbons for everyone…not keeping score so the losers’ feelings are not hurt. The principles and traits that made our country great are being compromised in fear of offending or compromising someone’s self-esteem. Without failure, one does not learn to plan, to be resourceful, to persist, or even get the opportunity to bask in the glory of success. True success, however one defines success, does not come without lots of hard work and failure. I appreciate you sharing your story so that it may inspire others to not dwell on their failures, but to use them as a launching pad to greatness!

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