And I am proud of it.
I recently heard a speech by J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series. She was talking about how she had hit rock bottom after her divorce and before she wrote the first Harry Potter book, and she felt like a complete failure and had no idea whether she would survive. According to her,
“Being a failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free because my greatest fear had been realized and I was still alive and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. You might never fail on the scale I did. But some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something. Unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you fail by default. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will. And more discipline than I had suspected. I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies. The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are ever after secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself or the strength of your relationships until both have been tested by adversity.
This really hit home with me. After my divorce I had those same feelings of failure. I felt like the whole 13 years being a stay-at-home mom had been a waste, except for my three perfect and beautiful children. I had no idea how I was going to survive. I had done some teaching but we moved a lot and that made teaching more difficult with state licensing and school years and the like. When we moved back to Dallas my 3 kids and I moved in with my mom until I found a job. I turned in lots of applications with lots of school districts, but it was mid-January and no one was really hiring an English teacher. I was getting really desperate when the opportunity to open my own CrossFit gym literally fell into my lap. And even better, John Mariotti decided to give it a go with me (thanks again for that, John!) Things didn’t really go as we had planned, and for a while it was very scary. I invested most of what I had in this venture. I had to live with my mom longer than I had planned (thanks mom!) and I had to ask my dad for money to help me get by (thanks dad!) and I had to ask my sister and all of my other relatives and friends for help with my kids (thanks y’all!).
There were many times that I felt like a huge failure. And to make it worse, I had dragged my friend and my family and my kids into it. My failure affected all of them. I felt like a huge burden and at times I felt really down and depressed. But here is the thing… This is my dream. I always wanted to have a business of my own. I always wanted to be a teacher. I always wanted to help people. This is the arena in which I truly belong. So I didn’t give up. We still aren’t rich by any means and there have been a lot of mistakes and learning experiences and a whole whole whole lot of failure, but we are making it. And this place – CrossFit Odyssey and Odyssey Fitness Studios – is finally becoming the vision we once had.
This past year my son was having a hard time in school and as I was talking to him I remembered my 9th grade year of school at ESD. My parents had recently divorced and I wasn’t interested in school and I was about to completely fail out of all of my classes. One of my teachers (thank you Mrs. Crisford!) got me back on track and interested in college and I went from being an F student to being a straight A student in one month. I even graduated in the top 10 in my class. As I was telling my son this I told him that every day is a new day to start over. It is simply a decision to make that big red “F” for “Failure” into something awesome – a challenge.
We have turned the word “Fail” into a dirty word in our culture when really it is something that gives us a baseline. It is the beginning, the starting point, the obstacle or challenge to be overcome. And interestingly enough, that is the funny thing about CrossFit… you see, in CrossFit I MUST fail almost Every Single Day. If I am working toward my 1 rep max backsquat and I never hit failure then I don’t really know what I am capable of squatting – or not squatting. The same goes for a WOD. If I don’t push myself as hard as I can then I never know what I really can do.
And as JK Rowling said, you may never fail on the level that I did, but you will inevitably fail many times in life. Look forward to failing because it means you got out there and you tried. Let your failure guide you to find your greatness. Let it guide you to find the people whom you can really count on. Find your inner strength and come out on top. Be grateful for your failures and look back on them with pride that you were willing to put in the hard work. If you need help, come try CrossFit… we can help you to become the failure you have always wanted to be!