Finding Success In Failure

Sometime after getting stuck in a blizzard on Morocco’s Mount Toubkal, I decided I wanted to do it again. No, not fear for my life, but to really push the limits of my mind and body in the outdoors. Friday was the Summer Solstice, with more daylight than any other day of the year, so I decided to celebrate the season by putting together a weekend adventure.

On Friday I rode 100 miles on my road bike, sticking mostly to the Hudson River because the day started with rain. Saturday was a recovery day, and on Sunday, I went to Mountain Creek Bike Park for the second challenge of the weekend – riding 50 miles of downhill. I wanted to contrast 100 miles of pedaling with the most physically demanding part of mountain biking – descending.

Bike park riding is known to take a toll on both body and bike, and considering how many laps I did, I’m pretty happy to make it out with only 1 flat tire, a bent derailleur, a broken shifter, and tipping over a few times.

One of my favorite things about going to the bike park is that I get to ride terrain that scares me and can actually be dangerous. For example, here’s a clip of a new trail that I discovered and absolutely loved:

You see, I find it to be a reprieve from our modern world of psychological stress. I’m privileged in that most of the fear or danger I experience is largely happening within my own mind, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not real.

Most of us have measurable stress responses from what we see of someone else’s success on social media, or when we’re watching the nightly news, or when someone is hauling passed us on a Pivot Phoenix at the bike park. I saw that bike yesterday and it was gorgeous.

The danger of life exists mostly within our heads, and I’ve found that addressing the fear of failure – or desire for success – has been the biggest challenge that I’ve taken on.

I had the wrong tube in my bag yesterday and had to hike down the mountain with my bike to get a back-up from the car. When I realized I wasn’t going to get to my 50-mile goal, I spent a few minutes thinking about throwing in the towel. My derailleur was bent and I couldn’t even shift, and my attitude had taken a turn for the worse.

And then, I thought about something that my wife Katie had said to me recently, that we have the agency to choose between suffering, and suffering well.”

(Sidebar: I’m fully aware that breaking bike parts after driving to a mountain to have a chairlift take you to the top is the epitome of privilege, but at this time yesterday it absolutely felt like suffering.)

I had already taken off my riding kit, put my bike back on the car, and was ready to head out – but then I paused to feel the warmth of the sun on my bare skin, and practice gratitude.

I took a moment to appreciate the things that are going well in my life and in that moment my goal changed.

No longer was it about riding 50 miles of downhill. Instead, it was about continuing with the process even when I knew I wouldn’t reach my goal.

Can you think of a better metaphor for life? Continue with the process even when you won’t reach your goal. We become so focused on what we set out to achieve that we forget that setting out is the achievement unto itself.

That’s the moral of this story – cultivating a thought process that lets you fail forward, up and over the hurdles of the mind, so that each endeavor is an opportunity for growth.

2 Replies to “Finding Success In Failure”

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