3 Big Reasons Why Failure Breeds Success

What a shocker, Steve missed another deadline…

Nerd Fitness T-shirts were supposed to be available for pre-sale starting today.  However, there was a last-minute issue with files for the artwork, and then my graphic designer buddy got incredibly sick, so I didn’t get digital proofs of the shirt until late last night.

So…

Rather than selling you something that I haven’t seen in person, I’ve decided to push the launch of the shirts back until Monday to make sure everything is perfect.  More importantly, I want to actually WEAR a shirt before I feel confident selling them to you.  Luckily, they look freaking badass, and I know the shirt they’re printed on is the most comfortable thing ever.

Here’s what the logo looks like blown up on the shirt. I am giddy.

Okay, so I apologize for the delay, but hopefully you’re starting to expect those from me by now.  That’s what I get for being a one-man operation with less-than-optimal planning skills.

(oh, and I’ll announce the three winners from this week’s contest in a T-shirt extravaganza post on Monday.)

Which brings me to today’s topic:

Failure

At one point or another in our lives, we’re going to fail at something.

The more risks you take, the more chances you’ll have at failing.  Sometimes the failures are small and meaningless, while other times they’re (seemingly) catastrophic.  I’ve come to the realization that failure can be the MOST important thing you can do when it comes to being successful, both in fitness and in life.

Most people fall into one of three categories:

  1. People that are afraid to fail so they never try anything new.
  2. People that fail at something and just give up.
  3. People that fail often when trying new things and go on to be successful because of those failures.

If you fall into section 1, I want to help you try new things and understand that it’s okay to fail.  If you’re in section 2, I want to help you understand that failure is merely a stepping stone to future successes.

Nerd Fitness readers belongs in group 3. Here’s why:

Failure Tests You

It’s easy to be Mr. Know-it-all when things are going right. If you’ve never been cut from a sports team, rejected by a girl, or lost a job, it’s impossible to know how you’ll react to adversity.  Once the sh** hits the fan you can learn a tremendous amount about yourself.

Do you sulk and complain that things aren’t going your way, and then give up?

Or do you step up and take care of business?

My Junior year of High School, I was cut from the Varsity basketball team. I had played basketball for almost my entire life, been on all-star teams, and was even called up to practice with the team the year before.  I had never been cut from ANYTHING.  After two weeks of shock and denial, I finally came to grips with that I was only like 5’5″, probably 110 pounds soaking wet, and just not good enough to play at that level.

It turns out that getting cut was the best thing to ever happen to me:  I took that anger from being cut and applied it to improving myself as an athlete – I signed up for a gym membership, learned how to lift weights, and started down the path that lead me to where I am today: running a successful fitness website and being 100% in control of my time.

Months back, I wrote an article called “How to Deal With Life When Sh** Happens. In it, I talked about an NF reader who lost his home, his wife, and his job within a few days of each other.  Rather than complain about these “failures,” he took the opportunity to reevaluate his life, get in shape, and follow his dreams to become an actor.  Months later, he emailed me to tell me that he had lost a bunch of weight landed the lead role in a local production of Othello.

Life is full of adversity.  It’s that adversity and your failures that show you who you are.

Embrace it.

My friend Baker at Man Vs Debt released a product last month, and everything that could have gone wrong went wrong with the launch.  He wrote about his failures in this heart-wrenching article “How to suck at launching a product,” which immediately became my favorite thing he’s EVER written.  Do yourself a favor and read it – you’ll feel like you’re going through the whole ordeal with him.

Failure Teaches You

I have a good friend who has been trying to lose weight for over a year.  Every month, he says he’s going to lose weight by counting his calories and running.  Every month, he is successful for a week or two, slips up for a day, and goes right back to square one.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I have no problem with my friend failing to lose weight.  What I DO have a problem with is that he tries to lose weight in the exact same way every single time.  If it didn’t work the first eleven times, what is going to be different THIS time?  Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

If you fail at something, whether it’s building muscle, losing weight, starting a blog, running a company, launching an e-book, whatever, THAT’S OKAY.  What’s important that you learn from that failure.  If you’re going to attempt the same goal, what are you going to do differently this time to make it work?

  • If trying to lose weight by counting calories doesn’t work, then stop trying to lose weight by counting calories! Switch over to a Paleo-style diet, start eating healthier foods, and see if that works for you.
  • If you want to lose weight and discovered you hate running, then don’t run! Try weight lifting, karate, yoga, sign up for an ultimate frisbee league, try crossfit, whatever.  Just do something different!

I’ve been writing articles for Nerd Fitness for about two years now. In my first nine months of writing, my writing style was ALL over the place.  As a result of my inconsistent voice, I had only built up an audience of about 80 subscribers.  Fortunately, I learned what articles worked and what didn’t, analyzed my work, adjusted my writing style, injected my personality and persona into the site, and then it took off “overnight.”  I just blew past 2800 subscribers yesterday and hope to crack 3,000 within the next few weeks.

Failure is only a failure if you neglect to learn something from it. Take the lessons you learn, and apply it to future projects – THAT’S what will allow you to be successful.

Failure Allows You To Move On

Thomas Edison failed with 1,000 different filaments before finally perfecting the light bulb. Had he given up at 10 tries, 50 tries, or 999 tries…who knows where we’d be today?  Fortunately, he took each failure as “one more thing that didn’t work” so he could move onto the next thing.

Ever asked a girl out and been rejected? It stings.  However, have you wanted to talk to a girl and then chickened out?  How many days or weeks did you spend wondering what might have happened?  Sure failure sucks, but not nearly as much as regret.

I started and failed on three blogs before Nerd Fitness. Each of those blogs can be considered failures, or they can be considered stepping stones for success.  With each blog, I realized that my initial passion had worn off, and that I was covering a topic that didn’t excite me.  Thus, I could move onto the next best idea and try that one out.

After college, I moved to California to live a beach life – despite living thirty yards from the beach, my life wasn’t nearly as glamorous as it had been in my dreams. After two years of lying to myself, working a job that I didn’t like, I decided to “give up” on the West Coast by moving to Atlanta to live with my friends.  Some might see my two years out in Cali as a waste of time – after all, I didn’t advance my career, I didn’t make a lot of friends, and I had to start all over on the other side of the counry.

I saw my time in California as a tremendous learning experience.

It taught me that a paradise location isn’t nearly as fun when you don’t have your best friends to share it with, and also that I wasn’t cut out for a career in sales.  Had I never made the move to California, I always would have wondered “what could have been?”  Luckily I tried it, learned what kind of job I DIDN’T like, and was able to move onto a better job (which ultimately lead me to creating the Nerd Fitness blog).

Take risks. Try something new. Attack a problem from a new angle.  Ask out the girl of your dreams.  Move to a place you’ve always wanted to live.  Start an emu farm. Create a new website.  Volunteer for a tough job at work.

Go for it, and if you fail…you’ve just learned exactly what doesn’t work.

Be thankful, and move on.

What Have You Failed On Recently?

My last failure was this t-shirt launch. Fortunately it’s a failure that I can certainly learn from and won’t ruin me…because you, the Nerd Fitness reader, are incredibly forgiving :)

What I’ve learned: when launching a clothing line, no matter how basic, it’s more than just ordering a box of shirts and mailing them out.  I’ll take what I’ve learned from this whole process and apply it to the next Nerd Fitness t-shirt, hooded sweatshirt, shorts, pants, and eventual NF-branded five-finger shoes (I can dream, right?).

Thanks for allowing me to fail and learn every day.

What have you failed on recently, and more importantly, what did you learn from it?

-Steve

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jrougeux John Rougeux

    Great article, Steve. Keep it up!

  • http://www.strengthrunning.com Jason Fitzgerald

    Ramit Sethi has a tag in his gmail called “failures” – he mentioned awhile back that if he doesn’t have a few of those every month (month!) then he’s doing something wrong. It’s great advice. Seeking out failure by simply choosing to do many audacious things is a recipe for success. Sure, you’ll fail a lot. But you will succeed in many audacious things!

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  • http://yougiveloveabad.name JC

    Speaking of failure… for some reason, the link for the picture of the shrit blown up is a 404 if you click it from the RSS feed.

  • http://www.stevekamb.com Steve Kamb

    Hahahahaha, failure indeed.

    I’ve fixed it on the post, it should update for future RSS readers. Thanks man.

  • Andrew g

    Damn straight! It ain’t a failure if you can walk away having learned something from it! Buuuuut, if you don’t apply that knowledge when you get the chance, i guess then it would become a failure :P Really like what you’re doing with this website. I had just thought about doing something similar, but found out i was 3 years too late when i first came across this blog! Look forward to more of your posts!

  • http://twitter.com/in_appropriate G-Man

    Discovered a great “Failure” quote this morning, thought I would share. “Failure is not tied to money. It’s a mindset. Failure is when you accept the lot you’re given.”-Simon Sinek

  • Anonymous

    Well done. Thanks for the reminders and the encouragement. Failure indeed tests and teaches, not only us but those we help with our experiences. Continue helping us level up our lives.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=637092990 Anne Wood

    I once heard “to rise out of mediocrity you must not be afraid to fail” — keep failing my friend for we all know you’re destined for greatness! Thanks for allowing us to follow along the journey!

  • Kalell6

    Failure? I though this site was about fitness? Jk, there are so many self created boundaries before one can do a simple thing like exercise and stick to it. I’ve failed by waiting so long on starting a personal training business. I always felt like I needed to learn more before I even attempted it. But recently I started a Weight Loss Challenge for the staff at the school I teach at, and realized how much people really more healthy services . So far In one month, two teachers have lost 9 lbs, one lost 5, and most of the rest lost at least 1 to 2 lbs following simple advice i’ve been giving them (which has been tough since I purposely set it up to occur throughout the holidays). I secretly used the School Weight Loss Challenge as an opportunity to fine tune my nutrition and exercise advising skills. I’m glad I started it and it’s a success that is bringing me closer to my goals.

  • http://www.sc2review.com/ Eric | Starcraft 2 Strategies

    This is a great post about one of my favorite topics. Failure is not only necessary in life, it is the necessary step right before success. You’ve never succeeded at anything without failing first, so you should not only continue after failing – to be successful one must embrace and celebrate failure. Only after failing can you succeed.

  • elmanuel

    Well I asked out the girl of my dreams and failed today(she isn’t going to the party I asked her to so another party another chance I guess). But without this post I wouldn’t have asked so I’m proud of myself for doing it. I learned to accept it and move on.

    Good luck with the t shirt situation!

  • Anonymous

    I’m addicted to your blog, thanks man!

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