This Thanksgiving I’m Thankful For All My Failures

It’s Thanksgiving, which is the one day of the year we verbalize the things we’re thankful for.

Side note: if this is the only day of the year you do this, try harder…

But on the note of giving thanks, I’d like to add a little twist this year, since those who I’m most thankful for already know, since I don’t go a year without telling them so…

This year I’d like to give thanks to all my failures in life.

Yes.

You read that line correctly.

I’d like to give thanks for every time I lost a race, was rejected by a publisher or agent, or quite simply just didn’t live up to the moment.

It’s these failures in life that led me to where I am today, and I’m thankful for where I am today.

Which is currently sitting in my office at my wooden vintage ‘80s desk from Chile while the morning sun beats on my eyes. Coffee filled. Surrounded by books and to many journals.

Yeah.

I like where I’m at.

Onwards to the point…

I’m definitely not the first person (or the last) to say that anything worth doing isn’t easy.

While I’d love to claim to be the first person to come up with something so insightful, that’s just not the case here.

It’s been my experience that every positive thing that I’ve encountered in my life was preceded by something negative.

It almost always evens out.

And to clarify, when I say “negative,” I just mean something didn’t go the way I wanted to at the time.

It’s best not to have expectations in life, but that’s a whole other topic for another day…

I’m saying that the negative had to happen — so there could be a positive. And the more challenging the negative, the more rewarding the positive.

There had to be a loss, before there could be a win.

This is why on this day, I’d like to thank a handful of (perceived) bad things (loss) that has happened in my life.

I’d like to thank the (subjective) state rankings heading into the Georgia state cross country championships my senior year of high school. Being ranked third fueled my adolescent tank of vengeance to the brim, which was enough to win the damn thing.

I’d like to thank Daniel Kanyaruhuru (& company) for torching me in the final 600 meters of the 3,000 at the NJCAA championships that one Friday night all those years ago. He lit such a fire under my ass, I still had flames all around me the following day when we toed the line for the mile. Torched but not scarred, I led every step of that mile from start to finish off sheer will power.

 

And then there’s the 2010 USATF Club Track Championship 10,000

Off the bat, I’ve got to thank the negative version of myself on this one. That lurking emotional monster who never goes away. He’s such a damn wet blanket. But I need him…

This is where that I learned that the toughest opponents are within us.

I used to think the fight was an external one. But no. I was wrong. It was internal all along.

For months I had been battling two versions of myself. A negative, and a positive.

Tyler Durden (Just without some of the more provocative tendencies.)

I had high hopes, but battled with waning confidence.

In a place like Boulder, Colorado, it’s easy to lack confidence — there are literal Olympians training in town…

I went to San Francisco with a mixed backpack of insecurities and hope, having never broken 15 minutes for a 5k, or 31:38 for a 10k.

So, two laps in I went Fight Club mode on myself.

I decided to say “they hell with it,” and dropped a 71-second quarter. 

Side note: for you non-runners out there, my previous personal-best pace was around 76-seconds per-lap.

Let the self-beating begin.


A punch to the ear.

The negative version of myself didn’t toss in the white towel just yet, he just sat in the passenger seat, screaming at me about excluding him from Project Mayhem.

After passing the 5k in a personal best of 14:52 this screaming lunatic briefly got a few good punches in.

He said: “You’ll never hold this pace… The big bear is about to jump on your back…”

Positive me promptly leapt on negative me and mercilessly began beating the shit out of him.

The Narrator beating Jared Leto to a pulp.

The beating culminated with 12 more 72s and a 29:51 meet-record.

The reality?

I needed that screaming negative lunatic to doubt me. I needed something to overcome. I needed the irritant, because it gave me something to battle against.

You can’t make fire without friction…

Victory is sweeter when there’s something to overcome, and I’ve got a sweet tooth (just ask my dentist…)

Like the countless rejections that flooded my email after finishing Bolder Dreams. There were many. It felt like I was running up a mountain but making no gains in my pursuit to reach the top.

Side note: Add my second novel to the list…

I poured my heart into those 64,000 words, but the rejections kept on coming in like invites to Hogwarts

Oh, the irony…

Somedays I considered lighting my manuscript on fire. Other days I sent out a half-dozen query letters.

I could give up and move on, or I could keep going.

The question became that simple.

But it’s only a failure or a loss if you choose to allow it to definitively end your quest, otherwise it’s just another obstacle on the road to greater things.

The result?

Every rejection simply fueled my resolve. Perseverance paid off, and Bolder Dreams found a publisher.

The lesson?

Embrace every failure as much as you embrace every victory, because the reality is they come hand in hand.

I could’ve chosen to be content with finishing third at State my senior year, since that’s where I ranked.

I could’ve chosen to be content with finishing behind Daniel in the NJCAA championship mile, since he had torched me the night before.

I could’ve settled for running a one-second PR in that USATF 10k, because progress is progress.

And I could’ve chosen to be content with finishing one novel, regardless of it every being published, because finishing one is a feat within itself.

But that’s not me.

Settling at the first hint of opposition is not me.

I choose to use the friction in life to make a fire. Because if everything in life came easy it’d be hard to fully appreciate it. It’d be hard to be grateful for a victory if there’s never a loss.

So I’m thankful for every obstacle I’ve encountered. Thankful for every time I crossed the finish line behind someone (or many.) Thankful for every rejection letter that slid into my email. And thankful that my own worst critic is me. 

(This blog sucks…)

He’s such an ass…

Some parting words on the theme of the day (gratefulness…)

I’ll paraphrase Yellowstone’s “Rip” — The trick to life is to think you don’t deserve anything. Live like you’re trying to be deserving of it, that way you’ll be grateful for whatever you get

Happy Thanksgiving!                                         

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