"Failing" Forward Toward Success

By LifeSport Coach Christian Isakson

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

C. S. Lewis



Tougher than any indoor trainer session, swim, or interval run, failure is something I'm incredibly familiar with.  Maybe we all are. What do I say to myself or the athletes I'm coaching when the old friend comes to dine and haunt the house? 


Throughout my career as a multisport athlete, I've been given opportunity to talk and travel. Schools, churches, youth groups, athletic teams. It was tough at first, but once I figured out how my opening would go, the body of my discussion sort of just fell into place. 

 Goes something like this....

"Thank you so much for allowing me to come and share with you today.

My name is Christian. I am an Endurance Athlete...and, I've never won a single race I've competed in.


Second, third, fourth, fifth.

But never first."

This leads to the same question, almost every single time. "Why keep doing it if you fail?" I do my best to avoid overcooked clichés.  But ultimately the types of failure I've experienced are boiled down to a singularly refined statement.  Trying to explain myself sometimes can be tough, but it goes something like this...

Failurerather perceived failure in finishing time, placing, qualification or whatever goal was unachieved, is an experience — sometimes in training, but often during a race —  that gives  me what I need, not necessarily what I want,  so I can go where I really want to go.

Failure usually masks a future success, and sometimes I'm just too impatient, and stupid to allow that possibility.  It functions like a big computer. A strange and ugly computer collecting pings and data on a spread sheet.  We need to get over the feeling, (feeling being the key word here) of the initial disappointment of unmet expectations, and try, even when it's difficult, to gain perspective on what it truly means. 

I know that's a mouthful and am almost certain I've not fully conveyed my thought.  I admit I struggle putting this into practice.  In 2015 I almost lost my life as a result of a 'failure'.  I did not at the time see it as a 'great opportunity' to get me where I need to be.  I thought 'This freaking sucks!" and "I may never race again."


**Another interesting characteristic of the ugly computer of failure. Collecting data is no reason to give you a why. Or when the 'why' will make sense to validate the failure. 

Just don't quit. Ever.


Situations and whys I've used to get over myself and understand the whole year, 2 years, however long was a build to this failure-the one that gets me to the goal.

I often think of times, and reasons, in a race where I wanted so bad to quit and did not. Only to find the next moments the precious seconds that sling shot me past the valley-to the next little victory to get me to the finish. 

Or to the next valley.

I've read that success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. I could not agree more. 

So the point of this rambling is I encourage you to find look for reasons and figure out why your failure is a success.  Much in the same way I have taught athletes to find a 'focus for the misery' in a race.  "What's more important than the discomfort you’re feeling now?" Something to get you past it. 

How can failure at a race equate to anything but a success if the reason for racing is bigger than a result?

Your why could be something like losing weight, fighting a habit, breaking a cycle, getting fit. It could be cancer, a promise, a hope to feel better, raising awareness for a cause, charity, children, food, etc.  This is the art of sport I'm so drawn to.  The art of sport as the canvas, and the reason for racing is the masterpiece.  

Dick & Rick Hoyt - Team Hoyt began in 1977 when Rick asked his father if they could run in a race together to benefit a lacrosse player at his school who had become paralyzed. He wanted to prove that life went on no matter your disability.

Roberto Clemente - Clemente spent much of his time during the off-season involved in charity work. 

Billy Miske - Miske's family struggled financially following his retirement, and though doctors only gave him a few months to live, he decided to fight once more in order to earn enough money to buy Christmas presents for his children.

Artists in sport making beautiful works of art in life.  


Contact Christian to help reach your full potential in the wonderful sport of triathlon.

Miss being part of a team? Beginner to experienced triathletes looking to start or improve their performances are invited to join the LifeSport team. Visit us on the web at www.LifeSport.ca or email LifeSport Coaching.

For more training tips, visit LifeSport Coaching on FacebookInstagram or on Twitter and tag #LifeSportCoach to be a part of our journey!



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