Saturday’s question for #Quest2016 came from Debbie Millman, writer, educator, artist, host of Design Matters. I was not familiar with Millman’s work so I went and listened to some podcasts during the day. They were delightful discussions about creativity and taking risks.
This brings me to the prompt, which I pondered most of Saturday:
How would you do business as unusual in 2016 if you knew – no matter what you chose – you would not fail?
I wrestled with the word failure, as did many others in the group. What is failure? Is failure in my eyes only? It is really perspective. Maybe it’s because not failing brings up being perfect and I am not perfect. I have learned many valuable lessons from failing (or at least failing in the standard, American society definition of failing). These are what move me forward. I don’t enjoy failing but it isn’t all bad. Thinking about this brought up several examples for me.
The main example is from my attempts at 70.3 races – four of them, with four DNF’s (did not finish). I have had people ask me how I deal with the failure of the DNF and keep going. I have finished a number of shorter races, for one thing, and for another, I have been disappointed but I don’t consider my DNF’s failures because I have learned from them. Let me review:
Raleigh – first 70.3 attempt. I did not complete the swim. I had cramps in my legs and there is no practice that can prepare you for being constantly kicked in the water. What I learned: hydrate better and get in more open water swims before my race. I was still a relatively new open water swimmer at that time.
Augusta – 2013 – Swim and bike complete, 3 miles into the run was pulled by a volunteer. What I learned: Don’t fill the Camelbak in transition. My hydration did not go into the bottle, it went on the ground but I didn’t realize it until I was on the road. Hydrate (I hadn’t quite gotten it right yet). I met the wonderful Carol Fitzgerald Tyler and her sister Leslie Doll as a result of this DNF. Carol was the medical person who came for me. Leslie was racing and I have followed her amazing story of getting cochlear implants and learning to hear.
Barb’s Race – 2014. Swim, 45 miles of the bike – through the worst part of the bike. I made it up Chalk Hill, which only means something to those who have done it. What did I learn – I was ready to race but nothing is guaranteed. Race day was very hot after a few cool days. The kindness of strangers was reaffirmed. A kind woman named Louise gave me water, put my bike in her van, and took me to the race site after I sat waiting for a race vehicle to come by. I also met wonderful people on this trip and found a place that I truly love.
Augusta – 2014. Swim and bike complete, 9ish miles of the race done. I pulled myself on this one. I knew that even though I was close that my ankle was not going to make it. It was a better decision to take care of myself than risk injury. I had friends cheering for me. Allison ran with me and helped me get through. Friends supported me afterwards too. I knew that I could complete the race, just not on that day.
So, in sum, I have
- learned to swim in open water
- improved my nutrition on race days
- not given up, and
- met great people who have enriched my life (see photo from some of zany Augusta friends).
An important factor that runs through all of these races and the past five years is my coach Sam. He has never given up on me, even when I want to give up on myself. He has never told me that I failed or that I was some awful disappointment because I didn’t cross a finish line. He has supported me when I have been on the podium and when I have been the last person to finish or have not finished at all.
So what does all of this have to do with the prompt? Maybe nothing. Maybe what it lead me to when answering Jeffrey’s challenge to synthesize what we had learned from writing and thinking about getting clear over the past week.
As I looked at the three prompts and what I had written I came up with perspective.
That is my portal of possibility – keeping my perspective. Whether that is the way I define failure or success, what I tell myself or what I envision in the coming year, it’s all perspective. Staying focused on my goals and dreams is important but things happen that delay or change dreams and goals. Sometimes those are the very things that lead me to something new and better in my life. I could still be happily training for long course triathlons (yes, I did think I would do a 140.6 at some point). Instead I re-discovered yoga, have become a yoga teacher, rediscovered my writing practice that I am still working on, and broadened my community.
So, you are probably wondering if I am ever going to actually address the prompt. How would I do business as unusual in 2016 if I could do what I chose and not fail? I would keep taking risks, explore new ideas, try new things. Kind of what I do now.