I started HIT workouts recently. Here’s how they work. My workout partner and I lift near the maximum of our capacity for a short number of reps until we reach muscle failure. HIT workouts (along with their interval cousins HIIT) have been named one of the top exercise trends of 2020. But I’m not here to talk about exercise or to advocate for or against this type of workout. I’m only here to tell you what I’ve learned. Which is that I don’t like to face my own failure.

These type of workouts are great if you don’t mind being constantly reminded of what you can’t do. With other workouts, I know I’ll be able to lift a lighter weight and get all three sets of 10 reps done. But with HIT, I’m only going to get about 6-10 reps in. And if I’m pushing myself like I should, if I’m lifting the most I can lift, I won’t be able to get to 10. I’ll fail. Literally. Ugh.

I hate failure. I really, really hate it. But it’s an unavoidable part of life. So let’s dig in and talk about it a little bit.

Unavoidable Failure

I still remember when my thinking about failure changed. I was reading a book by Shauna Niequist called Present Over Perfect. In it she writes, “This is what I know for sure: along the way you will disappoint someone. You will not meet someone’s needs or expectations. You will not be able to fulfill their request. You will leave something undone or poorly done.”

For most people, I’m guessing this is common knowledge. But when I read these words, something deep and rebellious welled up within me. Perhaps you had a similar reaction. I had been spending the first part of my life trying to fight this reality. I did everything I could to please everyone. But Neiquist had just blatantly told me that failure is inevitable. And for some reason, it was like coming up for air, glorious air, after being underwater too long.

If you give presentations, you can quickly get consumed by the belief that everything has to be perfect every time. And that pressure can become debilitating. What if, instead, we agreed to always to do our best, but we agreed to do so with the realization that we will inevitably disappoint someone or mess up. We will inevitably fail. How would the freedom to fail help us tackle the presentation process with less pressure?

“Fail Fast, Fail Often”

You’ve probably heard this buzz phrase before. An article by Dan Pontefract in Forbes says that it originated from Silicon Valley. But Pontefract says the phrase often gets misused. He says, “To succeed, we must be open to failure—sure—but the intention is to ensure we are learning from our mistakes as we tweak, reset, and then redo if necessary. When executives institute a ‘fail fast, fail often’ mantra, they must ensure it is not at the expense of creative or critical thinking . . . we must not become preoccupied to ‘fail’ by preceding the requirement to make judicious, thoughtful decisions.”

This is an important distinction. Failure should never be your goal. It might, however, be the natural result of trying really hard–of engaging in creativity and critical thought. If you aren’t failing every once in awhile, it could be because you aren’t challenging yourself to get better.

In my workouts, I have to keep reminding myself that failure is part of the building process. It’s not a reminder of what I can’t do. It’s what happens when I’m trying really hard. The same is true of presenting and public speaking.

Failure is the natural result of putting yourself out there. Of pushing yourself to be more creative or innovative or stronger as a speaker. If you are challenging yourself, you will fail. Not every time. But sometimes. And guess what? It’s okay.

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