Shrugged Collective

Chasing after failure

Practice is terribly misunderstood. It is a very powerful thing, there’s no doubt, but it’s also a very scary thing. Intimidating, imposing, it exposes you at the beginning, it creates a sharp gradienta high contrast between what you are and what you dream of being.

The typical, initial dialogue of young and raw artist types is two-dimensional,indicative of high vulnerability. “I’m terrible now and I probably won’t ever be great. At least I don’t feel gifted or special. But if I practice – If I do this work – maybe I can be good. Who know’s?”

You know vulnerability well because you are human. You feel it now, intimately, especially as you comb over memories of your failures, your flat notes, the moments when you lashed out, caused offense, beat yourself up over it, retreated from it, felt bad about it, all of that shit.

I’m sorry it has to be this way, but it has to be this way. Our ancestors – far less removed from us now than you might think – they suffered immensely, intensely, for eons and ages. Their world was very different, much shallower than even 2-D, and for the longest time too raw for art. “Survive this day. Protect the little ones. Fight, scratch, claw away at everything all the time because there might be something to eat or someplace warm and safe behind or on the other side.”

Doubt was always a useful thing. It kept you and your loved one’s away from the coldest corners, and out of the strongest and sharpest jaws. That’s our first step now, to say thanks and to appreciate the fact that we’re even here at all. The flame of consciousness has been passed to us, at the greatest imaginable cost, so say it out-loud for all of creation to hear, “Thank you.” You will feel immediately better about it all, I swear.

Doubt and vulnerability are very real, but the playing ground has changed. I feel especially fortunate for that. The world’s jaws are still sharp, but it really could use you and what you do. It needs the unique value that your divine mind alone is capable of contributing, so there’s that. But best of all, that common fear is just not intended to stop you. How could something common be just for you anyhow? No, it’s a kind utterance, “Be careful, Dear. We love you and really hope you don’t go smashing your face in. We went through a lot. Don’t forget. Pass on everything you can. It’s worth it.”

Knowing that the experience is shared allows us to focus much harder on the truepart. If you do all the work, yes, you can get pretty damn good at your thing, just like anyone else. In fact, you can be pretty damn great, precisely because you’re not all that different from anyone else. Don’t forget about how close we all really are, and that practice really is a very powerful thing. A spooky thing. A conduit to any future you want. I know it doesn’t feel that special now, but maybe it will now that you’re reminded. Do it every day, as if it were a sacred duty, you magic fucking ticket, a way to get out for good. Just practice, and do it right. Skip the self-critique. Ditch the expectation. Step forward with intent every day and wild shit will happen in your life, maybe for worse at times, but mostly for better.

I won’t skip the lame part. You really should know that you won’t be satisfied for very long. You will still fail pretty frequently, and it will always suck terribly. You’ll feel really low, just like before, right at the beginning. Like you’ll never get “there,” where you expect, if you’re expecting it, and forcing it, and not letting it come back to you. The doubt never will go all the way away, I’m sorry. But just as vulnerability is both common and grossly over-amplified, failure is actually the entire point of practice. I think this is the root of misunderstanding.

The whole point to this seems to be that we should chase at failure all the time. It’s a game, stacked with a bit of drama for extra flare. The better you get at the thing, anything, the more illusive failure will become. It get’s better, more skilled too. You have to get smart if you want to win some more. You have to let failure come to you.

Try new shit, really challenging, unexpected stuff. Stick your neck far out. Fall and fail, of course, but why would you fret about it? That doesn’t make any sense. Instead, jump out and yell “Boo!” as soon as failure scampers back. Be exhilarated by this. The chase now starts all over, only now you are much wiser. You’ll take this thing further than you could have before, further than anyone else is prepared to take it. You’ll make brand new connections, which could create untold value for you and the world. You just need to keep practicing, don’t you? You need to go buy failure wholesale, like it’ll soon be a scarce supply because it will.


Chris Moore is a writer, recovering meathead, fledgling raconteur and rabid imbiber. He's also cohost and resident potty mouth on Barbell Shrugged, a weekly podcast devoted to Crossfit, strength, fitness and all things brash. His experience is drawn from over twenty-years spent training for and competing in American Football, Powerlifting, a bit of strongman and a dash of mixed martial arts. Also, it's possible that he's had one too many cups of coffee. A caffeine fever is a hell of a thing, you know?

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