Failure: A Spectacular Way to Grow

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Failure is such an ugly word, and an outcome to be avoided at all costs. Isn’t it?

It seems that the older we get the fewer risks we want to take. Yet as we consider our own mortality, an urgency takes hold and we realize that if we don’t try now do something we’ve always wanted to do, it’s likely that we never will. This sobering thought can lead to a lot of mental wrestling. Could we succeed? What if we fail? Is it even worth it to try?


I recently started reading a book called The Virtues of Failure by Charles Pepin (a French book that, unfortunately has not yet been translated into English). In it, Pepin outlines the many ways in which failure helps us grow. He gives example after example of how those who have accomplished much in their lives (J.K. Rowling, Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Thomas Edison and Richard Branson, to name a few), are also those who have failed many times and often on a very grand scale. Each of them points to failure as a necessary part of their future success.

Failure helps us learn.

According to Pepin and all his famous examples, failure is not something to be avoided, but rather it is an indication that we are really living. We are taking chances and putting ourselves out there; and in the process, we are learning more about ourselves and the world we live in.

Failure helps us to learn more quickly and more thoroughly whatever task we are trying to accomplish. By trying and failing and trying again, we quickly absorb what work and what doesn’t, learning the nuances that can lead to greater success. If we aren’t trying and failing, what are we learning?

Failure helps us grow.

Failure helps to build and affirm our character. When everything is going well, our character isn’t tested. We don’t have to see what we’re made of or better yet, what we can become by asking ourselves the tough questions. How do you really feel about your job? Your partner? Your life? Is there a gap between where you are and where you know deep down you need to be?

Failure helps us become more of whom we are meant to be. In failure, we learn that we are stronger and more resilient than we knew. We see new qualities in ourselves and sometimes, new abilities. When life doesn’t come to a halt as a result of a failure, we are encouraged to challenge ourselves further, and to close that gap between who we are on the outside and who we are on the inside.

Failure can help us be a better person.

Failure humbles us and helps us see others with more compassion. We recognize that everyone has known failure at some point in their lives, or they haven’t really lived. More and more, we begin to admire the people who are willing to take a risk in life and see where a new path takes them. We want to help them and help ourselves do the same.

Failure teaches us about reality and shows us we can handle whatever comes our way. We learn that whatever hand has been dealt us is just a circumstance on which we can build the future we want.

Pepin says that if we dare to do anything, we are in fact daring to fail. Whether it is moving to a new community, taking a new job, launching a business, or finally allowing yourself to do the things you’ve dreamed about, whatever they may be – when you step out of your comfort zone, you are risking failure. The risk of failure is not to be feared, though, but embraced as a necessary step toward success.

As Ransom Riggs once famously said, “If you must fail, fail spectacularly!” It’s good advice for every stage in life.

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What I Love About Aaptiv

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Aaptiv, for those of you who are not familiar with it, is an app for your phone or computer that provides unlimited access to thousands of audio workouts for a very reasonable price of just over $8 a month. ($8.33 to be exact). This is not an ad for Aaptiv, and they are not a sponsor of anything that I am affiliated with, but it is an app that I use several times a week and I wanted to share why.

I have been working out my entire life. I am a former runner with multiple 5ks, 10ks, half-marathons and even one marathon under my belt. Frankly I would give anything to be able to run like I used to, but I can’t. Various injuries, and yes, just aging, have left me in a place where running regularly or for any significant distance or time is just not possible.

Can’t run, now what?

Without running, my body has changed quite a bit. But what I’ve realized is that I also used the intensity of running hard as a way to burn through worry or negative thoughts. In other words, I ran as a way to ensure that I stayed mentally healthy, too. This is, in many ways, the aspect of running I miss the most. On a bad day, there is nothing like a long run to make you feel better!

Enter Aaptiv. Using Aaptiv with my incline treadmill at home, or the elliptical at the gym, I can get the same level of workout that I had when running, but in a way that is much easier on my body. Like other exercise apps to be used with or without equipment, Aaptiv has thousands of workouts including strength training, yoga, stretching, outdoor running, indoor cycling, stair climber, pilates and meditation, in addition to the elliptical and treadmill I just mentioned. Classes can be filtered by duration, level of difficulty, trainer and even type of music and favorites can be saved.

I like all the choices because inevitably I end up working harder when I am pushed a bit by a trainer, and Aaptiv makes it easy and very affordable to have that motivation.

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Naps and Other Gifts We Can Give Ourselves

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The gifts we give ourselves have an incredible impact on the quality of our lives. More than what others do, what we do for ourselves gives us more confidence and creative energy each day. And so often, this process begins with the simple permission to enjoy what is already available to us.

Little indulgences can seem like luxuries when we are worn out and frazzled, or when the winter blahs set in. Here are ten fun little things you can do for yourself (really it is OK – permission granted!) just to let you know how special you are:

  1. Take a nap. This is a luxury few of us afford ourselves. But by taking the time to rest a little bit – even 15 or 20 minutes is enough – we regain more productivity later. If you are tired, rest. Your body and mind will thank you.
  2. Practice art. Those of us who are not artists probably do not take time on a regular basis to create. We may secretly wish we could paint, knit, draw, or sew, but have never allowed ourselves to experiment or learn. But each of us is creative and making things – playing with art – can be very freeing. It slows down time and allows us to be in the moment.
  3. Dance a little bit. Nothing puts me in a better mood than to put on some fun music and dance a little. Sounds silly? I am sure that it is, but I feel great afterwards, so who cares? Try the songs you danced to in college! It will bring back some happy memories, too.
  4. Meditate. Meditation is a simple act that can calm your mind and spirit and help you let go of worries. If you are not a practitioner, simply sit comfortably, close your eyes and relax. I often picture myself next to a river. As worrisome thoughts come, I gently catch them, place them in the river and watch them float upstream.
  5. Listen to a story. My new go-to when I have chores to do is to listen to a story. We forget as adults how fun it is to be read to! I use Audible, but most libraries also have systems for downloading audio books for free. Cleaning and doing laundry will never be the same!
  6. Go on a treasure hunt. A special treat is to go to an antique or resale shop just to browse for “treasure”. I set a dollar limit and make a short game of it, seeing what special something I can find for that amount. If I don’t want to spend, I simply browse, looking for ideas. Either way, it is fun!
  7. Enjoy a mini-facial. It doesn’t take much to feel pampered. With clean skin, pour hot water and a drop or two of essential oil in a bowl and place a towel over your head to trap the steam. Let your face steam a bit and cleanse and moisturize. You’ll look and feel refreshed!
  8. Watch a foreign movie. Why a foreign movie? Foreign films often offer an entirely different perspective on life, as well as a glimpse of other cultures that can refresh your way of thinking. Think of it as a mini-vacation.
  9. Go for a walk. A walk as short as around the block or as long as on a trail in the nearest forest preserve can do wonders! Fresh air, movement, and time to think is always a luxury.
  10. Write in a gratitude journal. Only have a minute? Use that minute to count your blessings. A gratitude journal can be as detailed or as simple as you like. I like to write five things for which I am grateful at the end of each day, and it always makes me feel content.

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