Some Notes on Learning Through Failure.

I’ve never been a crier. I usually cry, on average once, about twice a year at best.

This past Saturday morning I was committed to running my first full marathon in my life, but instead I found myself sitting on the edge of my bed sobbing like an infant while my loving fiancé tried to calm me down.

After my not very brief moment of hysteria ended, I began to ask myself the usual questions: “How did I get here?” “How could I have avoided this moment?” “What could I do to keep history from repeating itself?”

It is my hope that, in writing this down, I will not only be able to keep track of my own doings, but also share what I have learned for comparison’s sake, for education’s sake, and just to let anyone else out there going through this sort of thing that you are not alone. This may seem like a little, this may seem like a lot to you. It may come across as whiny or self indulgent, but the fact of the matter is, I found my limit, everyone has theirs. It’s my hope that maybe, through writing this down, someone won’t have to wind up sobbing on the edge of their bed to know when it’s time to cut some things loose.

Before I continue, I am not a doctor. I am a music nerd who likes to run. It should be obvious that I am in no way, shape, or form able to diagnose or give any medical advice. These are simply my reflections and personal discoveries that I have decided to share.

In the past six months I have: left my previous teaching job of three and a half years with a group of colleagues so close to me that I consider them family in the town I was raised in at the middle school I attended as a kid; accepted an entirely new job with a vastly different job skillset working with an entirely different age group, social group, demographic etc.; taken a second job teaching private lessons on drums, guitar, bass, piano, and voice; managed to find a house to rent while working two jobs and commuting an hour one way to work; moved out of my hometown to a new city; all while gigging in various bands, working on different musical projects and trying to train for a marathon which included battling a previous injury that occurred in May.

Before I knew it, I was working 50-60 hours a week at two different jobs, trying to squeeze in long runs on Friday nights after teaching all day, and still trying to find random times to move my things from my old house to my new one. Every musical project I had was either on autopilot or severely on the backburner. Practice? Absolutely out of the question.

The aforementioned story may sound like a lot, it may sound easy compared to your schedule. But what I didn’t realize at the time was that I just kept piling things on while laboring under the excuse that I’m a “workaholic”. I didn’t know this was too much for me to handle because I was simply ignoring my better judgment.

It was a Tuesday night, sometime on or around Halloween that I tried to squeeze in a light 10k. I live in a new neighborhood so I don’t know the terrain or the routes very well, but I did what I could. I took a corner too sharply and felt a slight twinge in my left knee. I should have known then that this was the loose thread that was going to cause everything to unravel.

I woke up the next day to my left knee screaming at me. I tried a brace. I gave my knee rest time, but it just didn’t want to make it happen. My regular long runs were, at this point, around fifteen miles. After hurting my knee I couldn’t make it more than two.

The week of the marathon, I gave it one last shot…one and a half miles was all I could do.

So I finally went to the doctor just to verify that, at this point, the marathon ship had sailed.

And there it was. The thing that’d been hanging over my head since May. The giant star on the calendar that I had been stressing over so long was gone, out of my hands, just like that.

I was pretty okay until race day. I thought I had pretty well accepted my fate. But the night before and the morning of the race was really where my mind got the best of me. It was hard to accept that I had overcommitted to the point of failure. The fact that I was stretched too thin wouldn’t leave my mind, and the marathon just opened the floodgates to the realization that I wasn’t in top form in pretty much any facet of my life. I had let so many things slip through my fingers that it all hit me in a wave.

I had officially hit the wall, bitten off more than I could chew, and faced the consequences thusly. The next thing I knew I was sobbing like a child because of just how out of control I felt.

So what did I learn?

The phrase “knowing your limits” gets passed around quite a bit these days. But I’ve learned that these limits are a habit. Habits have to be formed, and sometimes, tested.

I’ve had a few phrases that have resonated within me for the past few days since my incident, for better or worse, they have gotten me through the brunt of the initial acceptance of my failure:

“If your list of successes is longer than your list of failures, you’re not trying hard enough.”

-This phrase seems like something that many entrepreneurs, motivational speakers, and authors might cook up. But if you study any people of great renown or caliber, you will see very closely that they fail exponentially more than they ever succeed.

“Your mind and body are tools, not toys.”

“Your mind is the vehicle of your soul and your body is the vehicle of both.”

Cars are fun to go fast and do all kinds of crazy things in, but if you don’t take care of them, they break down. Your body and your mind are the same way. We are here on this planet, and sure our minds and bodies are so easy to treat like a playground, but we must maintain, sharpen them, and treat with them with respect to achieve anything worth having. The less we respect our minds and bodies, the less we can expect to accomplish for any good.

Take care of your soul first, your mind second, and your body third. Let your commitments come after these.

So are my running days over? Not in the slightest. But I have found out the hard way that I need to shift some things around and reevaluate my commitments.

To be productive, to try and make yourself useful, is a never-ending quest for optimization. Find the things that work best for the least effort, don’t be afraid to rearrange. Don’t be afraid to quit, and don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is hard. Learn through it, not just from it.

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