Three weeks ago, I failed miserably, injuring and royally embarrassing myself.
I can’t wait to do it all over again.
On Sunday, I drove up to LA with my buddy, Joel, to support our friend, Steve’s book tour event. While we mostly went to support Steve, we were also excited that it was taking place at Tempest Freerunning Academy, a parkour gym.
I’d never done parkour before, but always wanted to try (especially since starting the series, Arrow, on Netflix!). While I was psyched to try something new, giddy butterflies weren’t the only ones taking up space in my stomach. I felt like a kid all over again… but that means something different when I say it.
Most kids are fearless: climbing, tumbling and jumping off things wherever, whenever. I, however, was the opposite; I was extremely cautious. Even in gymnastics class which I took for 2 years, I hardly ever tried the cool-looking moves like back handsprings or aerials because I was so afraid to hurt myself.
Now that I’m older and have conquered quite a few fears, I’m stronger in the face of it, but the fear itself has never gone away.
“There’ll be coaches there teaching us what to do,” I reasoned with myself… or rather with Larry (my Fear Voice). “If I’m going to get hurt, a professional space full of knowledgeable teachers, super-supportive nerds and squishy mats is the place to do it.”
When we arrived at Tempest, I fell into complete kid-in-a-candy store mode. To my left, walls and platforms of different heights were painted a la Minecraft. To my right, a castle-like structure with bars and slides rose almost to the ceiling. To top it off, 4 massive trampolines and a foam pit seduced me from across the bouncy floor.
This place was magic. I couldn’t stop smiling! My smile only got bigger when we started training.
With 5 different circuits, we learned how to parkour through obstacles, scale walls, swing from one bar to another, vault over hurdles and tumble safely. To my surprise, I only ate it a couple times!
As we went through each station, I slowly proved to myself that I was stronger than I thought I was (something I find most people realize as they face fears). Some stations came more naturally to me while others were incredibly humbling (cat hang, be damned!). Not only did I start to prove to myself that I was capable, but I was having the most fun I’ve had in months!
After some practice, I was able to swing from one bar to another, wall run and tic tac along with another few moves that made me feel like a badass. My smile had become a permanent fixture on my face.
One of the stations that I felt determined to conquer was the vault. I’d had experience doing vault way back when I took gymnastics. It was also the event that knocked the wind out of me once, scaring me off gymnastics forever.
After tripping over it the first 5 or so times, my body started to understand what the movement required and I started clearing the vault entirely! It wasn’t the most graceful vault you’ll ever see, but I did it.
My confidence was high. I decided to take on a double vault: two obstacles placed in a row. The goal: to jump over both.
I ran as fast as I could, jumped…
…AND CLEARED IT WITH A STRADDLE JUMP!
I was so freaking psyched! I got right back in line with everyone, watching as they moved the vaults further away from each other… way further away than they had been on my last turn. Looking back on it now, I’d say the distance between the vaults was at least double what it had been when I cleared the two.
When my turn came around again, I decided to do two different vaults, touching down in the middle instead of trying to clear both in one jump. I ran as fast as I could, vaulted the first one, but I guess my jump was more powerful than I realized.
When I came down, I landed on the second vault with my right foot, rolling my ankle hard. I fell to the ground in pain.
I’d forgotten what it was like to be in so much pain I couldn’t move. And the pain wasn’t fading. And I was stuck in the middle of the floor. Literally in the middle of everyone.
After being carried off to the side of the action by a very kind (and strong) coach, ankle swelling up to a grossly unnatural size under an ice pack, I just sat in awe of my personal growth.
Instead of feeling horrible and beating myself up for taking such a risk, I felt joyful. I sat there with the same genuine smile I’d had on my face all day, feeling deeply grateful for the 2 hours of play that I’d gotten in before the injury, and looking forward to trying it all again as soon as my ankle healed.
I had failed. Miserably. I’m physically down for the count for at least a few weeks.
Failure feels different now. I’m actually excited to fail because it means I gave it a hearty try. While I hurt myself pretty badly, knowing that I might have actually made it if I’d committed fully to doing the vault in one jump, I think I could have cleared it.
My automatic thoughts after such an event used to be ones of humiliation and not-enough-ness. I’d probably STILL be beating myself up if I didn’t have all these years of self-work under my belt.
My natural perception of failure has changed as a result of taking more risks:
- I view failure with gratitude instead of with shame.
- I recognize the successes I’d had in every step up until the failure.
- I don’t have to force myself to see the bright side; it’s just there.
I failed while having a freaking blast, conquering fears left and right. Because I tried, I discovered a new way of moving that excites me, that makes two hours of movement fly by like it was 15 minutes.
If I have to fail every time to feel this sense of victory and joy, I’d take the failure every day. Albeit with trepidation and frightful butterflies. Hopefully not every failure would result in me limping!
I’m nursing my ankle now, but I can honestly say that my pride didn’t feel a thing. While taking a week off from working out isn’t my favorite place to be, at least I earned it being a badass in the face of fear.
How can you fail more?