What Did You Fail at Today?

For most children, dinner table conversations include questions like, "How was your day? What went well today for you?" But for Sarah Blakely, the founder of Spanx, she was asked a much different question each night by her father at the kitchen table- 

"What did you fail at today?"

She recalls, "If there was nothing, he'd be disappointed. I think failure is nothing more than life's way of nudging you that you are off course. My attitude to failure is not attached to outcome, but in not trying. It is liberating. Most people attach failure to something not working out or how people perceive you. This way, it is about answering to yourself. Failure was something we sought out and not this scary thing."

I've recently adopted this notion of the 'Blakely kitchen table' in my own life and started asking myself that question each night, "What did I fail at today?'  You may think that this question could lead someone down the hole into depression and straight to Loserville, but I am finding that the exact opposite happens.  In a sense, it is actually making me more fearless, urging me to constantly stretch myself in all areas of life.  So often it is easy to remain comfortable and to continue doing the things we are good at, right? But contemplating what I 'failed' at means that I need to try more things.  

 Doing post-work pool work.

Doing post-work pool work.

In the pool, I can comfortably swim 10 x 100 yards on the 1:30 interval.  I've been able to hold this interval (uncomfortably at times), but for the most part, since college.  Tonight, I decided to try and speed it up a bit, aiming for 10 x100 yds on the 1:25 interval. I made it to the 6th 100 until my lungs felt like they were going to explode and I hit the wall right when I was supposed to leave for the next interval. Did I feel like a failure?  Not at all!  Today, it wasn't about 'failing' to swim 10 x 100 yds on the 1:25, but learning that I had the speed and strength to swim 5 of them at that pace; something that I would have never even attempted in the past.  Sarah Blakely's father was brilliant.

I am allowing this question to permeate my life not only in sport, but also in the kitchen, in my relationships, and in my career. And so far, I've found that it has only been positive, spurring me on to stretch and try new things, without judgement or criticism.  Allow yourself to have the imaginative freedom to envision what you want to create in your life, without the inhibiting fear that most people have of the fear of failure.

 Trying new things in the kitchen…I took a chance and didn't measure anything. Thankfully, these sweet potato energy balls turned out well!

Trying new things in the kitchen…I took a chance and didn't measure anything. Thankfully, these sweet potato energy balls turned out well!

 I prefer a different set of wheels, but hey, I tried!

I prefer a different set of wheels, but hey, I tried!

Sometimes, it all boils down to reframing and rethinking the notion of failure. If you want to change your life, change the question-

"What did you fail at today?"

 Just what I was looking for. #change #SantaCruz

Just what I was looking for. #change #SantaCruz

Get ready to be liberated. Get ready to be amazed.