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  • Writer's pictureCoach Knickerbocker

Fear is a Liar and Failure Works


You, me, everyone, tends to avoid risk. To risk something or to take a risk means that the outcome is not assured and that failure is a possibility.


You, me, everyone, tries to avoid failure.

We do this for many obvious reasons. It doesn't feel good to fail. Failing at something can feel embarrassing, disappointing, shameful, disheartening, and defeating to name just a few. Failing can also ingrain in us the mistaken concept that to repeat that thing would be a waste of time and a bit crazy since we failed at it the last time.

You know the saying, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.

But failing can only increase our chance of success if we approach the next opportunity with knowledge gained from the failure. As long as you apply what you learned from failing every time you fail, you have no choice but to eventually succeed.

So how does fear connect to failure and why is it a liar?

Fear tells us to not go back and try again. Fear tells us to not even try in the first place. Fear lies to you and tells you it's not worth it. Why do you want to put yourself through this? You know you can't do this. Or fear reminds you that you've already failed at it, it's clear you can't do it. Etc, ad nauseum.

Fear wields failure like a big stick and says don't do this thing because if you do you're going to get hit with this big stick and it's going to hurt. So, in order to avoid the pain of the big stick we avoid failing.

Fear is the negative voice inside your head that is able to convince you that you are incapable of achieving the thing you want to achieve and that actually you shouldn't even try because of the failure stick.


Failure is not a stick. Failure isn't interested in beating you over the head. Failure is your guide. Failure is your measure. Failure wants to help you to succeed. Failure is your inner guide to what your limitation is AND how to surpass or remove or alter that limitation. Failure helps you to see where you need to improve or what your outer limit is. Failure is your teacher. Without failure success would be impossible.

Seek failure. With every failure you are gaining knowledge of how to do the same thing differently the next time.

Failure is the teacher, you are the student.

Without failure you will not learn what is possible.

I want you to SEEK FAILURE.

Right now, you are placing some type of limitation on yourself with regards to your rowing (or maybe something else). We all place limitations on ourselves. Limits to what we think we can accomplish competitively, or how strong we are physically, or how capable we are of getting into that first boat.

Those limitations are tested by seeking failure. When you test those limitations you bring into your consciousness exactly what the limitation or boundary is. So in fact it is the failure itself that shines a light on where you need to focus. Fear does not want you to see that light. It would rather you stay in the dark.

By seeking failure I gift myself with the inner knowledge of what I need to change in order to find success. By embracing failure I become fearLESS.

For example, let's say that you hold a fear of erg tests. You know they are part of training but the pressure of performance during a test creates a level of fear in you that impedes your performance. Maybe the pressure is about personal expectation or trying to match up with those around you. It doesn't really matter what it is, the point is that you feel and give voice to your fear.

But what if you looked at the erg test as a chance to test your limits in order to gather information, an opportunity to seek failure in order to find that boundary.

Yep, that's right. It's an information gathering session. The test will give you information on your physiology, your psychology, and will help you define what it is you want to achieve or the goal you want to reach, while also helping you to more fully understand where the failure point is.

So you get on the erg and start gathering info. You finish the test with a 4:05 total time. THAT is really not the most important piece of information. The important piece of information you've just gathered is that you actually can do a 1K piece and be ok.

Great! Done! Fantastic!

Now to some of you this may seem silly but I know that there are some of you out there that can relate and know from experience that finishing a 1K erg piece and going as hard as you can, whatever that is, is quite a learning experience and a huge accomplishment.

Maybe now your goal for a 1K test is to break your first 4:05 time. This time you experience running up against a physiological boundary or barrier during the last 400m. You start to feel physical discomfort, and fear of not being able to finish, and so you let go of the power for a bit in order to get thru the piece. Your time for the piece ends up being 4:05.

Did you fail? If your only measurement is whether you reached your quantitative goal, then yes. But qualitatively did you glean more information? Of course. That information now is going to have an impact on the next goal and the next erg experience. So your "failure" ends up shining more light on your inner workings and process of erging. Your failure may also shine more light on your rowing as well.

Do you now know more about your capabilities and where you need to focus your training? Absolutely.

Would you have access to that information if you listened to fear and didn't risk doing the 1K to begin with? No.

Fear is a liar, because whatever she tells you is not true.

Failure works, because she teaches. She informs. She gives you way more information and opportunity to reach your potential than listening to fear.

Embrace and seek failure to reach success.

Row well, row hard, compete, have fun! Coach Knickerbocker

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