Success and failure

Over the past week and a half, we've been focusing on rails in our classes. I love playing on rails - their purpose is in large part to steer people in a particular direction and/or to prevent them from getting in or getting out of a location. There is something deliciously deviant about using them for the exact opposite purpose. 

Here's the thing about rails: they're really narrow. It makes moving around on them pretty tough. You need a highly developed sense of balance. I've been enjoying some recent articles/series about essential movements. There's a lot of good information and opinions there, but I wish advanced balance training was given more attention. Consider the rather enormous issue of falling for seniors - broken hips are debilitating, often deadly, expensive for society, and (I think) largely preventable. This awesome guy agrees with me.

(seriously, watch that video. I'll wait. Thanks to Jason Brown for finding this.)


Coaching balance/rail work is an interesting experience. There's really only one cue: Breathe. Other than that, you create the context, then have to just sit back and let the students learn for themselves. 

And they learn by slipping off the rails a whole lot. This is the nature of working at the edge of your ability - you inevitably "fail." Except, it's not actually failure, is it? It's development. It's growth.

Really, the objective isn't to mantle the rail, stand, turn, walk, pirouette, walk back, and smoothly dismount. That's just the drill. The objective is to get better. If, at the end of two weeks, you've gone from slipping off immediately to slipping off after two steps that's a huge accomplishment. That's success.

This is a vital concept that is applicable to all aspects of your training. It's less about what you can do now and more about what you'll be able to do next month or next year. As long as you are improving and learning, all of your training is successful. Sure, the day you complete that drill you struggled with last month is a big milestone, but it's a milestone on a much bigger journey.

When you encounter a drill/jump/obstacle that you can't do right away you have two choices. You can feel frustrated and glum at your lack of ability or you can feel excited and grateful for the opportunity to improve. Take a wild guess as to which one is more beneficial.

I'm obviously building towards a big life-affirming point about how this practice/mindset can be applied to your whole life... which it can! But there's a difference between reading this, nodding your head, and thinking "Yeah!" and really living this idea. Living it requires two things: First, you actually need to try things and second you need to not be afraid to fail a few times. Put yourself out there. The worst that will happen is you go to bed that night thinking "boy, that was a disaster," and then the sun will still rise the next day and you will wake up a little wiser. Total success.