Failure. What is failure? It's such a short, simple word, but it holds so much meaning... so much weight. I believe that failing is giving up. Not being willing to push yourself. Not being willing to be uncomfortable for the sake of making progress and becoming a better person and athlete. Going lighter when you know you should put more weight on the bar. Stopping short of failure on a max effort. Dropping a few reps so you can get a better time. Choosing the easy path simply because it is, well, easier.
When you start something new, odds are you will see improvement relatively quickly. Maybe you're learning a new skill at work or learning how to deadlift for the first time at the gym. You start out with someone teaching you the skill, or movement, and begin to get the routine down- the motions of what you're learning. Then you start to build on that skill... add more weight to the bar. Pretty soon you're feeling comfortable (uh-oh... the C word) and you start to simply go through the motions, hit auto-pilot and cruise right through whatever you're supposed to be putting effort in to. We tell ourselves that we're pushing past barriers... facing our fears... but are we really?
We need to know what it feels like to go all-out and fail. As athletes, and as people, we need to push our limits. Test our boundaries. Get really f*&#ing uncomfortable.
If you only stay where you feel safe, never pushing, never failing, how will you learn what you are truly capable of? How will you be able to say "I did that" instead of " I wish I had tried to do that". How will you be able to tell someone else to chase their dreams of being great, if you are afraid to chase yours?
I know this to be true: you don't get better by doing the same thing you've always done. You get better by pushing, by learning, by meeting new people and being open-minded. You get better by committing to being a life-long student of yourself and others. You get better by openly admitting that you don't know everything, but working to know more. You get better by trying, and sometimes failing, and learning from the experience.
We are lucky. We have this great group of people surrounding us who know us better than we know ourselves sometimes. They don't allow us to short ourselves. They don't allow us to underestimate our potential. They push us, drive us to be better, hold us to a higher standard because they know what we are truly capable of, even if we don't believe it ourselves yet. They are always there - adding weight, cheering us on, telling us to do one more rep even though we don't think we can.
Those people that hold you to a higher standard, who push you to the next level, who encourage you to keeping going until you fail (and learn your true potential); those people who will never let you settle for anything less than what you are truly capable of, who tell it like it is instead of simply stroking your ego... those are the people you should surround yourself with. They don't care if you fail; if you fall. They care if you get back up and keep going.
Nothing great was ever accomplished by "playing it safe". Shit. Benjamin Franklin was willing to be electrocuted to accomplish something great. The Wright Brothers sure didn't take off in the first plane they ever built. They failed. Epically. And kept going. So the next time you hear yourself saying, "that felt good. I'm comfortable (there's that damn C word again) with that." Push yourself. Test your limits. Slap a key on a kite string and go out in a lightning storm. What's the worst that can happen? You could go through life wondering "what if" instead of saying "look at what I've done." That is the worst that could happen.