Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Willing to Fail

by Sue Aquila

For the last 18 years, I have met with another business owner to discuss business and life. My fellow CEO became my best friend and my sister. We agreed that our meetings were a safe place to talk about everything. I think we spend the most time talking about areas we have paid “tuition.” We don’t discuss failures but rather the opportunities to learn how to be better: better CEOs, better wives, better parents and better friends.

Up until this year, I would tell you my triathlon journey had a lot of successes. I would brag that I nailed every workout. Not anymore.

As my goals became bigger, so have the workouts provided by my coach Marilyn Chychota. She is pushing me in ways on paper that look impossible and sometimes are impossible. Yes, for the first time in my life I am unable to accomplish each workout as written. Some days I am just short. Some days I am not even on the same playing field.

It kills me to fail, to fall short, to see that my best effort in that moment is just not good enough. When it gets dire, I think about quitting the sport. Failure is an option.

For the first time in my life I am open to taking the risk of failing. I am giving each workout my best and sometimes my best will not be good enough.

Achieving my goals in racing requires this kind of practice. The risk is that I will tip over the edge and never come back to the sport. The biggest risk? Leaving my best performance untapped.

So, how do I endure? I am playing games with myself. I set a goal to make each five minute segment. I keep going until I can’t. Do I quit if I can’t? No. I give it all I have that day. The next week I try to push it just a bit further.

And if the five minutes seems impossible? I try 2.5 minutes or smaller segments. Hell, 10 seconds of all out effort can feel like an eternity.

Pro triathlete and two-time Ironman Champion Sara Gross recently sent me the following quote: “If you don’t go to failure, you aren’t training hard enough.”

After seven years in the sport, I am learning how to train hard enough. I am now willing to fail.


Sue started her triathlon journey with a 50 pound weight loss and continues as a multiple Kona qualifier. In 2013, she was named the Overall Ironman All World Athlete Champion in her age group and in 2014 won her age group at Ironman Texas. As a successful entrepreneur, she believes that, “You can run your business like your training and your training like your business!” As a coach (USAT Certified), she helps athletes to develop success in all areas of their lives: family, health and work. She blogs regularly at fewoman.com. You can find her on Twitter @fewoman.
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