last updated March 3, 2021

The opportunity of failure

by Rob Arthur

Have you ever felt like a failure?

Your weight isn’t budging.

Your strength has plateaued.

Your health still sucks.

You feel like you are doing everything right, but you just aren’t seeing any changes.

Hell, maybe you feel like you’re doing everything wrong – and this makes you feel like even more of a failure than if you felt you were doing everything right.

Maybe you even speak this way to yourself under your breath, in your own head, constantly reminding yourself that you’re a failure.

You can stop that right now, and I’ll share with you why and how.

There’s a saying that “there is no failure, only feedback”.

Interestingly, I really don’t like this saying,

Failure is very real and I think we’ve got better options than to turn a blind eye to it.

Upon Googling “failure definition”, here’s the first definition that popped up:


  1. Lack of success
  2. The omission of expected or required action.

That first part of the definition is contingent upon the outcome of an effort.

You set out to achieve a specific goal and – regardless of the factors at play – did not succeed.

Your attempt failed to achieve the desired result.

The second part of the definition is contingent upon the effort itself – the action, not the outcome.

Doesn’t matter what the outcome of that action would have been – the action wasn’t taken, and thus the situation was a failure.

You failed to take action.

I’d love to tell you that I didn’t see any definition of failure that referred to a person or individual, so that you would never be able to call yourself a failure, but that would be lying.

I did find a couple of definitions of this sort.

However, none of these definitions were primary definitions – they were either listed fourth on the list or as sub-categories of other definitions.

At this point, you might be thinking, “Alright, Rob. I get it. There are multiple different definitions of failure. What’s the point?”

My point is that how you view your efforts to improve your body, and the outcomes those efforts produce, is entirely up to you.

For starters, you can but an end to ever thinking or feeling that you are a failure.

That stops this second.

If you wanted a friend to success in something, and you kept saying that to them, do you think you’d be helping them any?

If you were a coach of a sports team, and you constantly told your players that they were failures, do you think they’d win?

Hell no.

So stop talking yourself this way.

Work at it, day in and day out.

Stop it.

Second, acknowledge that, somewhere along the way, the mark was missed – there was a failure.

This is actually really good news, because now you’ve got data.

Failure is feedback.

Failure is information.

Failure is an opportunity.

While you may not know exactly what WILL move you closer to your goals, you’ve got some direction as to what WON’T.

What you’ve been doing isn’t working.

You’ve learned something very valuable here.

Maybe you haven’t been sticking to your diet, you haven’t been to the gym in a month, you’ve been letting stress get to you, and you’ve been staying up late AF watching the Netflix every night.

Maybe you have been sticking to your routine, but your diet hasn’t been helping you lose fat or feel as awesome as you’d expected, or your training program hasn’t been accommodating the gains for which you’ve been looking.

Regardless the reason that you aren’t getting any leaner, any stronger, or any healthier, you don’t have to look at yourself as a failure.

Rather, you treat this failure as feedback, and determine what kind of failure – action or outcome – you’re dealing with, and what to do about it.

Start by asking yourself this question:

“Have I been taking action consistently?”

If the answer is, “No”, there’s a great place to start – start taking action, and do it consistently.

If the answer is, “Yes”, then you’ve got another question to ask yourself:

“Have I been taking the right actions?”

With the exception of those times when our goals just aren’t practical (a subject beyond the scope of this post), the answer to this question is likely, “no”.

If you’ve been taking action consistently and are not making any progress towards your goals, then you aren’t taking the right actions (at least not for those goals).

Now, I’d love to offer some sort of targeted sage-ass advice here, but to do so in a blog article without knowing what your specific goals are might not do much good.

However, I will offer a few questions you might ask yourself, as most of us (myself included) are missing the mark in one of these areas:

  • Am I eating slowly and stopping when satisfied, not stuffed?
  • Am I eating animal protein with every meal?
  • Am I eating tons of colorful, non-starchy veggies?
  • Am I eating minimally processed carbs and fats in amounts appropriate to my goals?
  • Am I moving frequently throughout the day?
  • Am I prioritizing the quality and duration of my sleep?
  • Am I actively making an effort to manage stress?

Obviously, these are just general questions to get you thinking, but if you’re still unsure, find a coach or pop into a Facebook group or forum with like-minded individuals, share your situash, and ask for some ideas.

Ultimately, though, if you aren’t moving any closer to your goals, you’re responsible for making the changes to get things moving in the right direction.

Start by taking the old phrase, “there is no failure, only feedback” and tweak it a bit to “failure is feedback”.

Failure presents an opportunity.

You want to acknowledge that failure is very real, and that you will fail, but that you’re not necessarily “a failure”, and that you are responsible for determining what type of “failure” is taking place and correcting course.

Failure is an important part of this process.

It’s something you can use to stop doing whatever it is that’s holding you back and start moving forward.

Recall the two questions you can use to steer this troubleshooting effort:

  • Am I taking action consistently?
  • Am I taking the right actions?

Always remember, though, you are not a failure.

You will fail, in many ways, but this is how you learn what does and doesn’t work for you.

Seek failure out.

You are in control of how you handle this failure, and you are going to crush it.

Until next time, have a most excellent week!


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