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The following is a Sunday Letters article from a couple weeks ago. Every Sunday I write (and record) a brand new article about stuff that’s on my mind. No advice, no preaching, no selling you stuff you don’t need, just an article that may or may not make you think. See what you think - Subscribe here.

Have You Ever Failed?

How did it feel?

Maybe you’re still living it. In a sense I think all of us still live our failures to one degree or another.

However, it helps us deal with this reality in a positive way to have a definition of failure that helps us rather than hinders us, y’know.

In real terms, ultimate terms, there is no failure, only the potential for a broader understanding of things which can only come about by virtue of having the experience.

Fear of failure keeps us from that.

You see we are constantly being formed by our surroundings, the people and experiences we have. These things help us become who we are for better or worse.

It’s a constant blending of thoughts and ideas at every level that culminate in new experiences.

It’s like everyone comes to the easel with a slightly different colour. We blend our colours with each other and produce slightly different colours.

But that analogy is maybe not perfect because eventually all colours become one colour, and in this version of reality that’s not possible.

If it did life would cease to exist.

When You’re In The Shit

Often, the fear of being in the shit is worse than the living of the experience.

You know, like when you hear about a friend who is living an unfortunate event. Or you imagine losing everything as a result of taking a punt on yourself.

When we’re in a difficult position, be that a relationship, health problem or some physical challenge or other, there’s a sense that we’ve just got to keep moving.

It’s like something else takes over and we become hyper focused. It’s like there’s no time to contemplate the shittiness of it all.

We’ve just got to keep moving.

Back in 2014 I entered a 24 hour race in Donegal. It comprised running, kayaking, mountain climbing and cycling and took place in February.

The weather in Donegal is unpredictable even in summertime. In winter it can be brutal.

Long story short I had to pull out after stage 4, 2 stages and 6 hours from the finish. I simply wasn’t prepared equipment wise and the cold took its toll.

After descending the mountain, enduring bitter cold, wind and hail that felt like 1000 pin pricks on my skin and with the onset of hypothermia I pulled out.

Or rather, the medic removed me.

The following year I went back so much more clued in and prepared.

It was a breeze this time and even though me and several other riders missed a turn to the final transition adding probably an extra 2 hours to our time, I could have kept going.

“Still waters never a skilled sailor made”

Lesson Learned

Entrants to The Race drop like flies, especially first timers. Not surprising though considering how brutal it is.

The event is broken up into 6 stages;

  • 22km run
  • 15km kayak
  • 96km bike
  • 5km mountain
  • 68km bike
  • 42km run

I got over the line at 06:30 Sunday morning in good shape. But most importantly, that previous years experience had paid me well.

During that first attempt as I rode my bike to Muckish mountain I felt more discomfort and physical pain than I had ever before in any challenge.

The cold had infiltrated my bones but I had no choice — or at least I gave myself no choice. I had to make the next station and then decide what I would do.

In that 3 or 4 hour bike ride I simply had to put aside my physical discomfort and follow through.

On reaching Muckish I’d make my next move.

Life is like that you know?

Consciously deciding to take part in events like this I believe help us navigate life experiences with a little more understanding.

People ask; why bother putting yourself through that kind of punishment? Well the answer may be different depending on who you ask.

But for me its about finding out who I am and what I’m made of. These things I like to think help me calibrate my mind and form a stronger more balance version of myself.

The Nature Of Reality

What is the reason for all this?

Why do things turn out the way they do?

What’s really going on?

Do I really have control of this ship?

When I reflect on these things I can’t help but come to the conclusion that life just kind of happens and I (whatever I am) am simply along for the ride.

It seems to me that all of this efforting to change, this personal development, self improvement jazz is simply a playing out of the game.

That’s been my experience.

Now here’s where people get all uptight.

Proponents of the notion that we can actually force ourselves into an improved state by application of our willpower will suggest I’m wrong.

Human beings surely have the ability to change their experience at will. There are endless examples of this, right?

Well, I’d suggest that anyone who has ever experienced dramatic change, a quantum shift in understanding of the nature of their existence has found it came about spontaneously.

It’s exponential.

All the prior effort to escape the discomfort of previous life experience was a waste of time. In fact it may have just buried them deeper into the bad experience.

However, all the efforting and application of willpower perhaps has a role to play in this, insofar as helping us see that it’s pointless.

Then it happens.

One day something changes all on it’s own and there’s no going back.

A Shift In Perception

I have my moments.

There are times when I lose the plot just a bit. And you know what, I don’t care. That’s part of who I am and I’m perfectly comfortable in that.

No regrets.

Others, holier than I, may judge me. They may suggest I have some spiritual growth to undergo before I am enlightened.

So be it.

It’s my assertion that there is always a benefit for me in my experience and I can not have that benefit before I have it. Therefore I welcome the experience and deal with it as it comes.

If some day I decide that my default response is inappropriate then I’ll change. Until then I’ll do my shit the way I will. There will be no outside standard to reach for.

But perhaps most all for me right now, the most important thing I discovered is what I mentioned above…

The validity of the individual experience.

That’s the nature of the game.

Originally published at larrygmaguire.com on December 3, 2017.

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Howdy, I’m Larry, Writer & Artist at larrygmaguire.com. Thanks for taking the time to read my stuff. I write & podcast about creativity, art and work and how it all goes together. When I’m not doing that I draw charcoal photorealistic portraits of people I respect and admire. If that’s your bag you can Sign-up To Sunday Letters Here.

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Writer on Psychology of Creativity, Human Performance, Behaviour & Expertise | Examining Happiness & Work | Slight Perfectionist | larrygmaguire.com/subscribe

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