My 5-year-old daughter Abigail and I were listening to a song called “Blood, Sweat, and Tears” from the movie Leap, and I asked her if she knew what that saying meant. She confessed very confidently that she did not.
I explained that it was a saying that means to always do your best and try your hardest. That even if you try so hard to accomplish something or learn something new, that you never quit — even, and especially when it’s difficult. It was a very timely conversation seeing as we are currently teaching Abigail to ride a two-wheel bicycle. Learning to ride a bike is also a great metaphor in this instance!
I went on to say that even if you fall and get a bloody knee, or you try so hard you are sweating, and it’s so difficult that you start to cry—you keep going. That’s how we accomplish and do great things. When we desire something greatly, we will be met by an equal amount of opposition, even if that opposition is a scraped knee, a sweaty shirt, or tears of frustration.
In fact, the kabbalists teach that the biggest indication that we are doing something worthwhile is if people oppose it — because meaningful & spiritual work requires opposition. A piece of coal requires great pressure in order to become a diamond. The caterpillar requires darkness in order to become a butterfly. We require the act of great effort in order to learn how to ride a bike, or speak a new language, or learn our way around a new city. Our purpose in life is to grow, change, to reveal our potential, and in order to do so, we require opposition.
She thought about this for a minute and then asked:
“But what happens if you cry, bleed, and sweat all at the same time? How do you make it all stop?” Well, to that I just gave a big smile.
It’s easy to talk about the opposition when it’s in service of achieving our potential and our greatness. But thinking about this principle at the moment that we are experiencing the opposition doesn’t always feel inspiring. Whether it’s learning to ride a bike or pursuing your greatest dream, here are a few things you can remember when you’re on your 14th try.
Even though things didn’t go the way you wanted this time, you’re still okay.
Failure is a verb; not an adjective and certainly not a noun. Failing is something that happens, it isn’t who we are, and we don’t need to be defined by it. When you fall and scrape your knee, you pause and take the time to clean it, care for it, and nurture it. The same goes for your spirit. When you experience a momentary setback, take the time to regroup and nurture yourself. Remind yourself that you are okay, you have everything it takes, and when you’re ready, get back up and try again.
If you’re failing, it means that you’re pushing yourself to your edge.
Failing means you’re trying and that, in and of itself, is a reason to celebrate. There are so many people who never even try because they’re afraid of experiencing exactly what you are experiencing. This experience makes you a warrior! Amazing things happen when we push ourselves to our limits. This is how new muscle is formed; it’s how our brains form new connections between neurons, and these kinds of novel experience also give us a rush of the reward chemical dopamine. Pushing yourself is actually something to be proud of, no matter what the outcome.
Speaking of outcomes, try setting your focus on the part of the journey you can control.
You know what you want the outcome to be. You want to ride the bike effortlessly! You want to get that promotion! You want to run that marathon without a hitch! Clarity of intention is a necessary aspect of goal-setting, but once you get to work you want to shift your focus to what you can control. Things like how often you practice, how often you train; being sure you’re showing up and doing your best every time. There are so many variables that affect an outcome that you have no control over, so let go of worrying about the destination and show up as fully as you can for the journey. As I always say, the process is the purpose. It’s what you discover along the way that you will find matters most. The achievement is just the cherry on top.
Having desire, waking up each day burning with purpose, and choosing to go after your dream is a success all its own. It is the path to the life of your dreams and, though the road may be lined with a few bumps and falls, there will be even more blessings. No matter what your dream or goal is, be willing to bleed, sweat, and cry for it all at once if necessary. I’ll leave you with the uplifting lyrics to the song that has a whole new meaning for Abigail.
Blood, sweat, and tears out of all that it takes
Trials and fear of mistakes
Hearts on the table, wide open, and naked
Too far to give up a stake
‘Cause I don’t have the perfect lines
No, I don’t have the perfect time
I know I’m not perfect; fine
But I know just what it takes
When you ask me to jump
I say, “How high?”
When you ask me for patience
I wait in line
But now that it’s my turn
I’m gonna take what’s mine high
Now that it’s my turn
I’m gonna take what’s mine high
THOUGHT INTO ACTION
Go for it! What is it that you’re desiring? What are you shying away from out of fear of failing? Make a commitment to boldly taking the first – or next – step this week. Download the song and listen when you need a boost.