• Tanner Kern

Finding Positivity in "Failure"

Before I begin this blog, I have to credit Chris Stonier who was the first guest ever on The Tanner Kern Podcast. Chris gave a talk last night on "Character" along with performance and moral goals. In this talk he quoted best selling sports performance author Brett Ledbetter.


The quote he used was, "Process drives the result. And character drives the process. So character drives the results."


This is an extremely powerful statement and it couldn't be more accurate. How we prepare determines our result. Our character determines how hard we prepare. Therefore, character determines the final result. Chris preached that we need to worry about moral goals (goals we can control) like our work ethic, focus, effort, and anything else in our power. We only should worry about performance after we worry about the things we can control.


After Chris' talk I asked him, "If we focus on our moral goals and they improve on the journey to our performance goal, but we don't get the final performance result we really wanted, how do we handle this failure?"


He gave a great response and to give a brief version of his answer he basically said that we need to find the positivity in our perceived failure. If you improved yourself in any way throughout the journey, then it wasn't actually failure at all. Even though this is a cliché answer as he stated, his response still resonated with me. He used marathon running as an example to get his point across, but it really can apply to anything in life where you think you "failed."


He said, "What's the first question someone asks you when they find out that you've run a marathon? The typical question is 'What's your time?'" In that moment people determine if you were successful or not, but they don't know what that time really meant. It could be a "bad" time, but people don't realize the person you became throughout the journey.


I had this moment when I ran my second marathon in Disney World last January. I had really high performance goals set for this race. I wanted to run sub 3:30 and at the half marathon mark I was on pace to reach my goal, but in the second half of the race I completely fell apart and ended up running an hour slower than I had hoped. I began cramping, my stomach was very upset, and I had to walk a significant portion of the last 10 miles. When I reached the finish line, I felt like a failure and I was brought to tears because I had blown a goal that was in reach just two hours earlier. This feeling of failure was heightened every time I had to tell someone that I ran an hour slower than my goal.


I battled this perceived failing result for awhile and don't get me wrong...I still have unfinished business with the Disney Marathon that I will eventually make right in a future race. Despite this, when I took a step back and thought about how I improved myself on the journey I became filled with gratitude. I thought about where I had started my journey up to this point. Just three years prior, I was 340 pounds and couldn't run a quarter mile without walking. I was on the verge of severe health issues and I was lost. In three years, I had finished my second marathon and grown immensely on the journey. When I realized how far I had come, my "bad" marathon time became a lot less significant. Disney was a successful race because I improved myself leading up to that 4:25 finish in the 'Happiest Place on Earth.'


We can't completely control our performance. We can prepare, but there will always be some extraneous variable that we weren't ready to battle. Sometimes we overcome the adversity and sometimes we don't, but we CAN control our moral goals. If we improve ourselves by 1% on the journey to a "failed" result, it wasn't failure at all. It was improvement for the next challenge we undertake in our lives.


If you have any questions or comments I'd love to hear them! Please send me an email or reach out by social media.

Tanner Kern is a 22 year old coach, runner, and blogger from Connecticut. He is the host of The Tanner Kern Podcast and creator of "It's a Process: A Blog About Life, Running, and Everything in Between."

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© 2023 by Tanner Kern.