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May 14, 2013

Don’t fear failure

What would you do if you were not afraid?

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that don't workThat is the question I asked myself a few years ago when my husband and children wanted to ride their bicycles from Alaska to Argentina.

And when I got really honest with myself, I had to admit that, if I wasn’t afraid, I would go with them.

The trouble was that I WAS afraid. Very afraid. Terrified, in fact.

I was afraid that the mountains would be too high, or the headwinds too strong. The cold would be too cold and the hot would be too hot.

But when I was really, really honest with myself, I realized that it wasn’t the high mountains or headwinds that I feared. I was afraid of failure.

I was afraid that I couldn’t do it and would have to come back home with my tail between my legs.

In order to avoid the agony of defeat and humiliation of admitting I couldn’t do it, I had convinced myself that it was better not to try at all. If I never set out in the first place, I would never have to crawl back home, defeated.

you haven't failed until you quit tryingBut then one night I had one of those eureka moments – a moment when I realized just how silly I was being. That night, as I lay in my bed trying to sleep, I realized that if I tried – if I started pedaling – I did face the possibility of defeat. In fact, I figured there was probably a 50/50 chance I would fail.

But I also realized that if I never took that very first pedal stroke, I was looking at a 100% chance of failure.

When I looked at it from that perspective, I realized it made no sense not to try. I might fail – in fact, I had a very good chance of failing. But I might not fail. I might possibly succeed.

The rest, as they say, is history. Together with my husband and children, I flew to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and we spent the next three years pedaling south.

In the end, I didn’t fail. In the end, I did it. I pedaled 17,000 miles through fifteen countries. But it never would have happened if I wasn’t willing to risk failure.

Don’t fear failure. Redefine it. You haven’t truly failed until you’ve quit trying.

decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it


After spending 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel made the decision to quit her job and live a life less ordinary. Together with her husband and children, she cycled from Alaska to Argentina – a journey of over 17,000 miles through 15 countries. Now, she lives in Idaho, inspiring others to chase their dreams. You can find her at www.familyonbikes.org.

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