Raising the Bar: Building success on multiple failures

 Is it simpler to give up after repeat failure?

Facing failure again and again

In the gym, I fail a lift I could do three weeks earlier. There is no obvious reason for my weakness. I talk to my coach, wondering what is happening. Why my abs engage and then let go. My core is stronger than it has been since my first pregnancy, but that strength is inconsistent. I want to make progress. I want to be able to tally my improvements in pounds lifted. Instead I am red-faced, on the floor, close to tears and angry.

I take a breath. The truth is, I am doing incredibly well with strength training and conditioning. I remind myself it is okay to have a slow week. A low day. To be tired. My coach agrees and gives me tips on tracking when and how my muscles are checking out. Over the next week I recognize a pattern of muscle fatigue. In fact, what is happening is my core is engaging for longer stretches. I am consistently performing at higher quality, and I am doing it to failure. This, in itself, is an improvement.

Starting at the beginning

But let me back up, because knowing where we are requires knowing where we’ve come from. For me, this means an abdominal herniation and repair. Abs that were stretched and floppy now tight and firm but still weak from three oversized babies tearing through them. Scar tissue under my skin and around my muscles. And the fear it could happen again; those muscles could bow and separate. I remember how much it hurt. I remember.

What I also know is I am capable of rebuilding. My coach tells me to scale back, but to do so while still challenging myself. I follow this advice in the gym. I follow this advice in life.

Keeping an eye on the endgame

Since late 2016, I have been working toward multiple personal and business goals. One of those goals was publication. Another was client diversity. A third was travel. And there is a fourth.

Today I get to tell you about the first three, how they have come to fruition through slow, methodical and (at times) infuriating back-stepping progress. These achievements have come with tears of frustration and shouts of joy on the heels of intense emotional challenges and life shifts (including moving, selling our house, withdrawing one of my children from school to homeschool him, a puppy addition to our family, a dramatic change in diet to combat ADD, and more). Friends, I could not be more excited to share this with you!

Getting words on the page

First, a goal I set for 2016 was print publication. I achieved it twice. Once in a local magazine and again with acceptance (and now publication) in the Spring 2017 issue of Exit 7. After repeat submissions and rejections, two of my most beloved poems found a home in this literary journal alongside several beautiful works of art and literature. I hope you will submit and/or subscribe!

Above, you can see “Presidents Versus Terrorists.” Purchase a copy of the journal to read companion poem “For My Darker Sister.”

Building a platform for love

Second, I am still coaching writing clients one-on-one to establish voice, brand, presence and more. In a return to my passion of publication-building, Raymond Baxter has hired me to co-create and edit a relaunch of his site, The Relationship Blogger. It has been several months since I worked on a publication, and I am happy to be back at the helm. I have already had the immense joy of publishing several artists who are all working toward deepening the conversations around relationships, mental health and their intersections. In fact, I would love to writer with you. Find out more and how to submit here.

Write with me in person!

Third and final for now, I am traveling! I will be teaching at the WriteAway Spring Writer’s Retreat May 19-21 at the Camp Cedar Lodge in Lawrence, MI. This women only retreat will be a place to indulge in deep writing and relaxation with sister artists. I am honored to have been invited to teach alongside Yi Shun Lai, Ami Hendrickson and Kim Jorgensen Gane. Find out more about this retreat and sign up here. 

Sweet dreams are made of. . .

That fourth announcement will have to wait just awhile longer. I am so excited about it. Once I have the details finalized, I will tell you not only about that, but some exciting news about #LinkYourLife and Survive Your Story. And those are the longest term goals I’ve had since I set out to coach. These dreams. Finally. I can’t (but I can) wait!

Meanwhile, I will be gentler with myself in the gym. The growth happening there is manifesting in more ways than lifting gains. Even when it feels like I am failing, I will not give up. I will remember that strength increases in between lifts, and persistence is key to success.

Dear Friends, thank you for being a part of this journey. I am honored to be on it with you.

Shawna Ayoub

Shawna Ayoub is an essayist, fiction writer, poet and instructor with an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University. Some of her work has been published in The Manifest-Station, Role Reboot, [wherever], The Huffington Post, The Oxford Review and Exit 7. Her writing explores the intersections of race, place and survivorship. She writes with honesty about her own experience in order to transform pain.

6 Discussion to this post

  1. Norah Colvin says:

    Congratulations on your achievements, Shawna. You have much to be proud of.

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  2. Shawna, you are so amazing! Congratulations on being published and thank you so much for bringing me along for the ride. I value your presence in my life so much and I know others feel the same way <3.

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