Trials and Errors

I just finished reading Run the World by Becky Wade, a former collegiate runner who in her first marathon, beat out the rest of the women in a touch over 2 hrs and 38 mins, launching her professional career.

What’s her secret? How’d she do it?

Concocting a plan to travel the world, Becky visited star-producing countries that shatter speed and endurance records to run with their elite, averaging 75-mile weeks and learning their dietary and cultural practices.

That’s the elevator pitch.

How’d she really do it? She worked for it. Earned it. Struggled. Fought for it. Deprived herself. Sacrificed. She tried herself. Found out of what she was capable.

I teach middle schoolers, and there’s a divide yawning between my kids who succeed and those who fail: their willingness to jump. This week, I assigned a certain number of lessons students had to pass in order to net the full credit, and the ones who did were the ones who failed and tried again and failed and learned from their mistakes and passed. The ones who earned none of the credit were students who failed the first lesson or two and stopped.

Thing is, I am those students who failed, and I’m not just talking academics here. I’m talking about any moment where one can risk or not, whether it’s sports, social situations, or even dealing with spirituality. Spending much of my life afraid of change, I took few risks, which stunted my growth and limited my options. At 25, I weighed about 165 soaking wet and worked a full-time job to which I commuted from my parent’s house. I couldn’t afford to move out, because I had yet to save up for a car.

At any instant where growth can occur, there has to be momentum, forward progress. To learn to swim, one has to let go of the ladder. To be a parent, one has to bear responsibility; producing a child is not enough. To succeed, one has to fail, and one can’t fail if they don’t jump, letting go of whatever makes them feel safe, propelling themselves into a space where guts move independent of the rest of the body, and landing well or falling. We don’t leap forward because we’re afraid to fall.

Within a year, I bought a car and moved out on my own, taking a flying leap.

I read Becky Wade’s book because I’m a runner; I’ve fallen too many times to count. I’ve sustained injuries and frozen extremities. The reason I keep running is because it propels me forward; I get to explore my physical and mental limits. I learn what works in various situations because I risk running with ever-changing variables, whether that’s weather, distance, surface, time of day, location, or even physical condition. Because every run changes, I have to change with it, causing growth. Change causes growth.

It’s January 6th, and I have yet to make any resolutions. Well, time to change that. Because I want to continue developing mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially; I resolve to embrace change. Expect to see more frequent blog entries; look for announcements about my memoir and the novel I’m writing; anticipate my teaching a new class; and prepare yourself for such minor adventures as new friendships, improvements to the house, and a trip or two.

If there’s something you know you need to do, but you’ve been afraid to do it, do it. Risk failing/falling, and if you do, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, assess your injuries, and try again.


It’s my son’s birthday. He turns three today, and we planned his party for tonight, but there is discontent in me. I read a few pages then toss my book down. I scratch and rub at my body to escape its confines. This waiting is bullshit. I struggle to focus. The poker tournament televised over my shoulder pricks at my ear with exciting commentary, choice phrases, and greed, but I sit six hours from home concerned only with our return. Car troubles forced delay as dealers close on Sundays, so I checked my family into a nearby hotel for the night.

I am not the only one waiting to hear of conveyance. My sister and mother call one after the other to learn of our state, but I have no news, so they express love and concern via voicemail. Laura texts me wondering whether or not to check out, but I have no news and tell her to “hold tight.”

After three-and-a-half hours, we know what ails my Prius: several things. My rear brake pads wear thin, the fuel system runs sub-optimally, a component worth one-sixth of what I paid for the car needs replaced, there’s too much oil in the engine, and the inverter went bad. That damn inverter — why it turned against me I’ll never know, but the culprit triggered a red exclamation triangle of death, forced the air conditioner to kick out, caused the car to pull and jerk, and would have stranded us in the mountains if given the chance. Misinterpreting its message, I overfilled the car with $15 worth of oil, so the mechanic will drain off the three quarts I added and take out the troubled inverter.

With any luck, we’ll make it out of here for less than $500 for which I’m thankful, considering what we could have paid. The Prius’ other issues? We can resolve those after we’re back in Ohio.

Signing off from North Carolina, sharkbite-free, Jake Lees.