Sarah Morgan

Healthcare Geek.
Professional Communicator.


Fail. A Little. Often. (Or, You Know, Don’t.)

Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general.” – Mark Rippetoe

This article from Breaking Muscle talks about all the ways that increasing muscle makes you healthier. Good information; nothing terribly new. But two phrases made me think about a lot more than metabolism and osteoporosis…

“strength is optional” and “fail a little bit, and often”.

Here’s another quote that they made me think of, this one from “Hamilton” genius Lin-Manuel Miranda. (Am I really mixing weightlifting and musical theatre? SURE AM.)

“I’m not a fucking genius. I work my ass off.”

He’s pointing out the wrongheaded idea that “genius” needs no sweat equity. If you’ve got brains, you still need effort, and vice versa, to make a difference. But what the “strength is optional” quote is saying is what doesn’t usually get said:

You don’t have to.

You don’t have to try. You can coast. You can settle.

Strength is optional. Genius is optional. Hustle is optional. Happiness is optional.

This goes for any way you define “strength.” Physical. Mental. Emotional. Whatever.

If anything in this life does qualify as working your ass off, it’s putting your head AND your effort toward figuring life out, and keeping on every day continuing to try to figure it out. And yeah, it’s a choice.

Strength is conscious, consistent, optional effort.

The second quote adds to that, though. Conscious, consistent, optional effort and the willingness to suck at it sometimes. 

That everyday “figuring-life-out” thing? It doesn’t work, a whole lot of the time.

Edison is supposed to have said, “I haven’t failed; I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” The tech industry loves that, and uses “fail fast, fail often” as a motto.

If I’m at the gym, I know it’s okay to discover I can’t do something. I know it’s okay to stop and take a breath. I don’t like it, but I know it’s okay to fail. That’s why places like that matter – they’re the places where we can test ourselves.

Outside, though? It’s a whole lot harder to remember, whatever Edison and Silicon Valley and Breaking Muscle say. The stakes are higher. There are repercussions for failure. But I suppose what you do in practice doesn’t much matter if you don’t apply it.

Just a small rumination to keep myself motivated. Take from it what you will.


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