The Long Road of Falling Short

The Long Road

This guest post was written by Bud, author of A Boundless World.

Do you remember that time when you came up short?  Do you remember that time when you failed miserably?  Assuming you have a pulse, it’s safe to say you do.

Falling short and making mistakes are part of being human.  They are the challenges that make our lifelong journeys so extraordinary.  While coming up short isn’t always easy to deal with at the time, looking back at our failures can teach us an amazing amount about ourselves.

When I ran cross-country in high school, I fell short numerous times.  But it was my shortcomings that fueled the fire inside me, forcing me to train even harder… and eventually, I reached my goal.

Freshman Year

During my freshman year in high school my parents and I decided that it was in my best interest to partake in a sport.  Not being the most coordinated kid in the world left me with very few options to pursue. It turns out cross-country running was the perfect sport for me.

Joining my schools cross-country team was perhaps one of the greatest decisions I have ever made.  The sport took a kid who was lazy and unmotivated, and transformed him into a student of excellence.  While I still had my moments of laziness, my outlook on life drastically improved.

One of the reasons cross-country was so beneficial for me was that our team was consistently one of the best teams in the nation.  So I was always surrounded by people who wanted to be extraordinary.

At first, I actually didn’t want to be extraordinary.  I figured it was too difficult.  I simply put in enough work to be “average” and nothing more.  But as I began to see my teammates succeed, I thought, “Hey why not me?” The attitudes of my teammates quickly rubbed off on me and made me strive for more.

One of my goals for freshman year was to run a mile in under 5 minutes – a respectable time for a high school runner.

Having a clear goal in mind, I got motivated and began putting in the necessary work.  And I was getting closer and closer.  But then, out of nowhere, I became ill.

An Unexpected Setback

Cross country running is not the easiest of sports.  This is especially true when you’re running with one of the top running programs in the nation.  Our weekly mileage training requirements often exceeded 50 miles.  Running demands an extreme amount of time and energy in order to succeed.  And my body began to reject the training.

One day during practice my legs became unusually sore.  But I initially assumed the soreness was just part of the sport, so I continued to run for a few days more.  Then during a light jog one afternoon I became light headed and fell to the ground.  My legs completely gave out.  And I realized then that something was seriously wrong with me.

It turns out that my immune system was taxed to the point where it literally began eating the muscles in my legs.  For an entire week I could barely move my legs on my own.  Over the next several months I was in and out of hospitals taking test after test, trying to figure out what was wrong.  Although I was prescribed various medications, I never learned exactly what it was.

And it took nearly six months before I began running again.


Coming back from such a large setback was extremely difficult to say the least.  Not only was I behind physically, but my mental game was off as well.  I was scared of pain.  I didn’t want to push myself because I feared that I might grow ill again.

These negative thoughts impacted my ability to perform at the level I knew I was capable of.  So even though I started training again, I continued to fall short of my five minute mile goal.  But through the guidance and support I received from my family and friends, I was able to forge ahead.

So I continued to dedicate myself to my goal.  When my sophomore track season began, I couldn’t have been more excited.  I was certain I was going to break five minutes on the opening race.

But as it turns out, I didn’t.  Instead of breaking five, I ended up running a 5:01 in one of the greatest races of my cross-country career.  And although I didn’t conquer my goal, I still remember the feeling of joy that shot through my body – not because of the time, but because I knew without question that I gave it my all.

Overcoming Obstacles

Our lives are naturally filled with obstacles.  It’s impossible to avoid them.  If you try, they will ultimately stop you from living.

Your failures and shortcomings are a healthy part of your life’s story.  So embrace them.  Experience failure, learn from it, and breathe.  At the end of the day you have the final say on how you experience reality.

Remember, the long road of falling short eventually leads to victory.  Because winning is simply the act of never quitting.

Oh… And during the later part of my sophomore year, I finally ran a 4:54 mile.

Bud Hennekes is dedicated to changing the way people think about themselves. His blog empowers people to create and live in a blissful reality.  His hobbies vary, but more often than not he enjoys meditating, reading, connecting with people, and writing.

Photo by: Stuck in Customs

Why We Are Weird

Why We Are Weird

Somewhere Else

During my competitive cross-country running days it wasn’t uncommon for me to run five miles at 5AM and another ten miles at 10PM, six days a week.  I was competitive.  I wanted to win races.  And I was smart enough to know that if I dedicated myself to extra training, while my opponents were sleeping or socializing, I would be one step ahead of them when we crossed the finish line.

When I first started these early morning and late night runs, the experience was rather brutal.  My body didn’t want to cooperate.  It ached and cramped up.  And I found out that the only way to endure the extra training was to disassociate my mind from my body, putting my mind somewhere else while my body ran.

Can’t Relate

Over time, I became quite proficient at doing this.  I got so good at it, in fact, that I actually looked forward to running.  Because when I ran, my mind was clear and at peace with the world – especially when nobody else was around.  In the midst of what seemed to be a strenuous workout, my mind was in a soothingly relaxed state… similar to that of a deep meditation.

I don’t compete in races anymore, but I still run almost every day.  Even though I no longer have to, I typically still run in the wee hours of the morning or very late at night.  And since my friends know that I have a flexible work schedule, most of them think I’m a bit weird for running at such ‘odd’ hours.  I’ve tried to explain to them why I do it, and how it soothes my mind.  But they can’t relate.  So I’m still a weirdo in their eyes.

She Was Right

Last night, I went running on the Pacific Beach boardwalk at 11PM.  It was calm and quiet out – just the way I like it.  I was about three miles into my run when a peculiar looking woman sitting on the boardwalk’s barrier wall shouted, “Hey, you!” and then waved me down.  My first inclination was to just ignore her and continue running.  But my curiosity got the best of me.  So I stopped.

The woman had long blonde dreadlocks, several piercings in her ears and nose, tattoos on both arms, and a Grateful Dead t-shirt on.  She was strumming an acoustic guitar and had a thick, white joint burning in a small ashtray beside her.

She stopped strumming her guitar and began to chuckle as soon as she saw me looking down at the joint.  “Don’t worry,” she said.  “I’m legit.  I have a medical prescription for it.”

“It’s none of my business,” I quickly replied.

“Anyway,” she continued.  “Perhaps you don’t realize this, but it’s pretty late to be out exercising.  I’ve seen you out here a few times before, running after midnight.”

“So, what’s your point?” I asked.

“Well thousands of people run on this boardwalk every single day, but you seem to be the only runner I see in the middle of the night.  And it strikes me as being kind of weird.  So what’s your deal?”

I told her about my love for a quite landscape, and the way in which running soothes my mind. “…like a deep mediation,” I told her.

She smiled, strummed once on her guitar, and took a drag of her joint.  “Well then, I’m doing the same thing as you right now,” she replied.  “Only in my own way – a way that works for me.  Can you dig that?”

I stared at her for a second and then laughed, because I knew she was right. “Yeah, I can dig that,” I said.  She winked and started strumming her guitar again.  I winked back and started running again.


Some of us run in the middle of the night.  Some of us strum acoustic guitars and smoke joints.  And others go to church.  Or sip expensive wine.  Or surf on dangerous waves.  Or jump out of perfectly good airplanes.  When we try to understand people by personally relating to the things that they do, we usually can’t make any sense of it.  Because it’s easier to see weirdness in a sea of normality, than it is to decode the logical methods behind one’s madness.

But when we look just a little deeper, by making a noble effort to understand people by truly listening to why they do the things that they do, they never seem quite as weird.  Actually, they begin to seem…

Almost normal.

Photo by: Zara

We Have What It Takes

We HAve What It Takes

This guest post was written by Sid Savara, author of Analysis Driven Personal Development.

Day One

The very first day of class, I walked in and addressed my students.

“You will be graded on your homework, weekly quizzes and two exams. I do not play favorites, I do not grant extensions, and I do not grade on a curve.”

One hand shot up “Is it true that less than half of your students pass?”

“Yes, that’s true. Last semester out of 17 students, 5 earned a B or better. You are welcome to switch sections if you want.”

Four of the students got up and left, but Albert, somewhat surprisingly remained. Albert was one of my students last semester. Last semester he wasn’t doing too well, and I told him he may be better off dropping the class – but he stuck it out to the end, and earned a D for his efforts.

I spoke to him after class again today, and he assured me this semester was going to be different. He was determined to do better.

Albert came in for office hours, frequently emailed me for help and struggled with the material. He did better, but continued to have difficulty with some of the same concepts he had struggled with the previous semester.

In the end, things did turn out differently. Instead of a D, Albert had earned a C, when a B was required to continue to the next level. He would have to repeat Introduction to Computer Science for a third time.

The Next Semester

The following semester I had a batch of 15 students – Albert among them. I gave them the usual speech, a few switched sections, but Albert stayed in his seat. I puled him aside after class.

“Albert, I hope you understand the situation. You could easily pass this class if you took a different section. You know that I grade strictly, I don’t accept late work, and I don’t grade on a curve. Are you sure you want to remain in my section – or would you rather switch?”

“You know, I appreciate your concern Sid. I’ll think about it” he said.

The next week he was back in class – my class. Albert was in my section to stay, but I wasn’t going to go easy on him just because it was his third time. In some ways, I was even harder on him. He was focused and tried hard, but he was no model student. His grades fluctuated from Ds to Bs, and I had to have the old mid-semester “Do you want to drop out?” talk with him once again. Once again, he opted to stay for the whole semester rather than take the incomplete.

Finally, this was to be his semester – he barely earned his B. I was proud of him – and a bit relieved I wouldn’t have him repeating my class a fourth time.

My Class Grows

After Albert made it out of my class, something interesting happened. A couple semesters later my section started to grow, and I soon had to turn people away because my section was full.

Why would people continue to sign up for my section when they knew they I was a harsh grader, and they stood a better chance of passing in a different class? I asked them, and learned that Albert had recommended me. Apparently, he was doing well in the upper level courses and when people asked him why, he told them he had learned a lot from being my student.

I had to go find out for myself what was going on.

Why didn’t you just switch?

I learned that Albert wasn’t just doing well in courses – he was now tutoring undergraduates in computer science. I caught up with him one day, and asked him for the full story.

He told me that as classmates struggled in the higher level classes, he was so thankful I had been hard on him and forced him to really learn the introductory material without passing him along. By letting him struggle, when he actually passed my course he knew he was ready for the next level, and that confidence helped motivate him in future classes. Because I was so harsh on him in his introductory courses, it didn’t faze him when later professors were strict with deadlines, because he was already used to it.

“I appreciate that, but you didn’t need three semesters to leaern that. Why didn’t you just switch sections your second semester instead of repeating my section over and over?” I asked him. “I gave you the chance to switch twice, and you know you could have passed in a different section.”

“I know,” he said, ” but I needed to know that I had what it takes.”

“If you can find a path with no obstacles,
it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.”
– Frank A. Clark


Albert may have learned a thing or two about computer science from me, but I learned a valuable life lesson from him. He already knew the value of hard work and persistence, but having him as my student has taught me that when you expect the best out of people, they’ll give you their best. People don’t want to be coddled, and they don’t want rewards they don’t deserve.

Just like Albert, many of us have the potential to accomplish great things, and will willingly struggle against obstacles time and time again.

We struggle because we believe the journey is worth it.

We struggle because we want to improve ourselves.

We struggle because we know we have what it takes.

Sid Savara is the author of Analysis Driven Personal Development, a blog where he discusses personal development, lifehacking and personal productivity. For more inspiration, sign up for his newsletter and receive a free copy of The Little Book Of Big Motivational Quotes.

Photo by: Greekadman

I Would Rather Sound Stupid

I Would Rather Sound Stupid

Magic Happens

I’ve always believed in the beauty of a great journey – discovering new places, seeking life experiences, fostering relationships and pursuing my dreams.  In fact, it’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do.  I just want to believe in something that’s worth believing in and then pursue it with every facet of my being.

Such journeys, I’ve found, are best when we share them with others who, like me, are ‘crazy’ enough to assume that our wildest dreams are just a brief distance away from reality.  These are the folks who realize that ‘impossible’ is simply a mindset – something we get when we haven’t trained our minds and our hearts to see past the systems that currently exist to ones that don’t yet exist.  Because when our minds and our hearts and our hands work together, magic happens.


And only one thing has ever prevented me from making this magic happen more often.  Fear.  Being afraid of what others might think.  Afraid of the repercussions of putting my crazy ideas out there for the world to see and judge.  Afraid to let go of my comfort zone and just go for it.  Because… What if I fail?  What if… What if…

Now, in most situations, fear no longer stands in my way.  But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  It most certainly does.  I’ve just learned to curb my fears and adapt to change a bit more proficiently than I used to.  But I still feel the nerves of fear sneak up on me.  And the more important something or someone is to me, the more nervous I get, the more I stumble over my words, and the more I sound like an incoherent fool.

A few years ago when I began talking to my friends and family about my goal to write and start the blog that would eventually become Marc and Angel Hack Life, I mostly got half smiles, nods, and quizzical facial reactions. And when I tried to say anything meaningful to Angel when we first met back in September of 2000, she would often laugh at me because she literally found herself trying to decode my jumbled, shaky sentences.


One of the most remarkable things about our lives is that clarity and progression occur with enduring love, passion, and patience.  This blog is now an easy topic for me to talk about… and now, it’s even easy for others to talk about, including my friends and family.  And although it may take her a second or two, Angel now gets the gist of my jumbled, shaky sentences almost immediately.

And that makes me smile.  Because I want to continue to evolve and grow with the people and dreams that inspire me.  After all, I only have one shot – like we all do – to make this life meaningful.  And I know for sure, after coping with my fears on numerous journeys, that I would rather sound stupid…

Than be stupid and take no action at all.

Photo by: Darwin Bell