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Sharing Failure: Combating the “Perfect Life” Culture

Posted by on Feb 10, 2014 | 6 Comments

sleepy time jasonLast weekend, I participated in a local Brazilian jiu jitsu tournament. My division, 180 pound blue belt masters (dudes over 30), consisted of eight people. It was a double-elimination tournament. If you lost once, you dropped down to the “loser’s bracket.” If you lost a second time, you were out.

I lost both matches.

The second match ended with me being choked unconscious, which isn’t entirely uncommon in jiu jitsu. Under normal circumstances (i.e.- training), I would have “tapped” thus conceding the match. Given that it was a competition, I didn’t tap, ergo I went to sleep.

A few days later, I posted the video of the match on Facebook, and it’s embedded below. Several people expressed surprise that I wold post the video of on embarrassing loss. Why did I post it?

 There are a handful of reasons.

  1. I’m competitive. I don’t compete for the experience, to pass the time on a weekend, or to get an event t-shirt. I enter competitions to win. Winning doesn’t happen automatically, however. It takes work. Lots of work. I’m fairly inexperienced for my division, and the only way to get experience is to train. Competing helps me learn precisely where I need to focus training. Posting the embarrassing video helps motivate me to do what I need to do to avoid this in the future.
  2. It’s funny. As competitive as I am, I also like to laugh. And this shit’s funny. No matter how seriously I take my own training, I never lose sight of the fact that I’m doing this for recreational purposes. I’m supposed to enjoy it. That enjoyment includes laughing at my own misfortune.
  3. This is my own personal battle against the gilded nature of social media. Most people use social media to develop and foster a facade of perfection. Sometimes it takes the form of cute pictures of their children or pets, other times it consists of declarations of how perfect their life is going. There’s also pictures of glorious landscapes to illustrate their grand adventures, or photo-ops with their favorite celebrities.

Of the three, the last point is the most important. I post a fair amount of “my life is great!” shit, but I don’t want to create the illusion that it’s always muffins wrapped in rainbows. Now and again it sucks. Periodically I feel depressed and usually over-eat. From time to time I get sick of living in an RV. Intermittently Shelly and I argue. As a stay-at-home dad, often times my kids are annoying. At times I’m bored or stressed out. I occasionally miss my friends and family from Michigan; I even miss the snow and cold. Sometimes.

In short, my life has ups and downs. This particular video happened to be a “down” moment. I set a goal to win the tournament, or at least win a match. As a last-ditch goal, I wanted to at least perform up to my abilities.

I failed to reach every goal.

I’m okay sharing the failure with the world because that’s part of setting goals and challenging myself. If I always succeeded, I wouldn’t be pushing my limits. Specific to bjj, I have no interest in playing it safe and waiting until I’ve spent more time at this belt level. More training, more powerlifting, and more cardio work would increase the probability of success, but it’s a paradox of sorts. The best way to develop and improve is to actively compete, but that requires me to face the prospect of failure. I’m willing to take that risk. 

I hope to pass this lesson to my children (and my teammates and friends.) I have no desire to protect my ego by repeatedly setting easy goals. I’m not about to let the prospect of failure hold me back. Life is too short to play it safe. Life to too short to wait on the sidelines. Life is too short to say “I’ll do it someday”, because someday never comes.



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  1. Beniy
    February 14, 2014

    I think Jason is a baresoul runner. Nothing’s hidden.

    • Bare Lee
      February 19, 2014


      Jason has taken the Selfie to a whole new level, raising our consciousness while unconscious.

  2. Barefoot TJ
    February 12, 2014

    Had a nice time at our MMA dojang tonight with my boys. Cole passed his green belt test where he sparred (taekwondo), grappled (jiu jitsu), and did breaking, as well as forms (poomsae), hand and foot techniques, etc.

    Casey grappled (jiu jitsu) with a little boy his age and size, 7 years old.

    In the first “match,” you will see Casey take Jacob down, then while Casey has Jacob in an arm bar, Casey says to Jacob, “Tap out” through his mouth piece. Precious!

    All subsequent matches are met with Jacob tapping out even prior to Casey applying any pain or pressure to him. Ha! Sweet.

    Now see there, Jason? That’s all you have to do. Next time, just tell your opponent to tap out. 🙂

    • Bare Lee
      February 12, 2014

      That’s right, Jason has to make better use of his formidable verbal skills.

  3. Barefoot TJ
    February 11, 2014

    “…ergo I went to sleep”…and ego went to sleep with you. Ha! -TJ

  4. Kate Little
    February 11, 2014

    Jason Robillard!!!

    Thank you for not being afraid to share failure, to laugh at imperfection. It is so refreshing to hear the truth.

    I am a distance runner. First marathon at age 46, BQ’s as a goal I hit numerous times, blah blah blah. Overly competitive yes, I have always been, on every level of life. Still, I always laugh at the post-sport event interviews where the athletes talk “We JUST GAVE 110%! That’s what we did!!!!!” and that next year they are gonna come back even stronger…with maybe 120%??? “hoooaw”. It sounds so silly, and yet I find myself setting goals with the same ridiculously lame motivators. It’s just how we are.

    Thank you for being honest. You let yourself be up front and I’m inspired by that. BTW, I wouldn’t want to tangle with you. You are one tough competitor!. Seriously, ARE you a barefoot runner?