Walking Guide

A Lesson in Failure: How I Picked Myself Back Up


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

Last year, much to my mother's dismay, I bought a scooter, the photo of which I proudly display on my SparkPage. Scootering (if that's not a verb, it should be) around town has been a fun and eco-friendly way to travel, seeing how my "Buddy" (that's the model's actual name!) gets about 100 miles per gallon and looks oh so cute, too.

But Buddy isn't all fun and games. You see, in Ohio (and most other states, I believe), you have to have a motorcycle permit to drive a scooter, and earn your motorcycle license (endorsement) to get full driving privileges. I took my written permit test last year after buying Buddy, knowing that it would only be valid for just one year. Within that year, I'd have to pass the full motorcycle licensing exam (or pony up the cash again for yet another permit).

If you know anything about motorcycle driving tests, you probably know about their reputation for being challenging. Many people fail the first time. It's not out of the ordinary to drop your bike or fall, to hit cones or stall the engine. Knowing that, I went to the course and practiced one night before testing day. I aced all the maneuvers on my own and felt pretty confident about my upcoming test that weekend. Can you see where this might be going?

That Saturday, my boyfriend drove me to the BMV parking lot, which was filling up with scooters and motorcycles. I signed in (#1 on the list) and brought Buddy to the course, waiting to get started. As about 10 other men lined up their bikes behind me, I started to feel my nerves. I was first. They were all watching me. What if I messed up? What if I failed?

The tests consists of four maneuvers, such as a cone slalom, a tight "U" turn, a quick stop and a quick swerve. To my delight, I passed all three of the first maneuvers, including the "quick stop" that had me most worried. I lined up Buddy for the final test. I felt even more nervous for the last part, almost knowing that my perfection so far was too good to be true. This one had a speed component—I had to clock between 12 and 20 miles per hour by the time I crossed the line ahead of me, then, without stopping, do a quick swerve to the right of an obstacle further ahead.

Off I went, hoping for the best as I pulled the throttle and accelerated quickly. I was so fixated on hitting that speed requirement, that I watched my speedometer a little too much. By the time I started to swerve, things started moving in slow motion—but not in a good way. I don't know how it happened, but I was losing control. I was going to crash. Why wouldn't the scooter slow down? Why was I tipping? Why was I still on the throttle? I can't tell you exactly how I got from the starting point to where I was, but my scooter fell and skidded on its side in front of me. Somehow (almost miraculously), I was standing on the pavement—and not on (or under) my fallen scooter.

When you crash, fall, or drop the bike like I did, it's an automatic failure. I failed, on a scooter no less, which was supposed to be far easier than a motorcycle. I wrecked my orange Buddy, and not only did I fail, but I crashed in front of everyone—the 10 men behind me, my boyfriend, the test administrator, and a state highway patrol man who was there to oversee the testing.

A couple people helped me get Buddy up and off to the side so the other testers could get their turns and the instructor handed me my paper that said I had failed. It was like receiving a big red "F" from a teacher and the whole class knew it. After talking with the officer for a few minutes, he walked away and tears started streaming down my face. I don't know how I held it together for so long. I didn't want anyone to see me crying. I was embarrassed. I felt stupid for wrecking. I felt angry that I scratched up my scooter. And I felt nervous about having to re-test again.

Honestly, I don't have a lot of experience failing at things. This was my first big, public failure. About 15 minutes later, I was able to dry my eyes enough to walk back inside, show my big fat "F" to the man at the counter and reschedule my test. On the ride home, I thought about all the people I'd have to tell that I had failed—people who wished me luck and rooted me on and knew I was taking my test that morning. Not only had I failed, but I crashed! I'd have to tell them that, too. (And even if I didn't, Buddy had battle scars that I'd have to explain at some point.)

Later that day, I told my boyfriend how I felt. "I'm a failure at life," I said. He had been supportive all day of course, but what he said in response really stuck with me.

"You're far from a failure at life," he said. "In fact, I think you're pretty successful in life. Riding the scooter is just one very tiny part of your whole life."

How stupid I felt. He was right. I realized how easy it is to come to ridiculous conclusions when something bad happens. I failed my driving test. How could I possibly jump from messing up a single incident to saying that I'm a failure in general or a failure at everything. Clearly, that isn't logical. But isn't that something that we all do sometimes? Dwell on the negative. Beat ourselves up when we mess up. Assume the worst about ourselves, even when all other experiences show us that we're pretty awesome, even if we aren't perfect.

I realized that failing in and of itself isn't such a big deal. Everyone fails. Everyone messes up. And even if you've never screwed something up yet—just wait, you will someday (sorry, but it's true). In fact, knowing that failure is inevitable and accepting that you can't always be perfect is kind of freeing, don't you think?

I could have given up after my embarrassment. I could have taken the weekend-long motorcycle safety course, which waives your test-out requirement. But that would have been the easy way out. Plus, I realized that the absolute worst that could possibly happen—failing, crashing—already happened! So technically, it couldn't get any worse.

I rescheduled my test. I practiced the course again, especially my nemesis, the quick swerve. When I woke up early this past Wednesday to head to the BMV, I was certainly nervous. I barely slept the night before. I kept tracing the path of the test in my head, reliving the part where I had failed. I had dream that I passed the test, but when I arrived, #1 in line with 10 other men behind me, just like last time, my stomach was aching and my fingers were trembling. I was ready to just turn around and go home without even trying. Why put myself through that all over again, I thought.

The test started and I passed the first three maneuvers (just like before) and lined up for the quick swerve. I was still shaking with nervousness, but I just focused, moment by moment, and reminded myself that I don't have to be perfect. It's OK to mess up and it's OK to fail after trying again. I hit the throttle, accelerating to the line as indicated. I braced myself, as if expecting to fall as I swerved, and came to a stop. I put my feet down and waited. The fact that I didn't crash this time was progress already, but I wasn't sure if I had passed yet—I might have gone too slow this time. I waited for the administrator to hand me my paper.

I had passed! I couldn't control the wide grin that spread across my face! My boyfriend high-fived me, and this time, rather than hiding my face in shame as we rode past the line of testers, I held my head high, smiling. I can't believe I did it! What a feeling of accomplishment—and relief! I'm glad it's over and I'm happy to have passed. But I'm even more glad that I didn't give up on myself.

What truly defines you is not the amount of times (or degree to which) you fail. It's what you do AFTER you make a mistake. When you learn from it and pick yourself back up, you never truly fail—as long as you keep moving in the right direction.

WOO HOO! My official endorsement!

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  • 244
    Nicole, you always motivate me with your stories and your exercise clips.
    Jackie - 10/20/2017   10:06:13 AM
  • 243
    I love this! Reminds me of life. How many times do we all fail at something? Plenty. But, how many keep going? Not as many. This blog is a perfect example of how not giving up gives one that exuberant feeling that only comes after failing. I need to remember this when I "fail" with my health goals (like yesterday). It is just a setback. Now I can redo my goals and keep on going. Thanks for sharing. - 7/19/2017   10:31:32 AM
  • 242
    I don't feel that I have failed but I need a new plan. I started out in 2013 at about 180 and now I am 139. and feeling pretty good about that. My goal is going to change in 2017 - 12/14/2016   7:24:40 AM
  • 241
    Whew!! I am so happy you didn't get hurt when you lost control. However, I am equally happy to hear you didn't just give up! Great job getting through the course. I too went through the course. It can be tricky, especially when you are nervous! Congratulations on your success!! Great Blog and so very inspirational! Thank you for sharing! - 10/24/2016   7:59:37 AM
  • 240
    Love your blog.
    - 9/12/2016   8:02:10 AM
  • 239
    Oh my gosh, I love this. What a wonderful testament to success! - 1/12/2016   11:21:15 PM
  • SLIMIN15
    Thank you for sharing your journey. I am feeling crappybtoday andbthisbgave me hope. - 12/12/2015   1:32:18 PM
  • 237
    Good for you!
    I was kinda hoping that those 10 men were also the same ten during your SECOND time around. Now THAT would certainly have been a confidence booster! :) - 10/25/2015   12:28:19 AM
  • 236
    Thank you for sharing. Buddy is cute & I can picture you riding that scooter. Reading your story encourages me to keep plugging away. - 9/24/2015   8:25:27 PM
  • 235
    Very inspirational, thanks for sharing and CONGRATS!
    - 4/3/2015   9:33:14 AM
  • 234
    I am a bit of a perfectionist. I also used to worry a great deal about failure..."If it can happen it will".. But as I have gotten older, I have learned to be humble. When something doesn't happen the way you want, improvise and get back on the road! :) - 8/12/2014   1:28:43 PM
    What you said, about not giving up, I totally agree. I pick myself up when I fall and start over right away.
    Thank you for sharing. - 10/23/2013   9:55:19 AM
  • VERRY13
    Today was my second Motorcycle lesson and I failed miserably... I fell twice....Don't know what really happend cause the 1st one went very well.
    I really did not feel like going back...but thanx to your blog I know i can do it.
    - 6/16/2013   8:10:52 PM
  • 231
    Good for you, you never gave up. Thanks for the inspiration - 5/2/2013   9:07:08 AM
  • 230
    Congratulation Nicole, you did the right thing. I drove a motorcycle and took the test and of course was the only woman there, I did pass but I also thought I would pass out with fright, so I understand how you felt and am proud of you. I still keep my motorcycle endorsement and am 73 because it was a challenge and I don't want to have to do it again. LOL - 4/25/2013   11:40:35 AM
  • 229
    Thanks for sharing your story. - 4/21/2013   10:26:18 AM
  • 228
    Awesome!!!! - 3/31/2013   9:57:57 AM
  • 227
    Great story!! Yes it's true, we all mess up but the lesson is to get back up and keep moving forward! - 3/16/2013   7:19:55 PM
  • 226
    Great Blog! And congrats for trying again! - 3/7/2013   10:56:13 PM
  • 225
    Love your story. Thank you so much for sharing it. - 2/12/2013   9:03:56 PM
  • 224
    What a great story! I read this as an "assignment" from SparkCoach. Today's lesson is how to handle failure and what to do when you "mess-up" or lack motivation to continue. Your story really tied in to this. Thanks for sharing and I really hope buddy is okay:) - 2/3/2013   9:13:46 AM
  • CANDO20K
    This is really helpful.
    Thank you for writing about what really makes the difference.
    Changing my thinking, when I feel the pressure of what others have said to me, is at the heart of staying positive.
    How do you get over trying to please significant influential people who differ with you, and just focus on being true to yourself, despite their opinions of you?
    - 10/10/2012   4:49:32 PM
  • 222
    Nicole. You are a fine person, and an excellent writer/role model for Spark. I love reading your blogs!! Thanks for giving this "old lady" a dose of encouragement

    AKA Harmony2011) - 4/7/2011   11:05:11 PM
  • 221
    Buddy is a cutie - and thanks for sharing the story! You are a wise woman - and your boyfriend definitely got it right - and I'm glad you caught on! It isn't the failing its the recovery that matters! - 12/22/2010   12:32:23 PM
  • 220
    Love the story,thanks for sharing.The scooter is so cool! - 11/16/2010   7:36:28 AM
  • 219
    Excellent story. Thanks for sharing! I love the yellow - 6/3/2010   12:18:23 PM
    Great story - 6/1/2010   10:36:37 AM
    Congratulations! Your story made me tear up. This week has been so hard for me, and I felt like a failure at life because I failed to convince someone else I cared about to quit a dangerous habit. But you are right, a failure at one thing does not mean that I am bad at everything in life. So thank you for sharing and encouraging me. - 5/31/2010   4:33:58 PM
  • 216
    What a great blog, thanks for sharing! I have had my fair share of failures the ones where I was so excited and determined to succeed and when I was shocked to see I didn't do as good as I wanted, I actually contemplated quitting all together. I realized later I was only a failure if I quit, so I am determined now to keep trying until I get where I want to be! - 5/31/2010   1:31:40 PM
  • 215
    Buddy is so cute!

    I want a scooter now----but I'm thinking I want to drive it illegally!
    Thanks for sharing this experience and congratulations, biker chick!

    - 5/31/2010   1:05:01 PM
  • 214
    What a great story! Congratulations. - 5/29/2010   7:33:29 AM
    Thank you for sharing...Honestly reading this made me cry. I have always been all or nothing and have had many failures in my life and am just now learning how to pick my self up and try again. I am praying that through Christ and Spark people I will finally be able to learn new ways to pick up and start over even minute by minute. Thanks again. - 5/27/2010   1:43:37 PM
  • 212
    Oh yeah! Another challenge met and another lesson learned. That's "living" a good life.......... :) - 4/17/2010   12:53:35 PM
  • 211
    "knowing that failure is inevitable and accepting that you can't always be perfect is kind of freeing, don't you think?" LOVE THIS, THANKS! - 3/11/2010   3:33:23 AM
    Good job! I started to paint(teaching myself with tapes and books) I never gave up on that, I was not going to let it get me down. I pretty much mastered that! Or as much as you could as of this time, I am still learning, that never stops! I never thought of weight loss in the same way. Thank you for that, and I will try harder the same way I did at painting. Thanks again! - 3/10/2010   7:06:23 AM
  • 209
    Whoohooo How fun! Love the little scooter - 3/9/2010   1:18:20 PM
  • 208
    What a great story - very encouraging - perseverence does eventually get you there... That's something that I needed to hear today, I've been doing all the right things and getting nowhere for the last three weeks, after having lost weight consistently (18 kilos over the last 7 months, even over Christmas!) Thank you! - 3/9/2010   9:37:58 AM
    Loved it!! Way to go! Thank you for this awesome article about perseverance, motivation and working through the little "downs" in life. I am ready to go! WOO HOO! - 3/9/2010   9:00:26 AM
  • 206
    congrats on sticking with it~~~ - 3/7/2010   1:19:00 PM
  • DEBLYNN323
    Love the 'get up, dust off, and keep moving in the right direction'. Congratulations on your success! - 3/7/2010   10:28:08 AM
  • 204
    This blog says so much. Failures only occur when you quit trying! Each of us need to remember that we should always strive to do our best--if we don't meet expectations, then we just need to pick ourselves up and try again! - 3/4/2010   9:06:07 AM
  • 203
    Thank you so much for this blog... I cannot tell you how much it means to me. I have a lot going on right now and my best friend does also and this is exactly what I (and she) needed to read!! Congratulations and at the risk of sounding condescending, I am proud of you for getting back up and moving forward. - 3/4/2010   8:44:11 AM
  • 202
    a gift I have from my parents is a blindness toward failure. I may not have succeeded yet, but that doesnt mean I failed, after all, I am still trying. Do you have any idea how many ways thomas edison found that you cant build a light bulb before he found one that worked? As I am a scientist and, by the nature of the job, half or more of what I do doesnt work. I couldnt do this job if that meant failure. I have succeeded in crossing off one more way that doesnt work to do what I am trying to do, and am that much closer to determining the right way.
    It sure helps to approach life with that attitude. less painful. - 3/3/2010   10:26:29 AM
  • 201
    One of my favorite quotes is "Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time." Thomas Edison

    What an awesome story! Thanks for sharing. - 3/3/2010   8:06:43 AM
  • 200
    Thank you so much for sharing your story... - 1/18/2010   4:40:11 PM
  • 199
    Way to go! I am so proud of you! - 1/17/2010   3:05:30 PM
  • MOM210
    Congratulations! You are an inspiration. There are so many things I'd like to do like that and I don't. - 1/13/2010   6:06:13 PM
  • 197
    I remember going through the same emotions when I went to get my motorcycle license. In Ontario, Canada we have graduated licensing so you have to do a written test plus two driving tests to get a full "M" license. It was the first time in my life that I wanted something so much that I was willing to suffer embarrassment to get. It was worth every minute of it!

    It was my first real big victory in my life and my first huge goal that I had ever met that was really important to me. (I had wanted my motorcycle license before I turned 40)

    Now with Spark, I hope to meet the goals I have set here as well. Thank you for sharing. You brought back some good memories for me. - 1/12/2010   9:47:39 AM
  • K10BFIT
    This is such a great post to read when we hit our plateau's or get discouraged. It serves as a nice reminder and thank you so much for posting it! - 1/10/2010   1:23:13 PM
    Thank you reminding us failure can give us an opportunity to learn, change and grow. We CAN develop better habits and skills to suceed! I have learned this lesson with the help of Sparkpeople! - 1/2/2010   1:49:03 PM

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