Re-Frame Failure

Reframe Failure 1

The summit of Castle Mountain is behind me. We climbed up that final head wall to the ridge above. The snow was soft, and a slip would be a 1,000′ fall to the lake below.

This is me failing to summit Castle Mountain. My husband Mike and I spent the night in our van at the base of the mountain, and were up at 5:00 am to bag this summit. After 6 hours, over 10 km, and about 2,500 feet of elevation gain, we had a serious decision to make. We were less than an hour away from the summit, with only a few hundred feet of elevation gain left to go. There is way more snow at the top than we thought, and with no crampons or ice axes, we had to make the agonizing decision to turn around.

Reframe Failure 2

Mount Victoria is a beast of a mountain above Lake Louise with a dangerous knife-edge ridge to the summit.

This is me failing to summit Mount Victoria. After enduring an excruciating scramble up the worst scree slope ever, we arrive at Abbot Pass and drop off our overnight stuff at the Hut. We start short roping up the spine of the mountain. It’s fun climbing at first, but I’m quickly out of my experience level. To compound things, a major storm is moving in. We are running out of time, so we descend to the hut.


Assiniboine is one of the highest and most picturesque mountains in Alberta. Not only was I disappointed in myself, but so was my father-in-law. Talk about expectations!

This is me failing to summit Mount Assiniboine. My father-in-law Franz Dopf has climbed the Matterhorn of the Rockies so many times, he can’t remember all the ascents. Back in the 1950s, Franz and Hanz Gmoser came this close to getting the first winter ascent. They were wearing their old leather boots, and frostbite turned them around less than 100 m from the summit. My father-in-law really wants his son to climb Mt. Assiniboine as it means so much to him. On the day Mike and I attempted our ascent, we had a series of set-backs that lead to a late start. It’s was a brutal winter with lots of snow, the mountain is not in shape yet, and once again, I’m out of my comfort zone. I had to turn back.

By now you must be thinking that I’m a terrible climber, and I am beginning to agree with you. I feel like a complete failure.

But let’s re-frame this.

As a result of pushing myself so hard and far beyond my comfort and skill level, I have:

  • greatly increased my hiking skills. I now have the knowledge, mileage and confidence to take out less experienced people on hikes. I have lead dozens of hikes throughout the Canadian Rockies, with a focus on hiking safely and efficiently.
  • greatly increased my physical fitness. You don’t get that high on a mountain without strong legs and lungs. Each of these failed attempts was surrounded by dozens of hikes and summits of other mountains.
  • greatly increased my technical skills. Each time I attempted a bigger and badder mountain, I gained new skills, or honed existing ones. I’m not the same mountaineer I was 15 years ago, that’s for sure.
  • greatly DECREASED my fear of heights. Most people don’t know this about me, but just thinking about being on a tall building makes me want to vomit. Why would someone with such an intense fear of heights be attracted to climbing? It’s cruel, and it makes anything I do in the mountains twice as hard as it needs to be. I’m not going to live in fear, dammit. If I know anything, it’s that facing your fears is the best way to get past them.

So, do you still think I’m a failure?

Now, let’s re-frame this from the start.

As many scramblers and climbers know, mountains are not always climbed on the first try. It can take several attempts to find the right route, and to solve the various problems the mountain throws at you.

Experienced climbers know that just getting out there and attempting to climb a mountain is a success. Coming home without bagging the peak is an opportunity to try again next weekend.

By attempting to climb these very big mountains, I have taken a successful step towards upping my overall mountain game.

YOU Define Success and Failure

This process applies to every aspect of your life. Let’s say you have written a book, and want to get it published. The book is written, edited, and reworked several times. Now it’s time to send your baby out into the world to be judged by publishers as worthy to be printed.

You receive the first rejection letter. Ouch, that smarts. Then the second, third, fourth… This just plain hurts!

Have you failed? Well, that depends on your definition of success.

If you defined success as getting your book accepted by a publisher, then you failed miserably. However, if you defined success as having the faith and confidence in your work to send it out to as many publishers as possible, then you are a raving success.

What do you have control over in the above scenario? Do you have control over the publishing company and their choices? No. Then why would you gauge your success by something that’s out of your control? Okay, so the top 10 of your preferred publishers said no, but now is the time to work your way through the next set of 10, and so on. Or, maybe you attend a writing conference, meet a few agents, and see if they have more success at submitting first books. Maybe you decide to do another edit before you try again.

Do you have control over your work and how you promote it? Absolutely! If you frame success as having the drive to even finish writing a book, and then the guts to send it out to publishers, then you are successful. You have completed several important steps on the way to your overall goal of being a published author.

How many people don’t send out their book (heck, might not even finish writing it), for fear of rejection? For fear of failure? If you re-frame how you judge success, failure is not an option, it doesn’t exist.

One more example.

You are out with your friends, and you see a guy across the room. There is something about him, and you have a feeling you would like to get to know him better. You want to talk to him, and ask him to go for coffee at a later date.

How do you judge the success of this personal interaction?

If your success depends upon him saying yes to a coffee date with you, then you have put your power into the hands of a total stranger.

If your success depends upon building up your courage to talk to him, and to ask him out, then you are keeping your power.

You have no control over whether the guy wants to talk to you, or go out with you. The success is doing the steps that YOU have control over, like initiating conversation. If you judge your success by actions that YOU can control, then your success is 100% guaranteed. Guaranteed!!!

I absolutely LOVE this concept and I use it daily.

When I first created my “Confidence for Women” course, I had to promote it and find a place that wanted to host it. For me, just getting the courage to tell the local library and my recreation centre about the course was really putting myself ‘out there’. It was a real stretch for my introverted self, and quite scary.

Then I took a step back. I realized that my goal was not to be accepted (because I did not control their programming content). My goal was to screw up my courage, make the phone calls or visit the location, and talk to the programming directors to see if they wanted my course. So instead of fretting about an uncertain response, I’m celebrating making the call. Huge difference!

In the end, both the library and the recreation centre hosted my Confidence for Women course. Plus, I was asked to speak at the local Women’s Conference.

What perceived failure do you want to re-frame today? Please let me know in the comments and I can help you find the success factor that you have control over to focus on.



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Posted in Adventures, Life Hack

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