May Newsletter, 2017: Failing to learn

“If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.” ~Woody Allen

It is scary to try something new. Whether it’s exercise, walking into a seminar where you don’t know someone, or changing jobs, new situations breed uncertainty.

That uncertainty is largely due to a fear of failure. Whatever we are trying for the first time, chances are good we won’t be spectacular at it right away. We might not even fully be able to grasp it or do it “right.” 

The fear of failure can become so daunting it makes our world smaller, preventing us from taking risks or exploring other avenues of movement and life because we might not succeed.

In the book “Creativity, INC.,” Ed Catmull writes, “…failure is painful, and our feelings about this pain tend to screw up our understanding of its worth. To disentangle the good and the bad parts of failure, we have to recognize both the reality of the pain and the benefit of the resulting growth.” We naturally avoid things that bring us pain. That’s how we survive, but it’s not how we evolve. To evolve is to risk failure, and failure often temporarily hurts.

Every time I take a risk, I ask myself, “what’s the worst that could happen?” The answer when I started my blog was, “no one will read it, so I will be writing for myself.” I decided this wasn’t necessarily bad, so I started a blog. When I decided to open my own studio, the answer was, “All of my clients fire me and I can’t pay my rent and have to close.” I decided that was a worthwhile risk to take (it also made me work very hard to make sure that didn’t happen). When I began practicing arm balances, the answer was, “I could fall.” The ground, I figured, wasn’t that far away, so falling wouldn’t hurt that badly. When I decided to sell online classes and courses, the answer was, “no one buys them.” Every time I put together a class or a course, it forces me to think about things a little differently, put together different sequences, read through the research and think about practical application. This deepens my relationship with the material, making it time well spent.

If the worst that could happen isn’t life threatening or potentially harmful, the risk might be worth taking. Instead of being afraid to fail, change your perspective and let failure be your greatest teacher.

*Spots are filling in the Nature and Movement Retreat in Napa, June 2-4. If great food, a natural setting, and mindful movement are your thing, consider joining us:

Yours in health and wellness, 
Jenn Pilotti

Breaking Muscle articles and videos:

Upcoming Events:

Suggested reading:

  • Research on motor imagery and pain:, if you think a movement causes pain, you will experience pain, even if you’re just visualizing the movement).
  • Jenni Rawlings wrote a great blog on pain science and yoga. Check it out here:
  • A client sent this to me, asking if it was an appropriate shoulder warm-up. I was impressed with the quality of exercise selection. Worth a look if shoulders are an issue for you:
  • Awesome story about a woman with MS reclaiming strength and mobility:
  • A short read on what fear is and how it works:
  • “Creativity Inc,” by Ed Catmull. So many great gems on human nature and success are wrapped in this story about the growth of Pixar.
  • “The Body has a Mind of its Own,” By Sandra Blakeslee and Matthew Blakesless. Apparently, I missed a lot of great books in 2007. I am making up for lost time now. Neuroscience, motor control, and the mind body connection in this slim, highly readable book by mother/son science writers. (It doesn’t resemble a text book in any way, I promise).
  • “Real Movement: Perspective on Integrated Motion and Motor Control“ by Adam Wolf. Here’s the thing about this book- it has typos. And “glute” is always changed to “glut,” probably for spellcheck reasons, but makes for choppy reading. But the material is good, and I get the sense he presents concepts from Gary Gray’s work in a very accessible way. (I am not a student of Gray’s, but I have read his blog and watched enough of his DVDs and online videos to get the gist). 
  • “Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in the Age of Distraction,” by Derek Thompson.               This was a quick read, ala “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell with a different slant.

Online learning opportunities:
Training clients with non-specific low back pain. This course qualifies for CECs through NASM. This 4 hour course includes lecture, assessments, mobility and stability exercises, and programming ideas. To purchase:
New online class: Integrating shoulder strength and mobility. 30 minutes of shoulder integration, strength, and stability:
Yoga classes are available here: