How many times have you hesitated in life due to fear of failure? Held back, doubted yourself or feared disappointment – only to regret your decision later. We’ve all felt that familiar wave of self-doubt, but it is conquering this doubt itself – rather than avoiding the idea of failure – that propels us forward in our success along with the knowledge and insight gained because of the failure we risked.

Let me give you an example: after a period of about ten years being pretty much physically inactive, I purchased a gym membership a few years ago. I am sure that all of us have at some point bought a gym membership, but it is what you do with that gym membership that counts. My competitive nature reappeared and I wanted to enter some events (after all, like it or not, life is competitive). I started with the odd 10km run, which led to me competing in Ultra Marathons.

I was taking part in an event last November in North Wales, following a period of injury. Rebellion was a 135-mile continuous self-supported, self-navigating race that started at 7pm on a Friday night. I was doing fine until I made an error of judgement where my heart ruled my head. I left the third check point (80 miles) when I should have rested for a couple of hours as I wanted to catch the top four competitors. This strategy backfired when at about 9am on the Sunday – having been awake for 50 hours – I was suffering from sleep deprivation, hallucinations and the effects of early stage hypothermia. Luckily, I had enough of my wits about me to make the right call and VW (Voluntarily Withdraw) for my own safety. People were disappointed for me, feeling sorry that I had failed – which in effect I had – but the key thing is that experience made me stronger, more resilient and above all more determined to put it right the next time.

The next time turned out to be The Spine Race – a 268-mile self-supported, self-navigational race along the length of the Pennine Way in January that tested me to my limits. Apologies for shattering people’s illusions about MdS (Marathon des Sables), but it is certainly not “The Toughest Foot Race on Earth”. Compared to The Spine Race, it is more like a guided camping trip in the desert.

I completed The Spine Race in 153 hours in the toughest conditions the race had ever been run in – minus 18 degrees centigrade on Tuesday night at Tan Hill, waist deep snow and winds gusting up to 70/80mph which meant the race was suspended for 12 hours for safety reasons. I honestly believe that I wouldn’t have completed the Spine Race without ‘failing’ at Rebellion. My lessons in that failure ultimately allowed me to succeed.

For most of the events that I enter, historically there is a 25% completion rate amongst the entrants; so the chances are that in the broader sense of the word I will fail, but as long as I’ve done the best that I can and learn something, then I have won (but not necessarily finished).

Failure is central to life and learning. It is how you grow, develop and ultimately flourish. As Michael Jordan put it: “I fail. But that is why I succeed”.