How To Fail

Finding the benefits of failure. Discover how failing, falling and following through on an obstacle course is the secret to success.

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.”

—Theodore Roosevelt

Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

“If you can remove your ego from a process, then there really isn’t any difference between success and failure. They’re just both parts of a process.”

― Elizabeth Day, How to Fail: Everything I’ve Ever Learned From Things Going Wrong

Dorset Adventure Park received the Tourism Attraction Award on the 23rd of February, at the inaugural Purbeck Business Awards. This achievement feels like a perfect time to explore the relationship between success, failure and the obstacles in our path. 

Researcher and author Dr Brené Brown catapulted to fame after the success of her TEDx Talk from Houston in 2010, “The Power of Vulnerability”. Two years later, the self-help book, “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown, became an immediate New York Times bestseller. “Daring Greatly”, opens with the Theodore Roosevelt quote above. It celebrates the effort, sweat, blood, mud and tears of being the one who dares to strive and take on life’s challenges and obstacles. Brené Brown has appeared frequently on podcasts with Oprah Winfrey and her appearance on writer Elizabeth Day’s podcast, “How To Fail”, has become one of the highest reviewed and most downloaded episodes in the podcast charts. Elizabeth Day’s podcast and accompanying bestseller book, “reveals that failure is not what defines us; rather it is how we respond to it that shapes us as individuals. Because learning how to fail is actually learning how to succeed better.” 

So, what does the conversation around failure have to do with obstacle courses, water parks, mud runs and more specifically, Dorset Adventure Park? There is a lot of research around the many mental and physical benefits of completing obstacle courses. When friends and families come to Dorset Adventure Park they are there to have a fun Dorset day out. It can often be an attempt to entertain children during a long school holiday period or celebrate a birthday. People do not always visit the waterpark to test their physical fitness. Yet, they will ultimately spend a couple of hours leaping, jumping, climbing in and out of the water and crawling through mud and over a 2k assault course with about 50 obstacles in their path. It is no wonder that many of our visitors have remarked that they were apprehensive about their visit. One visitor admitted to TripAdvisor, “I confess I was rather nervous (particularly about having to clamber back into the inflatables!).” Another shared that they were, “a bit apprehensive to begin with”. Yet, the first visitor finished their review declaring, “the whole set up inspired confidence, and I ended up enjoying myself enormously.” The second visitor found their feeling of apprehension, “immediately changed.” These are just two of many examples of visitor’s experiencing that transition from anxiety to confidence. People leave the waterpark and the mud trail feeling energised, happy and more confident, not just because of the helpful knowledgeable staff and thought-out set-up but the nature of the fun exercise and ability to quite literally conquer obstacles boosts our physical and mental state with dopamine and endorphins. A famous climbing gym and activity centre in Canada explains why even the hardest obstacle courses leave you feeling so good, “what you’re really looking at is countless opportunities to rise above fear and grow as both an individual and an athlete. Every time you get a little bit better at an obstacle on a course, you’ll become more confident and self-assured.” They, like the scientists, agree that, “achieving goals increases the levels of dopamine in our brains. Dopamine is an important brain chemical that helps boost mood, increase motivation, and enhance the good feelings we get when we achieve our goals.”

Dorset Adventure Park provides the opportunity for adults and children to experience the pure joy of, ‘a floating Total Wipeout style course with over 200m of inflatable obstacles.’ Even if a visitor chooses to only try the aqua park and not the mud trail obstacle assault course, they are experiencing not only the dopamine joy of the physical activities but are building the grit, fortitude and determination to complete the course. In the moment of being on the course, falling into the water or sliding in the mud, those are the golden moments that build and fortify our inner strength and resilience. That is daring greatly. It is why, “the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly.” It is in the striving that we find valour. The word valour comes from the Old French valor meaning, “moral worth, merit, courage, virtue.” To try is to be courageous. It is why a session on either of the obstacle courses will leave you with a greater sense of self-worth.

Even if we fall at the hurdles, stumble at the starting block or don’t complete everything on the to-do-lists-of-life; turning up, striving and trying will still build and boost our minds and bodies. Dorset Adventure Park did not win the top tourism attraction award just because it is a brilliantly fun day out but because it built an environment in which we can dare greatly. 

Words by Olivia Lowry

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