All posts by Leland Learns

Utilize the Tool of Failure

In the article, “We have been lying to ourselves about failure,” Kyla Haimovitz, psychology professor, at Stanford University who’s researched how discussion of failure can affect children’s motivation to learn, notes that it’s educationally valuable not to view “failure” and “success” as distinct states of being.

“Thinking about it as a continuum focuses people on the process of learning,” she says. “So when you make an error or succeed at something, it’s just one instance. It doesn’t say something about underlying stable traits: You can do it or you can’t do it, you’re good at math or bad at math, you’re a success or a failure. It’s just saying this is one step in the learning process.”

Astro Teller, the head of X (formerly Google X) which is affectionately nicknamed the “moonshot factory” shared in his TedTalk, “The unexpected benefit of celebrating failure,” that failure is actually when you know you are going in the wrong direction, but continue in that direction. The act of failing is neither here nor there.

Failure is instrumental in determining our fate. Failure accelerates our reconnection with our purpose and who we want to become. Sometimes we find out who we want to be by realizing who we don’t want to be.

In the article, “The Science Behind Failure: How It Actually Makes You Smarter” states, “It is true that failure is incredibly valuable, but perhaps not in the way you think…the right way to fail is far closer to the right way to learn.”

In learning, when we encounter new information or a new situation, it is essential that we come to the accurate conclusion. Is the conclusion rooted in fact and reality? Is the conclusion the most positive version of the facts? Failure is not the badge of honor that we need to wear, but the tool in which we achieve clarity into the path we need to journey upon to reach us, to be fully all of us.

#igniteyoursoul and utilize the tools you have at your disposal even if that tool is called failure.

*This article was first published on November 30, 2016, at

A Fortune Cookie Future: How Anticipation Paves the Way to a Brighter Future

Fortified with the company of good friends, I set out to make a new path for my future. Lacking some gumption and direction, what better way to open the window to enlightenment than to crack open some mass produced fortune cookies.

If it might be any indicator of the ominous future I stared down, I decided not one, not two, but three fortune cookies would give me the best chance at getting something ‘good.’

Fortune Cookie Message #1: A cheerful letter or message is on its way to you.

Right? Who uses the postal service in the age of instant messaging?

Fortune Cookie Message #2: Your practice and hard work will soon pay great dividends.

Oh great. So the 18-hour work days were going to pay off. Maybe I won’t mind my thinning hair after all.

Fortune Cookie Message #3: More art in your life at this time will help you feel better.

I currently was working on a piece titled, “What’s the Point?” I was not sure that dark of a theme would be good to focus on, but who would know better than a commercialized fortune cookie?

Returning from my visit with friends, I set my three little fortune slips on the kitchen table. When life does a 180 on ya, how else does one align themselves with success again?

Each day I read my three fortune cookie messages. Not believing any of it, but obediently complying, trusting that one day the rest of me would catch up with the new future.

Much to my surprise, a cheerful letter did arrive via the US postal service! It was a book of encouragement and a bonus check for the hard work I had been doing at my new job.

I continued to work on my art, and it was making me feel better. I was adding beauty to the world around me.

My hard work and practice did pay off when I received a job promotion, a raise, and a bonus all in one day!

Now depending on which cosmic side of life you subscribe to, these could have been mere coincides or could a silly fortune cookie really determine one’s future?

What I started to realize is the fortune cookie messages are not prophetic as much as they changed my attitude and perspective. In reading my three little slips of hope each morning, I discovered my three completely impersonal messages created an attitude of anticipation in me. Not only did it give me direction, but it created an attitude of expecting good things to happen and that what I was doing would pay off. These little daily affirmations created in me a habit of anticipating good things to come to pass even when the present did not look so great.

The Science of Anticipation

Anticipation: The act of looking forward

When one anticipates something they are anticipating something positive to happen in the future. Neil Patel’s article, “The Psychology of Anticipation and What It Means for Your Conversion Rates,” explains:

We can’t stop anticipation from happening. The human brain is always on and always working. Anticipation is rooted in the portion of the brain known as the cerebellum, which controls “automatic, “non-thinking” behavior.

With this anticipation always in play, the human brain desires more dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical neurotransmitter. It’s released from the brain’s frontal lobe and acts as a stimulant that prevents pain, stimulates arousal and causes excitement. Dopamine stimulation happens when we experience and expect good things. Anticipating positive events sustains the output of dopamine into the brain’s chemical pathways.

Anticipation is its own reward. When we anticipate good things, our brain releases dopamine, an all-natural way to feel great!

Anticipation: The Psychology of Waiting” by Wray Herbert, author of, On Second Thought: Outsmarting your Mind’s Hard-Wired Habits,’ revealed:

Anticipation of experiences was linked to greater happiness, more pleasantness, more excitement and less impatience than was anticipation of material possessions. Looking forward to a vacation or other such experience was also more positive overall than not thinking of any new purchase.

So what trigger are you going to put in your daily routine to inspire an attitude of anticipation? A post-it note on the bathroom mirror? Subscribe to a daily Positive Quotes? Get pumped on a TedTalk? A postcard of your next vacation destination? Whatever it may be, do yourself and your brain a favor and infuse the attitude of anticipation into your mindset.

We will still work long hours, feel too tired to do certain hobbies, but we can adopt an overall new found belief that good things do come to fruition. The heartache, obstacles, disappointments that we experience in life are only temporary. There is always a new day tomorrow, and there is always goodness we can anticipate.

Embrace all that is good, and remember, time and friendship does heal all things. #igniteyoursoul #anticipategood


Partnership vs Powership: What is your relational worldview?

Modern psychology has taught us how to identify a controlling relationship.  We understand how vital it is to identify controlling relationships because those are the kind of relationships we should avoid at all costs.  Right?  But why do we always end up in them?

Controlling relationships are the ones that belittle the other person and cause anxiety or self-doubt.  The relationship is marked with interactions that are draining and fuel a sense of bewilderment.  These relationships begin to feel restrictive, almost suffocating.  They become one-sided.  These powerships have only winners or losers.  Isolation seems to be the only gift these powerships have to offer.

We all seem to have the best intentions when we start a new relationship, yet how do we more often than not end up in powerships rather than partnerships?  We all want the same universal things; support, love, acceptance, validation, etc.  Yet, when true connection is the objective why do we seem so swept away in all the unhealthy ways of relating to one another?

What is a healthy partnership? How do we achieve a partnership, relationship nirvana, rather than being victims of yet another powership?

Vulnerability Creates Partnerships

Brene Brown, a leading researcher on shame, explains connection is the defining force as to why we are here.  She has identified vulnerability in her TedTalk as the only vehicle for connection.  Being transparent and emotionally exposed, vulnerable, is how we can be seen by others. Vulnerability is how we can truly be connected with each other.  Why is vulnerability so difficult, if we all want and need connection so much?

Vulnerability is authenticity of self.  If ever along the way you have learned that your vulnerable, authentic self doesn’t cut it, you have been shamed.  In shame, we are forced to confront and wrestle with the demon of fearing we are not worthy of connection.  Shame is soul eroding because we associate our sense of worth and self-identity according to the shaming messages we have received in our formative years.

Brown distinguishes the difference between shame and guilt.  Shame results in an ‘I am’ statement rather than a guilt statement that is ‘I did.’

Here is an example:

Shame thought:  I am a mistake.

Guilt thought: I made a mistake.

The shame thought negatively defines your self-worth and separates you from others.  On the other hand, the guilt thought is one we can easily apologize for and remain connected to each other.  Once in the shame thought cycle, we are not fit for human consumption Brown humorously highlights.

Three Reactions Connection Can’t Survive

When we are shamed, Brown explains that we react in one of three ways:

1) We disconnect from the other person thus perpetuating the fear of disconnection in the other person which ultimately shames them and continues the shame cycle.

2) We act out in people pleasing behaviors in an attempt to prove to ourselves and our shaming partner that we are worthy of connection and to minimize the fear of not being worthy to connect.

3) We retaliate in shame-based insults and continue in disconnection.

How often have we misnamed the cycle of control in a relationship when in reality it is a cycle of shame.  We hold each other captive to the fear of being disconnected through shame not control.  Instead of powerships, we are in shameships.

Behavior not Self-Worth

First, we need to understand that when we communicate, we are not commenting on anyone’s self-worth or whether or not they are worthy of love and belonging.  What we need to identify is that the person’s behavior was hurtful, not the person.  In making this shift, we can remain connected to our partner, lover, friend, yet address hurtful behavior.

When your partner lies to you, what is your reaction?  Do you call them a liar and shame them which pushes them farther away from you or do you say, when you did not tell me the truth, that behavior kept us from staying connected?  Now the focus is on changing the behavior and not an assault on their worthiness.

By discussing behaviors only, we continue to validate our partner’s worthiness to be connected.  They can safely remain vulnerable with us as we work through their destructive or negative behaviors to the relationship.  Brown also found in her research that empathy is the antidote to shame.  When we express empathy to our partners, by simply saying, “Me too,” Brown says we continue to reaffirm their worthiness for connection and belonging.

How to Stop Shaming and Begin Connecting

Here are three guiding beliefs that if fully embraced and practiced can set us free from the crippling fear of being disconnected and help us grow in life-giving connections with each other:

  1. Tell your partner or friend, “You are imperfect, but you are worthy of love and connection.”
  2. Tell yourself, “I believe that I am worthy of love and belonging.”
  3. Tell everyone, “Love with your whole heart even though there is no guarantee.”

Enjoy your new partnerships with yourself and each other! #igniteyoursoul

How a Lost Soul Gets Found

A dear friend made a dramatic statement about another close friend of mine.  He said, “They are a lost soul.”  It has haunted me ever since.  What are the signs and symptoms of a lost soul?  How can an onlooker view someone’s life and conclude, “Yep, there is a lost soul.”

How does my precious friend get found?  Is my friend lost or taking brave steps to improve their life?  Let’s take the Lost Soul Quiz and find out.  Confirmed; they are a lost soul.  For them life is a maze riddled with confusion and depression.

So what exactly are we dealing with?

Urban Dictionary defines a lost soul as:

“Somebody who has no direction in his/her life.  A lost soul can have many acquaintances but never any real close friends. Often a lost soul will long for someone to understand him/her, and because it is hard to understand the mind of a lost soul, often one will think he/her is mentally unstable, especially in today’s culture and society.”

Urban dictionary closed its definition with the glaring statement, “Your lost soul will not take you anywhere in life.”

Yikes.  This could be a quite disheartening endeavor for my friend.  How does a lost soul become lost?  Do we all start out lost and some of us get found earlier than others?

Andrea Schulman at clarifies a lost soul blocks the unconditional love of the higher self which they are so desperately starving for.  Schulman identifies three symptoms of a lost soul.

  • Defensiveness: a lost soul is ego driven, therefore, whether your advice be right or not they always know best and are always right.
  • Closed-mindedness: Due to being closed off to the all-loving and all-accepting higher self, their love will only be given out to certain people who are behaving in a way their ego approves of.
  • Repeating the same mistakes, over and over again: Because a lost soul has severed its ties with the love of the universe, they do not understand how to make choices based on self-love.  Ultimately, a lost soul has forgotten how to care for him or herself.  A lost soul will make repeated mistakes causing them a lifetime of personal grief.  Poor choices are a mere distraction from the pain of the emptiness they feel from being spiritually disconnected.

Schulman recommends loving the lost soul and hoping that might provide enough light to help the lost soul become found. That sounds nice, but ultimately it seems a lost soul would need to learn how to reconnect with their higher self.

Lissa Rankin, MD provides the 20 Diagnostic Signs that a person is suffering from soul loss.  Rankin describes ‘soul loss’ as the subtle disconnection from our meaning, direction, vitality, mission, purpose, identity, and genuine connection.  The result of ‘soul loss’ is a numbness and lack of meaning in our lives.  Rankin explains connecting to your soul to find peace and happiness right now is much simpler than we might think.

New York Times bestselling author, Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, partnered with Rankin to create ‘Medicine for the Soul: Reclaiming and Trusting Your True Self’.  The secret to soul health is the prescription to realize and believe that you are already enough.  When we succumb to workaholism, people-pleasing behaviors, materialism, anxiety, addictions, etc., we have severed the connection with our soul.  Because we are disconnected from our soul, we try to be perfect to matter.  This places us on a soul deadening cycle.  To rediscover and reconnect with your soul, one must subscribe to the belief that you are enough and that wholeness already exists within you.  This is a counter-cultural mindset.  What we need is not in the exterior, but in our interior?

Remen and Rankin claim that once you accept you are enough; you can rest in the following truths:

  • You are one of a kind
  • You are loved
  • You belong just as you are
  • Your life matters
  • Your love matters
  • Your service matters
  • You do not have to be anyone else in order to have a rightful place in this world.

Remen shares she had worked for the wrong employer all along, she had not worked for her soul.  How many of us are working for the wrong employer?  How many of us work for the employer of acceptance, praise, approval, self-worth, attention, significance, etc?

The soul, our vibrant pilot light of meaning and purpose, is awaiting to reconnect with us.  Will you accept the challenge of being true to the reality that you are enough?  Will you drop the routine of seeking comfort and pledge to accept your soul, your higher self?  When will you start to believe that you are enough and that nothing outside of you is needed?  Your sense of worth and belonging is awaiting your acknowledgement…on the inside.  Embrace it and #igniteyoursoul this New Year!

Dispelling the Ironman Myth: #ironmates

This blog entry is way overdue but so vital to be done.  I finished!  I completed my FIRST full Ironman race.  My time was over 15 hours.  The time I am not so proud of, but I am tremendously proud of my finish.  The ramifications of my mental, emotional, and physical victory on Sunday, July 19th continues to benefit me every day.

I have found a new stubbornness and will to persevere I never knew I had.  Many who already knew me, know me to be a bit hard headed at times.  This new stubbornness though is not for the benefit of my pride in a situation, but for the completion of a daunting task.  The same way I would just push a pedal one after another or keep taking one step after another, so I continue to write one more sentence, make one more phone call, solve one more problem, save one more penny.  I am comfortably determined to always be moving forward no matter the opposition.  I can now trust there will eventually be a finish line.  If it is not today, it will be reached…eventually. The fear of ‘what if I don’t make it’, is gone!

I believe quitting is more painful than the pain it takes to finish.  There were moments on the course I wanted to quit.  The Sheep’s Lane Hill was too steep, the wind too wicked, and the wet roads too slick.  Regardless, I knew I would never forgive myself for any excuse my brain tried to fabricate to justify stopping.  I had to finish before time ran out.  The reward is amazing.  I now live with the identity: I am an Ironman.  Though my new identity may only be a solitary recognition now that the cheering fans have faded, there is another truth that every Ironman finisher knows:  They never would have finished without their #ironmate.

Often times it is assumed that triathlons are an individual sport.  It is just the athlete and their endurance that will get them across the finish line, just them and their mental toughness. This is a myth.  Triathlons are a team sport.  If it was not for my #ironmate, I would never have experienced a ten year dream coming true.

I grew up knowing myself as the fat kid.  Elle Elephant.  Elle Belly.  I would be the last person any of my childhood friends would expect to participate in one of the most demanding endurance events.  My #ironmate, however, always saw the athlete in me.  He saw the potential I had.  He believed in me before I ever did.  He never baulked when my road bike training started on a men’s mountain bike, and my swimming training started with YouTube videos.  He affectionately nicknamed me Barnie for barnacle (I am not a fast swimmer), but he never stopped encouraging me.  He would always tell me, “You are the strongest person I know.”

The support to prepare and train for the event is tremendous.  Responsibilities now are shifted, availability is diminished, and exhaustion becomes the constant enemy for the athlete in training.  What about the #ironmate? An #ironmate has to do more and get less, much less, in return.  They have to run the errands, cook the meals, and spend more time without their partner.

Ironically, once the event is finished, the athlete is getting all the praise and emotional rewards not only at the finish line but in all the conversations to follow:

“Oh that is amazing!”

“I would never have been able to do that!”

“I could never do that!”, and the accolades continue.

But what no one ever recognizes is the #ironmate’s efforts.  No one says to the #ironmate:

“What? Your day started at 3:30 in the morning even though you went to bed at 11 pm the night before?”

“Wow!  You stood in the pouring down, call out Noah’s ark, rain for over three hours while she swam?”

“You mean you waited eight hours while she rode her bike in circles?”

“No way!  You stood on your tip toes for five hours just to catch of glimpse of her running by to shout her name and tell her she is doing great.  To believe.  To keep fighting.  To not give up!”

“After the 17 hour race day, you mean to tell me you loaded up the car AGAIN and drove three hours home?”

“Wait!? During this whole day you kept a nine-year old entertained?”

“You spent the day before the race driving the bike course, dropping the necessary bags off at the three different transition areas, and making sure the she was getting the necessary nutrition?”

“It was you that double checked all the checklists?”

“You attended the hour long briefing meeting that only benefited the athletes?”

“You’re kidding!  The day after the race you tended to her even though you had less sleep than she did?”

“You were the one who made sure she was rehydrating and resting?”

“So let me get this straight, you spent your entire weekend, with hardly any sleep, supporting your partner with nothing in return?  Wow, how did you do that?  I would never have been able to do that? And you all this in a foreign country?  You are amazing!”  That’s right, the same determination and perseverance that is required of an ironman athlete is the same of an #ironmate.

My #ironmate received no public recognition for the long weekend he put in to get me across the finish line and beyond.  No one said how amazing he was for all that he did.  No one recognized how long he stood in crowds.  How soaked he was from the rain.  No one fathomed how tired he was from a 23 hour day?  No one.

I am fixing that today.  I am recognizing my #ironmate, Chris Norris, for making all these sacrifices through the entire ironman journey without any public recognition and never expecting any.  As I told him the day before the race with tears in my eyes, I gave him a hug and said, “I know I don’t say it enough.  These words won’t ever be enough, but thank you for supporting me.  A dream is coming true for me.  I know you have worked hard too, so this can happen.”

I know these written words still might not be enough, but I want to thank my #ironmate again because I know I would not have been able to do this without him.  He ensured a dream came true for me.  It came true because of his support and belief in me as I will continue to believe in him and support his dreams coming true.  #ironmates #forever

Please, thank your #ironmate and post their name below.  Give them the praises they deserve for their sacrifices to get you across your finish line.

Cycle at Your Best-Schultz Style

The Primary Muscles Used for Cycling and How to Train Them

Friday, April 24, 2015 | By Mike Schultz

The Primary Muscles Used for Cycling and How to Train Them

Every sport has its own set of primary muscles responsible for the majority of work of the sports specific motion. Primary muscles, or movers, are the first muscles called upon when there is a need for increased speed or force. For a cyclist, these muscles are located in the hips and legs. Sometimes referred to as pistons, the legs, revolving at 80 to 100 reps per minute, are what’s responsible for producing power and speed.

The Power of the Pedal Stroke

For a road cyclist pedaling while in the saddle, most of the power happens between the 12 o’clock and 5 o’clock position of the pedal stroke. This is when a majority of the primary muscles are activated. Hip flexion, along with hip and knee extension are the primary movements of a pedal stroke. Between the 6 and 12 o’clock position in the pedal revolution, there is some knee flexion to help bring the pedal back to the top but helping that flexion is the greater downward force being placed on the opposite pedal, by the opposite leg. Any extra help bringing the returning pedal back to the top is a benefit. The muscles that help return the foot to the top range from the hamstrings and calves at the bottom of the stroke, pulling the foot backwards, to the quadriceps at the top, lifting the foot and knee back to the 12 o’clock position.

The power phase happens while the hip and knee extends, pressing downward on the pedal. This action starts with a combination of the gluteus and quadriceps muscles, but then is joined by the hamstrings and calf muscles a quarter ways through the revolution. This shows the need for equally strong hamstrings, hips, and quadriceps. These groups of muscle make up the largest volume of muscles used in a pedal revolution.

Build Strength

When it comes to strength training for the bike, there is not one group of muscle that is more important to focus on than the other. All of the muscles listed above play a key role in producing power on the bike. Additionally, one area of strength that is not the focus of this article but is crucial to strength on the bike is core strength. So the most productive strength training off the bike will incorporate the muscles of the legs and the core at the same time as often as possible. Below is a short list of the best exercises you can perform to build your strength.


Squats focus on the gluteus, quadriceps, hamstrings, and core muscles. Power phase for a squat is similar to the power phase on the bike, both requiring hip and knee extension.

Single Leg Deadlifts

These target the hamstrings, hips and lower back. Working one leg at a time will help correct muscle imbalances since each leg is forced to support the load independently.

Heel Raises

These can be done with or without weights. These target the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles.

For more strength training tips off the bike, read:  The Best Strength Exercises for Cyclists

On the bike strength training also plays a key role. Seated and standing muscle force efforts done on hill climbs will target all of the muscles listed above. Seated force efforts will place a large amount of stress on the quadriceps while standing force efforts will target more of the hamstrings. Both seated and standing efforts are important and are usually done with a slower cadence and harder gearing, requiring the need for greater force to be placed on the pedal. Force efforts will build greater strength and endurance in the legs. It is important to make sure you space out your force effort days far enough apart to recover from them, as too many too often can lead to tight muscles and injury.


Leg speed and efficiency are also important. Fast cadence, seated efforts will target hip flexion and the rectus femoris, the quadriceps muscle that engages to lift the knee and foot up to and over the 12 o’clock position of the pedal stroke. This muscle action also helps the opposite leg finish off the downward power phase. Increasing your cadence will also increase activation of the calf muscles1, 2.These efforts help build greater aerobic strength in both the non-power and power phase of the pedal stroke, which will lead to greater pedaling efficiency during a race. Fast cadence efforts can be used throughout the year but are especially important as you get closer to your peak event.


As you train and build fatigue, primary muscles are going to become tight. Focus on simple stretches – such as touching your toes while standing, with straight legs, to stretch the hamstrings, pulling your heel towards your buttocks while standing to stretch the quadriceps and hip flexors, and calf stretches such as pulling the toes towards you with a towel or band while seated with straight legs.

Beyond the primary movers for a sport specific action, there are many other aspects that play an important role. The lungs and the ability to transfer oxygen to the muscles, the mental strength it takes to train continuously, and all the secondary, assistance muscles play a crucial role in overall strength. Your primary muscles for a given sport will always take on most off the work, but they will only be as strong as the entire system as a whole.


  1. Baum, B. “Lower extremity muscle activities during cycling are influenced by load and frequency.”  Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology 13 (2003) 181–190
  2. Bijker, K., Groot, G., Hollander, A “Differences in leg muscle activity during running and cycling in humans” Eur J Appl Physiol (2002) 87: 556–561
  3. Jorge, M., Hull, M. “Analysis of EMG Measuring During Bicycle Pedaling” J. Biomechanics, (1986) Vol 19, pp. 683-694
  4. Hug, F., Dorel, S. “Electromyographic analysis of pedaling: A review” Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology 19 (2009) 182–198