The Uncommon Start To A New Year: Spectacular Failure

100 Pushups Failure

This is me in a lot of pain & very angry.

UPDATE: 100 Pushups Video Update

I’m starting the year off a bit differently than a lot of people in blog-land.

I failed.

I’ve been saying for a while that I was going to do 100 pushups.

Well, I didn’t do 100.


In fact, I didn’t just fail – I failed spectacularly.

It’s a little humbling to write this actually. I’m a big advocate of telling other people your goals in an effort to hold yourself accountable. That strategy feels great when it works [Remember, when I told you I was going to do that? I actually did that! = great feeling]. But when it doesn’t and you fail, it kind of sucks [Remember when I told you I was going to do that? I didn’t actually do that = terrible feeling]. It makes me want to keep some goals to myself, but considering I have a very public impossible list, you can guess that that’s not really how I do things.

The Back Story

I announced the 100 pushup challenge along with my 200 squat challenge all the way back in August and I did a terrible job of keeping myself on track. The terrible excuse I have was that I was too busy getting ready for the olympic triathlon, so I didn’t finish either by the end of the month. 2 months later, I finally knocked out the squats in November, but the pushups were still kicking my butt [and still are].

I tried to do 100 a couple nights before the New Year and didn’t get close. I tried it again Jan 1st and hit the same wall. Then Jan 3rd [yesterday] came and I gave it one last shot. I tried 3 times in a row:

  • First attempt: 59
  • Second attempt: 39
  • Third attempt: 69

Done Laughing? Look at that for a second. Besides, none of those numbers being even close to 100, what looks “off?”

<<– Feel free to scroll down when you answer that question –>>





Here’s the stupid thing: I did more in the last set than I did in the first two! After kicking myself for about an hour, I figured out why I sucked so much.

  • The first set I honestly really didn’t think I could do it so I gave up when things got hard and I quit at 59.
  • For my second attempt, the idea that I couldn’t do it was even more ingrained in my mind after topping out at only 59 the first time, so I quit even sooner at 39.

Then I got mad. I knew I had cheated myself earlier by quitting so easily and was mad I had wasted so much energy on doing something half-assed.

  • The third attempt I didn’t even count the pushups myself. I was pissed and I was going to do as many as I could even if my arms gave out and they almost did. This set was ugly, really ugly. Complete with lots of cheating by doing my downward dog impressions [I’m not even sure that’s what they call it] to try and take a break without really “stopping.” The whole thing ended with my arms physically shaking as I tried to keep going. Even so, I still managed to do even more than I did earlier [more confirmation that it’s all mental].

A Confession [and a laugh for you]

I actually video taped this and was going to show it as the sequel to the very popular squat video. I was going to show everyone how awesome it was that I had actually done 100 pushups. It was going to be awesome. Instead, I ended up with something very different. It’s embarrassing, but I decided to share it anyways. Feel free to watch if you want to be amused [and hear my very encouraging sister cheer me on :)].

[If you’re reading this in an email, click here to watch it. I promise you’ll at least get a laugh]

Lots of people talk about failure and write inspirational crap about it while avoiding the messy act of failure as much as they can. They simply gloss over the bad parts: missed goals, bad launches, poorly written posts.

I was tempted to do that too and skirt over the subject and write something else. It’d be easy, I’d maintain a nice streak of success after success after success, and save face, but I knew if I did, I’d be full of crap.

Good stories don’t happen in a vacuum and the best stories have a lot of ups and downs. Not everything is happy-happy-joy-joy all the time and the people you read about, look up to and do amazing things aren’t some other type of entity that are incapable of failing. They’re not superhuman and neither am I. Sorry to disappoint, but I’m very much human [which is total crap, because I’m even wearing my Nerd Fitness shirt in the video].

So here it is:

I failed. I missed a goal and to be honest, it wasn’t even close! It sucks. The closest I got was 69 and I’ll be the first to admit that these were ugly, terrible pushups that should barely be counted – please laugh at them, I already am.


I’m also more motivated than ever to make 100 pushups. I’m over 2/3 the way there and I know my quitting threshold has just been raised a whole lot higher than I had ever thought before. I know I’m not done until my body is completely shaking from trying to hold me up.

Screwing Up And Bouncing Back

I’m 4 days into the new year and I’ve already screwed up. Good. I got it out of the way. Better to screw up now and not have to worry about it the rest of the year than hoping that one day I’ll be “perfect”. I’m not going to be perfect–it’s just not going to happen. I can either accept that or live in la-la land where unicorns play with rainbows, and Joel is perfect.

100 pushups is really freakin’ hard. There’s no doubt about that, but I’m not quite sold yet that it’s impossible. Of course there is only one way to really find out…

I’m not done yet. I’ll be gearing up, working out and coming back for a round 2. There’s a sequel coming…You w0n’t want to miss it.


If you know of someone who would like to laugh at me doing pushups, go ahead and share this with them. I won’t be mad. In fact, you’ll actually be creating more motivation for me to get my butt in gear and make something impossible happen. Thanks.



If you sat and counted and you number varies, I took the number from my official “counter”, I didn’t actually check myself. Please correct me if I’m off.

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  1. says

    Joel…this is all kinds of awesomeness!!! I love your transparency & vulnerability. I am so grateful for that. You are correct…many might have just glossed it over. I am thankful you did not.

    And for what it’s worth…I do not perceive that you failed spectacularly. I mean, if your target/bullseye was 100 and if you drew it out on paper with 100 rings and marked the 69th ring. That’s pretty darn close! It’s way closer than 5 or even 25. So..WOOHOO to you!!! How does it get even better than that?!??!

    Again, so grateful for your honesty in sharing!!

    • says

      Transparency and vulnerability. Well said. I’m impressed with the video sir. If it’s any consolation, you’re still the squat king, and because I don’t have my own push up video, you’re still much cooler.

      • says

        That does offer a bit of consolation, thanks :).

        p.s. How do you think “squat king” sounds as part of my bio?

        p.p.s. It’s time for you to stop jumping on trampolines and go get those squats done! :)

  2. says

    The Good News: Your failure inspired me to get off the couch and see how many I could do.

    The Bad News: About 4.

    So from my point of view you are superhuman not a failure at this moment.

  3. says

    Love it! Way to represent in the NF shirt too.

    Keep up the good work Joel! I’m in the Army Reserve and know quite a few people who would kill to be able to do 69 pushups. I know that’s not 100….but hopefully it helps.

    Get ‘er done!

    – JC

  4. says

    Joel this post was awesome! I’ll admit I laughed more at the writing (good laughing), but that’s because I knew how much pain you were in during the video. And they weren’t that terrible :) Give yourself some credit man.

    In other news, I actually have some advice. Try looking forward instead of down at the floor. It’s going to feel awkward at first, but it will probably really help a lot in the long run.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • says

      They were pretty terrible :).

      The first 2 sets I was looking forward, but I was dead for this last one so I just went and did as many as I could without regard to my form. Glad you got a laugh out of it :)

  5. Kim says

    I’ve been working on how long I can hold the plank and do a wall sit. During the challenges I keep asking myself, “What else is possible?” out loud or in my head. Helps me go longer. Rock on!

    • says

      Wall sits are killer :). Talking to myself/others is the best way to distract myself and wait it out. I’ve found, once I’ve gotten to about 2min on planks, I’ve gotten all of the benefit out of it, I can. Keep it up!

  6. says

    Love it Joel.

    Way to fail spectacularly. If you’re gonna go down, go down in a blaze of glory….in a nerd fitness t-shirt.

    I’m Steve Kamb, and I approved this message.

  7. says

    How cool of you to write this, Joel. I know we’ve chatted about you working toward this before, understand how badly you want to reach the goal, and applaud the effort you’ve put forth so far on it. You will make this happen yet. And I will be right here, personally kicking you in the ass until you do! You, of all people, have the potential to knock out this damn-near-impossible feat. Here’s to victory in Round 2!

  8. says


    Way to go man. I gotta hand it to you on the attempt. I give you A for effort…

    Although, I must admit I totally laughed out loud towards the end when the pushups morphed into pelvic thrusts! LOL

    Keep going, though, man. We know you’re going to make it!

    • says

      Haha, very true :). I thought about renaming the post – 69 pelvic thrusts, but that just carries way too many different connotations, no matter how fitting the title would have been. Thanks for the encouragement.

  9. says

    I didn’t know about your challenge to reach 100. I started a similar challenge just last week. I had done it before, but didn’t stick with it more than 3 days.

    Here’s the challenge I’m using: (I’m doing the ‘Drop and Give me 100’ one on page 3)

    I started last Tuesday with a max rep of 12. My max yesterday was 26! I couldn’t believe the increase!

    I put the chart in Excel, so all I have to do is input the max and it calculates it. I’ll email you the form in a min, if you want to use it.

    Good luck man and thanks for sharing!

  10. says

    Well now, “Blog of Impossible Things” would lose some credibility if the impossible didn’t go down without a fight. This. Is. Not. Over.

  11. Calvin Joseph Rice says

    dude, you’re awesome!

    look at it this way: even if you didn’t do 100 in a row, you did do over 100 total. and that’s great!

    love the Fort Minor in the background!

    and i agree with someone who commented above that you might want to look into your form. if you know someone who has P90X, tony horton goes into some depth about form when doing pushups. that can really relieve some of the stress on the body which contributes to fatigue.

    but overall, joel, i know you’ll keep going. thanks for being such an inspiration to everyone!

    • says

      Thanks Calvin!
      The total 100 makes the fact that I didn’t do 100 at once even more annoying :). Fort Minor has great pump-up music.

      My form was lacking. I’m well aware. I think I mentioned that this was the 3rd time so I was more concerned with getting the numbers, than looking pretty. Round 2 will be much better =).

  12. says

    I think writing this post and admitting that you are still working towards the 100 push-ups shows such vulnerability. It is quite admirable. Can’t wait to see you crush it and hit 100.

  13. Chris says


    Back in my AFROTC days (when I got up while everyone was still asleep in the dorm) I once got up to 74 pushups in 60 seconds (the amount of time for the PFT). Speed made a huge difference for me, because by the time the pain started to come, I was already done.

    I’d be surprised if I could do 30 today…time to get back at it I guess.

  14. Kurt Swann says

    Good job Joel! Almost 70% of the way there. And you must have the best sister ever . . both videographer and coach! Keep up the good work!


  15. says

    I like the angry rap music that comes with the video.
    I have that you know easy push up thing- it’s not easy at all. I did 2 and gave up.

    I’m still feeling awesome about it.
    That was like, a year ago.

  16. says

    Demand a refund on the shirt.

    Also, you are human. Congrats. I think I would have been pissed if you swept this under the rug. Learn from your failures and then kick their ass.

    Keep killin it.

  17. Paul says

    This morning someone hit my car with my daughters in it – the girls got checked and thankfully OK. Why do I share this? Context. Today it was a BAD day – Joel, you just made me smile in a big way in a day that I didn’t think I would. I love seeing you work at this – thanks

    You missed your 100 at about 20, your head had gone..that was clear. No tips from me, I can crack out about 40 but am now going to try 100 myself that means you put a droplet of motivation out there – no failure. Keep pushing.

    PW, Istanbul

    • says

      Thanks for hanging around since the beginning Paul :).

      I know, I know – my form was bad. It’s getting better quick though. Just busted out 70 straight yesterday. Felt good :)

  18. says

    Your blog brought a smile to my face and I didn’t even watch the video. The fact that you can admit that you screwed up and the way your wrote the blog. I felt like I was right there with you screwing up…lol It’s always refreshing to know that there are others that can screw up and get right back up and continue. Good luck achieving 100 push ups. But with that determination, you will achieve it!

  19. says

    I don’t remember who said it, but it reminds me of the quote “Failure is not in the falling down, but in refusing to get back up.”

    I appreciate that you are frustrated with not hitting your goal, but I admire the fact that you’ll keep going more. :)

  20. says

    The most I’ve done is 40 pushups, and quit at 40, but your challenge is one I’ll try myself. Pushups are such a great exercise.

  21. says

    So cool that you, Mister Impossible of Awesome Triathlon Accomplishments, admits defeat so publicly. Well, not defeat; rather a temporary setback.

    You could look at this another way: how many push-ups have you INSPIRED through this post? How many people are attempting personal push-up records due to your encouragement and example? If you add up all the push-ups which are resulting from your example, there must be THOUSANDS of them!

    Indeed, it’s time for me to make an attempt. I don’t know that I can do more than three or four in good form at the moment.

    Knowing that you complete triathlons but can’t do 100 consecutive push-ups motivates me to believe that perhaps I, too, could actually complete a triathlon or marathon. So thanks for sharing this.

  22. Northern says

    I’ve been doing a routine all week(Press ups, squats, planks, chair soulder press)…Like most people my upper half isn’t my strong half!

    Monday I managed 21 press-ups, Tuesday I was content with another 21, Wednesday was a rest, on Thursday I went to a jobs fair and got talking to the Royal Air Force recruiter so when I got home I had a fire in me, I knocked out 26 press ups and 57 sit ups(2 mins)…Friday I’m most proud of because I went for a 2 mile run(my body hated me for it) then 30 press ups and 58 sit ups(2 mins) also increased on ALL my other sets.

    On Monday if someone had said you’ll have increased your press up output by 50% by the end of the week I would have laughed, 21 hurt on Monday, unpleasent on Friday!

  23. Catarina says

    Joel, wow, that’s an inspiration, thanks!! As others said, thanks for being so transparent.
    I am a skinny (some would say nice and slender) young woman who has had enough of being skinny and I made up my mind… 4 days ago. Starting from 5 (first column). Not proud of it. But I know it’s getting better.

  24. Denise says

    I was able to eek out 4. FOUR. Yes, that is four as in one, two, three, uggggggggg, four boy style push-ups before my arms failed on me, so your 69 strikes me as impressive as did your effort. Can’t knock someone who is trying.

    Glad you finally made it to 100. You’ve inspired me to do the 100 push-up/200 squat challenges. I just finished week one. It may take more than one training cycle but I’ll get there.

  25. says

    Awesome post man!
    This just makes you look more human and more awesome. Not trying to pretend being a Greek God, but just confessing you failed…great!
    Everybody fails…in fact most “overnight successes” are build on a lot failure and not so much overnight success at all if you look deeper into the story.

    By the way: awesome t-shirt, I love Nerd Fitness!

  26. says

    I have to confess I laughed my ass off through the whole video but only because there’s absolutely NO way I could do this man.

    I can do about 30 in one go with no rests but as soon as I try to go any further I fail miserably.

    Maybe I should just add an extra push up every day with some rest days or make a smarter plan for this.

    Anyway, AWESOME job man and I could clearly see you were going to pull this one sooner or later, you’re a damn awesome inspiration!


  27. says

    You set a goal, worked hard to accomplish it, didn’t and are now working hard to still obtain it. Nothing wrong with that ever. As long as you don’t give up, failure is just a step along the path to Success. :O) Hmm – I like that.


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