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February Tonal Book Club Pick: 4 Life Lessons From Failing Up

Each month, the Tonal community tackles a book aimed at building mental strength and reaching for our goals. In January, the book club takes on Failing Up by Leslie Odom, Jr.

Failing Up book cover on a shelf next to a tonal foam roller and plant with weight lifting accessories hanging off it

Losing is part of winning, just as failure is a key element of success. That’s the concept behind actor and singer Leslie Odom Jr.’s first book, Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning, and what we’ll explore in February’s edition of Read Between the Reps, Tonal’s official book club. 

The Tony and Grammy Award-winning Odom, Jr., burst into stardom after his role as Aaron Burr in Broadway’s Hamilton. He has performed for the Obamas in the White House, and in 2020, he played singer Sam Cooke in One Night in Miami. But winning isn’t a linear path, and his book, published in 2018, takes shape with a series of personal life stories that outline the setbacks, failures, and rejections that came before his big success. 

For example, he tells a story about when he entered the African-American Oratorical Competition in fifth grade, in which he finished second. For the next four years, he finished first. 

“There was failure before,” Odom, Jr. writes early in the book. “After, too. In drafting these pages, I try to choose personal stories and life lessons to help illustrate my thesis that spectacular failure is the secret ingredient to your ultimate success.”

Key takeaways from Failing Up:

  1. Give yourself permission to fail: In order to find true success you have to be willing to take risks. Yes, you might crash and burn, but what if you don’t? And even if you do, there’s a lesson to be learned in the process. 
  1. Make preparation priority: If you want to win, you have to give yourself a fighting chance. One of the best ways to do that is to set your intention to come in prepared. Feeling ready will reduce anxiety, keep you calm, and give you the confidence you need to give your best effort. 
  1. Lead with love: “You walk toward the things that make you feel most alive,” Odom, Jr. writes. “You walk toward the things you love. You love them with your whole heart. Read about them. Talk about them. Find other people who love those things. And eventually, the thing you love most in the world will love you back. It is inevitable.”
  1. Saying “no” is freedom: Your willingness to say no, opt-out, or take a pass on something is powerful. Odom recalls a story of being offered a role on Broadway while attending college at Carnegie Mellon University. He declined the role and stayed in school, “Those four years were beyond price,” he writes. “Your no, your willingness to walk away from something when something doesn’t feel right for whatever reason, will be one of your greatest assets.”

Why We Chose This Book:

From a fitness and wellness perspective, February is hard. We set our intentions for the new year, spend a few weeks cranking on our goals (especially with the Four-Week Fast Track challenge), and by the second month of the year, we’re stalling out. This month, we want to remind Tonal members to give a second effort and then a third effort. Give yourself permission to falter, whether that’s in your workout, in the kitchen, or your professional life. It’s all part of the journey.  

“Though Failing Up is a departure from our usual health and fitness-related reads, the lessons and stories beautifully written by Odom are applicable to anyone striving to be their best self,” says Kate Telge, Senior Community Manager at Tonal and leader of our book club. “I’m excited for our members to find as much inspiration from this book as I have.”

About the Author:

Leslie Odom, Jr. is an actor and singer who gained recognition for his role in the Broadway hit Hamilton. The role earned him a Tony Award for Best Leading Role in a Musical and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. In March 2018, he published his first book, which he modeled in the style of a commencement speech. 

About the Book

Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning is a personal memoir written to inspire and motivate readers to achieve their goals–even the ones that seem impossible.

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