Our Story

Intrepid Failure

Intrepid Failure was born from two individuals, Aili and Rheannon, building a friendship. Bike rides and rock climbing were a guise for deep intellectual conversations exploring this thing called life and the world around them. These discussions left them inspired and motivated to give back to their community. But how?

While working on her PhD, Rheannon had realized that our society didn’t talk about failure enough, or at all. She was seeking an outlet for failures that were ignored or swept under the rug. Meanwhile, Aili, had been given a homemade bag with a painting of a girl, holding a soccer ball and wearing a cape with the words Intrepid Girl Wonder. Not knowing what the word Intrepid meant, Aili looked it up, only to be more intrigued. What better word could possible be coupled with the word failure for exploration and growth?  

This was the spark they needed. The first Intrepid Failure was hosted at a local bike shop in Corvallis, Oregon, and consisted of several community members. There were 6 speakers that shared personal stories of their perception of how adventure, failure, and life intersected. There was so much positive feedback and inspiration created among this group during the first event, it convinced Aili and Rheannon that storytelling events about failure were something to be shared with the world.

Aili Johnston

This world is cruel and beautiful, magical and relentless and in all these moments, I live for connection, adventure, and curiosity. This way of life has left me breathless with awe and more often, flat on my face (physically or metaphorically) wondering “whose brilliant idea was that?” Mine, always mine. The ideas that invigorate me the most are the ones that have no solution or end point, the ones that I am not sure I will succeed at, and failure is imminent. The short list of Aili’s wild ideas include: being an exchange student in high school, becoming a wildland firefighter, riding my bike across the country, creating a sexual violence prevention program for the U.S. Forest Service that then turned into a business, TMI Action and the most recent venture, start a storytelling event about failure.

These hairbrained ideas force me to challenge myself and discover the way as I go. I make decisions based on how things feel inside of me, which has allowed me to leap (sometimes without looking). It’s not that I am irrational or unable to think logically, but any important or major decision comes straight from the gut and heart. When I am terrified, I know that it is a worthy idea to pursue. It’s these pursuits I have gained the most from.

I’ve always been open to what “success” or “failure” look like in any of these adventures. Success is fleeting and never attainable and I often don’t have it defined. Failure is ever present, causing some of the worst growth pains of my life. When I “fail” my shame, guilt, and judgement for myself is met by others with compassion and kindness. In these moments I reflect on how to meet myself with this same softness that will allow me to get back up. These moments of connection and support has been vital to my process, progression, and constant growth


Rheannon Rua, PhD, RYT

Failure and I have always had a rocky relationship. I think of Intrepid Failure as our relationship counseling. As part of this project, I am forced to sit down with failure and really evaluate what we mean to each other and how we can build a more sustainable foundation of care and love. Although failure has always been a part of my life, I really remember noticing it as I started to study science. While one might argue that the foundation of science is failure, it wasn’t the presence of failure that I first noticed, but rather the lack of it. I grew up in the very Northwest corner of Montana. While the two room schoolhouse and the High School that I drove an hour to attend had an unexpectedly high education quality, I never ever saw myself as a scientist. Aside from my strong interest in the arts, science wasn’t something I thought I could do. It was something that really smart men in lab coats did. That perception is interesting because I now see (and what ultimately tricked me into the sciences was) that I was living in one of the most magical ecosystems in the world that was overflowing with biological knowledge and experience. The wilds that I lived in first brought me to biology. Still, the biology that I lived with was somehow separate from biology you learn in school. When I found myself at college, I was honestly surprised by my lack of failure. I learned that science wasn’t for the smart. Science was for the curious and for those willing fail and learn. Suddenly there was not failure, there was only a lack of discipline, focus and curiosity. I started to realize that the world held so much more possibility than I could imagine and it was my perception that had limited me. That is what I love about Intrepid Failure. It not only allows me to re-examine my relationship with failure, but it allows me to learn how to shift my perception, which is a very important tool to learn. Even as I write this, I notice how my language shapes my reality. My default on the above sentence was to say “force” vs. “allow.” Words that hold very different meaning. I try to find these opportunities for growth in all the work that I do. When I’m not sitting on the proverbial therapist couch with failure, I’m teaching yoga and overseeing the teacher training program at Oregon State University, or facilitating and building mountain bike programs with No Apologies!, or planning event and helping with communication at Peak Sports, or learning how to be a homeowner and a healthier and more joyful human.