Silver Lining of Failing
I thought I was prepared but I wasn’t. The room was filled with artists and creatives who were invited to a private dinner to hear me speak. After the meal, they gathered in a large room filled with art, paint and half completed images on canvas. It was an inspiring setting. The host told her audience that she asked me to speak about something that she felt was important and necessary for everyone to hear:
Love and Creativity
At the time, I was creating art using a process that I developed to paint on glass in a way that made the final piece look as if it had been fired in a kiln. The host, my friend Carol asked me what else I did to make my pieces stand out. I told her that I set an intention to live and create from a place of love and that I thought setting that intention made a difference in my life and in my work. She was fascinated and asked me if I would come to her home to speak to a group of her artist friends and associates about love and creativity.
I didn’t think it through and said I would do it.
The night of the event I was nervous. These were very accomplished professionals, I didn’t want to let my friend down.
She introduced me as her friend who had a great revelation about art and love. She went on to tell them how much they would get out of my talk.
I got up to speak and about ten minutes into it, I forgot everything! I froze even with my notes in front of me! It got worse when I looked at the confused faces of the people in the room. They didn’t know what was going on. After speaking a few filler words into the air, I told them I was going to give them an impromptu art lesson and started handing out art supplies. They were gracious, my host gave me a supportive but frustrated look and took over. I stayed long enough to make my escape look planned and not like I was running away in defeat…which I was.
I was deeply hurt because I failed, let my friend down and let the people in the room down.
I cried for a couple of days and avoided calls from my friend. I told myself I’d never speak in public again. It was a hard failure.
That was many years ago. Today, I easily speak in front of hundreds of people without nerves, with joy and yes…with love. The message I was going to share that night was a good one, the mistake I made was trying to share it too soon.
I learned a lot from that failure. I learned to know when a topic is ready to be shared and how to prepare so that I can focus on my audience with ease and confidence.
I Learned to See Failure Differently.
Failing is a part of business and life.
Failure is Data
Failure teaches us what works and what doesn’t work. It also teaches us to fine tune the action, tweaking it in big and small ways until it represents the intended outcome or causes a change of direction. Failure gives information that would not have been available without the failed attempt. Failure is not the place to stop…it’s the place to evaluate and to keep going.
The most powerful success stories come from those who didn’t get it right the first, second, third or hundredth time, but they kept learning from the data of failing and finally hit the sweet spot of their endeavor.
In my mail today, I found several stories of failure.
One was about a business owner who failed twice before launching his successful million-dollar business. He said he failed because he was not in alignment with his values when he built his other businesses.
Another business owner failed because she put the desire for profit ahead of her desire to serve her clients.
Another business owner failed because he thought he could use his money to buy influence in his industry but ended up losing his business because his heart was not in alignment with the service he provided.
Fear of failure and the “what if” stories we tell ourselves run alongside the dream of being successful. Not just in business, but in anything that’s important to us.
Failure Can Be a Taunting Foe and Wise Friend
Failure can be a shape shifter. One moment it’s a taunting foe. The next it’s a wise friend. In any case, failure is not the end of the world. People forgive and people forget. A couple of years after that crazy night when I froze, I mentioned the experience to my friend and the shame I’d felt. She replied in a very casual way “oh, I forgot all about that” and moved on with our conversation.
Lessons from the Night that I Froze
I learned that love is a business principle that can improve every aspect of my work. I still set love as an intention before I work with my coaching clients, before I teach a class and before I speak. Failure taught me the importance of timing and of being prepared. Looking back, I could have come clean that night and explained that I just froze, forgot my planned talk and asked if it would be okay to chat with them about how I set an intention to create from a place of love when I work.
I didn’t know how to do that then. I’m completely comfortable being that transparent now.
Our failures and failure stories are important.
What to Do With Your Failures?
YOU decide what a failure means to you. Many successful people were told they would never amount to much after suffering a failure. Thank goodness, they didn’t listen. No one gets to call you three strikes and out because you failed once or a few times. It’s your life, you decide.
You have the power to turn it around. Down does not mean out. There’s wisdom in failure. It’s there for you when you are ready for it.
Your story is personal. You may choose to share the lessons that you learned or to never tell a single soul. You decide.
I’ve come to love failure stories because it makes me feel more grounded when I fail. I loved the story about the business owners who didn’t get it right on the first try. It makes me feel like I’m in good company and encourages me to get up when I fall.
When I read a success story, I want to know what went right and I want to know what went wrong. That makes the people I’m learning from more human and they show me what’s possible when I fail.
Do you have a failure story? If so, would you share?
Jordan Mercedes is a Professional Coach and Coach Mentor. She helps coaches fine tune their skills so that they can have amazing transformational experiences with their clients.