Failure Isn’t Really Failure
It’s just a little setback…
Hello, my name is Michael. I’m a failure. Not just once either! Countless times! I’ve failed at small stuff that no one knows about. I’ve failed at huge things that will take me years to overcome. I’m still working on improving in so many areas of my life, but I find myself failing on a daily basis. Despite this, I’m finding out that failure isn’t actually failure. Until you walk away completely, it’s just a setback.
I’m a photographer that loves to write. A few years ago, my photography began to transition from something more easily categorized as a hobby into a business. I began taking photos of important moments for people, providing in-store signage for local fashion boutique, writing for a very popular photography website, and things seemed to be going great. It was an illusion. While some in the industry began to recognize me from my writing and my work, my photography business was nearly nonexistent. I felt like a failure in every way and my “business” backed up those feelings of failure. Many times all I wanted to do was throw in the towel, sell the bulk of my gear, and move on with my life. But I didn’t. I stuck it out, continued growing as a photographer, and worked hard to make connections with people that appreciate my work. Fast forward about four years and, while I’m not independently wealthy (not even close!!!), things are moving along, I’m staying busy and opportunities are coming along more and more frequently.
The same things that brought me to this point in my photography career are the very principles that I am currently applying to my writing. They are the same concepts you need to apply to your situation as you chase your creative dreams. What are they? You must persevere and you must be consistent. The tricky part of this is that you must approach this with passion, not obligation. If you are truly passionate about your craft and want to be successful, you have to pursue it with a level of grit and consistency that doesn’t always come naturally. Even though you might find yourself pursuing the one thing that you want to do for the rest of your life, there are going to be times when you will fail. There will be times when you must do something that you don’t want to do. Your success will be based on how you handle those times.
I guarantee there will be times when you fall of the wagon. You will miss a day on your 30 day writing challenge, you will run into writer’s block, you will be rejected by a publisher or colleague. There will be times when people will ignore you, say nasty things, and actively work against you. Want to be successful? Deal with it.
That sounds a bit harsh, I know, but if you want to move into the realm of creative awesomeness and live the life that people the world over would love to live that’s the harsh truth you’ll need to embrace. Here are a couple tips for dealing with setbacks when they eventually come along…
Admit Your Mistake
First step, figure out how things went wrong. Most of the time, especially with creative pursuits, failure is directly attributed to someone (or many someone’s) rejecting us. Our work isn’t published, we don’t get that creative gig, we post an article or share an eBook that we’ve poured hours of blood, sweat, money, and tears into and nothing happens. No one likes it, no one shares it, and even worse no one seems to pay the least bit of attention to the fact that we published it.
When this happens, there’s a single response that works — move on. Determine your next steps, write your next post or story, schedule your next photography session, email your next contact…Keep pressing forward. Perseverance. Consistency. Do it in the face of failure. Be obnoxiously tenacious and consistent.
Give Yourself a Break
Granted, there will be times when you miss the mark creatively. You might share a flop of a photo or post. You might completely bomb a project or something. You have to be okay with that. History is chock full of failures that tried and tried and tried with no hope of success. The thing is, if you’ll keep trying you will keep getting closer to that one thing or series of “things” that take off. The Wright Bros. didn’t fly for their first try. Edison failed at inventing the light bulb an embarrassing number of times. I’ve taken hundreds of thousands of photos that have barely seen the back of my camera before I deleted them because they were so bad. Even a GREAT photographer will only keep about 10–20% of their photos and of those they will be completely have with maybe 1%. It’s okay when things don’t work out flawlessly. Be committed to yourself and your creativity. Keep pushing…the world needs you to give yourself a break!
Examine your life like you would a story. Imagine a story without conflict. What if those eagle guys in Lord of the Rings had just swooped by one day, taken the ring, and dropped it into that lava pit on their way to Florida or whatever? What kind of story would that be? It would turn an epic trilogy of over 12 hours into a short Twitter post.
“Eagles dropped the ring, saved the day.”
Not that exciting, right? All good things REQUIRE conflict. The sooner you embrace this lesson and begin to view conflict that enters your life as an opportunity for growth, the sooner your perspective will change and you will begin to grow into the success you want to become.
You Can Do It!
Keep your chin up, embrace your setbacks, examine them for ways you can improve, and move on! This is what separates the successful from those that aren’t, and I believe you can do it! Do you?
What other things are you working on? What questions are you wrestling with? What would you like for me to write about next time?
Call to Action
I wrote an eBook about how to overcome the obstacles standing in the way of your success. Everyone has creativity deep inside and dreams to match. If you want to start or reinvigorate your Creative Journey, check out my free eBook: The Creative Journey — A Starter’s Guide.