Failure is a gift of freedom
Sometimes everything in life starts to feel like a giant billboard arrow pointing you off the freeway toward a roadside attraction. Cue my life for the past years.
You would see me coasting on the freeway with cruise control on, a curated spotify or pandora playlist cycling through a mix of 80’s tunes and Paramore and my head facing directly forward at all times.
I thought I knew where I was going. I thought I had packed well and prepared for this little journey called life, but as I’m learning, sometimes it’s the unexpected pit stops along the way that make the trip truly rewarding.
Things started getting bumpy. About every two or three years, I feel this deeply rooted compulsion to reinvent myself. Usually by that time frame, the new has become the old, the fresh has become the mundane and the excitement of exploration has dissolved into feeling like I’m caught in the death grip of a bear trap of monotony.
The difference this time around, is that with age and experience you gain and begin to posses a certain amount of patience, restraint and self-evaluation. Call it good or bad, but I no longer set off the fire alarm and run to the nearest exit whenever the feeling of boredom begins to set in, which to me seems like an improvement. It’s definitely a lot less expensive and damaging to myself and those around me.
But still, as hard as I tried to remain on course this time, faithful as pirate devoted to his trusted treasure map, I can’t ignore the call or the wide open ocean. I can’t not see the signs.
For years, I gave everything I had to prove myself worthy of a position. I didn’t get it. Three times, I didn’t get it. I kept finding ways to validate that. I even spoke about it at an event for women empowerment recently and was surprised at the familiar chord I struck in the hearts of many that were in attendance.
As of recent, thanks to my friend Jenn for introducing me to the sheer genius that is Parks and Recreation, I started taking a note of inspiration from Leslie Knope.
That woman just doesn’t give up. No matter how far down she gets beaten by bureaucracy, stupidity of the masses and just highly unfortunate circumstance, she constantly finds a way to rise above.
So on the same day I received what I labeled my final blow, I watched the episode where it is her last day on city council and an opportunity arises for her to run for an open seat. Leslie, being Leslie, is ready to jump on it but everyone tells her it is not a good idea. But Leslie doesn’t know how to stand down. It’s not in her nature.
This is where Ben does something of superhero proportions. He hires this super expensive but super effective and totally worth every penny campaign manager to meet with her for an hour. During this meeting she tells Leslie to not stop dreaming, but to dream bigger. She advises her not to linger in the glory days of the dreams that have come to pass, but to graduate from that place and move on to a higher position, one that truly effects change and has the power to make a real impact.
When there is not anyone or anything left more brilliant than you to learn from and when you are not able to step up and become that point of inspiration for others, often times for reasons beyond your own control, then maybe it’s time to find a bigger pond to go swim in.
PS — I tried not to rub it in my fiance’s face too much that when I went through my low point, he didn’t get me a $1,000 consultation or a whimsical trip to Paris… but I did just a little bit.
Ok Parks & Rec, I see your sign.
Literally, the following day, I read a chapter in a book about the phases a film has to go through during production. One chapter specifically talked about being stuck in ‘developmental Hell’ which I felt was a pretty accurate description of my current status in life from a creative standpoint.
A chapter screamed out to me — This chapter talked about how life gives us notes. These notes come in all forms from all sorts of people in different stations in our life and it is up to us whether we genuinely hear and listen to those notes, process them and apply them, or not, for the betterment and advancement of the project and ourselves.
This stood out to me because one of the main things I’ve been spending time making myself be cognitively aware of is seeking evaluation and feedback from people who I respect, trust and admire. This gained significant importance to me particularly after I stepped down from teaching. The notes have been consistent, precise and a motivator to move in a new direction.
Ok, sign number two by author DeVon Franklin, I see you.
Lastly, today, as I was in my normal, daily session of beating myself up and contemplating what level of failure I’ve achieved today, I interrupted regular broadcasting to read the Filmmaker’s Process weekly email since I didn’t have time to get to it over the weekend and I was floored to see a common theme.
Several of the articles were about how most independent artists are frustrated as hell by the lack of transparency that is revealed in how filmmakers or creators reach success. They feel it is a disservice to other struggling artists and are calling for the curtain to be pulled back on the process.
I began reading countless stories of screenwriters that pitched scripts for years before getting a network to pick it up, like ‘Mad Men.’ I read about filmmakers who went to studios trying to sell their film out of the back of their trunks like ‘Momento.’ I read about film after film after film that got picked up after being thrown into something called a turn-around. These films were basically released because the studio didn’t know what to do with them and were then picked up by someone else who was willing to absorb that risk. Dozens upon dozens of them ended up winning Oscars or bringing in millions at the box office after being dismissed by their original owners.
The point was this — just because the place you’re at right now or the people you work with right now don’t see the value in your project or in your creation, does not mean that it does not have value. It certainly does not mean that you don’t have value. It just means you haven’t found the right door to open yet.
You will fail. You will fall. You will fail and fall again. The important thing is to understand that failure is a gift. Failure is the release from something that doesn’t work. Failure is freedom to find new ways, different paths, other choices to do something. Failure is the severing of an anchor to a sinking ship so you can rise back up to the surface.
Failure is also commonly described and loosely interpreted from the dictionary as the inability or omission to perform an expected task or normal/ordinary behavior. So what does that mean? It means when you fail, you are now free to do the unexpected and perform an extraordinary act.
Failure should not be the chains that hold you back from achieving your dreams, instead they should be seen as the tethers becoming undone to elevate you to new and unknown heights.
My recent failure has taught me many things, but the biggest thing it has taught me, is that the sooner I can accept failure as a regular part of a growth, the sooner I can let go of all those false, negative associations the ego attaches to it and bloom into something I never even thought possible. Because I tell you what, if you’re going to fail; fail gloriously. Then you can knock out a whole bunch of ways not to do something in one swoop ;)
Seriously though, it’s ok. If you’ve never failed, then most people would tell you that you’ve never tried hard enough. If you are always failing, then I would say, carry on my fabulous fellow-failure. I’ll see you when we land on the other side of ordinary.
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