Have I ever told you guys about my long list of jobs?
Well, I’m not about to now either, because the details aren’t that relevant. Let’s just say, in my (short?) 29 years, I’ve had a lot of them. Some just to make it by, some where I had myself convinced that I was pursuing a dream.
Those are the ones that matter, but I’m not going to detail those either. Because again, the specifics don’t matter. What matters is that I have a painful (shameful?) abundance of points in my life where I put my foot out there in pursuit of what I thought I wanted, and then snatched it back, hurrying back to the safe confines of… mediocrity, maybe. Hiding from the sharp-toothed monster of failure I was certain lurked around the corner, waiting for me to get a little too bold, too confident, too whatever.
And to be clear – that monster exists. But I’ll come back to that.
In any case, maybe the argument could be made that those times I backed away were for my good. Right now, I’m working in my passion, and I can say without reservation that those things I thought aligned with it, did not. Those things weren’t leading me toward the same future i’m working to create now, so I needed to take that step away. Those false starts led me here.
Sometimes, I’m asked about the advice I would give to new authors. My answer honestly depends on the day.
Today, I think that advice would be rethinking the idea of failure. Ignoring or denying it is pointless – failure happens. Period. Sometimes publicly, sometimes privately. Sometimes major, sometimes minor. But if you want to do anything beyond “average”, extend yourself beyond status quo… you’re going to have to come to terms with the monster of failure taking a few bites out of you.
For me, this isn’t just about writing – in fact, the genesis of the post wasn’t about writing at all. The most valuable lessons I’ve learned were not “taught” to me. They were forced upon me by the necessary course correction that follows failing at something.
To fail at something, you have to have tried.
And that’s something in itself, isn’t it? I fail sometimes at being the best possible parent, but you can be damned sure that on a daily basis, i’m mentally cataloging those failures so I can be better next time. I fail at being a wife, a friend, a sibling, a child, a neighbor, but thank God for self-awareness, so I that I recognize where I fall short, and strive for adjustment.
Should we talk about the ways in which I fail myself?
That list is… whew. Extensive. And more personal than I intend to share here, at least in full. But… drinking more water, using more lotion, keeping my home cleaner, utilizing my time better, etc. I fail at that stuff all of the time.
Lest you think i’m looking down on myself, or beating myself up, let me ease your mind – I think I’m awesome. Even though it’s been packaged, marketed, and sold to us that way, I don’t think failure is a dirty word. I’m a little offended, actually, on failure’s behalf, that we so often neglect to give failure it’s due.
I probably shouldn’t speak for anyone else, but my failures have a direct correlation with my successes.
I’ve failed at “getting in shape” so many times. But those failures taught me valuable lessons about how not to approach the journey that I’m now. And I’m honestly tired of failure here – sick of seeing its face. So tired, in fact, that it fuels and motivates me to get my ass up and put the cinnamon rolls down.
I’ve failed in my writing career more times than I can count. Failures that I didn’t see coming, and some that I did, but ignorance took me through it anyway. But I came out on the other side knowing more than I did before, with more experience, and with a conviction to never fail in that way again. Reading articles didn’t do that, and talking to peers didn’t either.
I could go through a long list of similar anecdotes, but this is long enough. The point of all of this, I guess, is that while triumphs are great, it was my failures that did the necessary shaping to get me there. I’m still failing now – failing all over the place – but I try (TRY) not to be so hard on myself about it.
In the moment, it can feel consuming, like the biggest thing in the world. Like there’s no way to recover, nothing to be done. Your face gets hot, and your heart races, and it feels like everyone is looking at you, and dissecting your flaws. You want to throw up, and… maybe you do.
But on the other side, there’s a lesson. There’s always a lesson. For every failure, every misstep, every missed opportunity, there is always something to be gained.
Don’t be so wrapped up in negativity that you miss it.