Let’s get the ugly truth out-of-the-way. Not only is failure not fun, it can be completely life-altering and no one escapes unscathed.
I have a tendency to measure my life in failed attempts, which as an entrepreneur can be –whew. Let’s say disheartening. There isn’t a part of me that doesn’t reel in anxiety and/or shame when thinking about some of the great ideas that have died under my fumbling. After years of sleepless nights replaying past leaps at greatness I decided I’d had enough. I had to do things differently. The how/ why is another post for another time. Today, I want to talk about what it was about my shortcomings that made immune to the fear of failing again. So, here are the five ways that my past failure have motivated me to work harder, and strive for even greater goals.
1.The worse that could happen…did.
I’m not gonna spill all my tea here. I will however make it simple. There was a specific year where my world as I knew it collapsed around me. Not the pretty little, made for tv movie where everything falls apart and by some fluke of honey coated writing it’s put back together again. Hell no. This was catastrophic. Everything I’d struggled to build and hold on to came to a complete and utter public free fall. When the smoke cleared and I was able to survey what survived, the remains were barely noticeable.
There is nothing more eye-opening (and heartbreaking) than sifting through the rubble of your life.
Not everything could be saved. The things that were saved barely resembled themselves or were never the same. Everything was broken…including me. In the face of my most private fears being exposed, I had nowhere to hide. Those closest to me tried to help, but some lessons don’t allow room for those who have never been through it.
There was nothing I could do to prevent the fallout or prepare for it. Unexpectedly life forced me to sink or swim. For a long time, I simply waited to drown. One morning, I realized this wasn’t the way I was going to die. So, I didn’t. I started to tread water, then doggy paddle, and finally in the deepest water I’ve ever been thrown in, I swam. It was new life and I had no idea what was going to come from it.
When (one of) the worst things that could have happened to me did, I realized that fear didn’t stop it. Suddenly, everything else was less frightening. The monster under my bed had revealed itself so the skeletons in my closest couldn’t terrify me any longer.
2. Fear of openly failing became the least of my concern.
I am naturally cautious. Actually, that is probably the understatement of my life. In the past I was crippled by caution, by fear that at the moment I was closest to what I wanted, I would fall. Often I did. We can talk about self-fulfilling prophecies and such. It wouldn’t have mattered then. The death grip fear had on my life did not allow much room for leaps of faith. If I couldn’t predict the outcome, it wasn’t worth the risk. My heart heavy, I walked away from several experiences that would have enriched my life. I held on to things/relationship/habits that worked against my goals because they were familiar. (Devil you know and such.) I didn’t have the tools to access the danger ahead and proceed anyway.
After the worst happened, my fears of being empty-handed came to a head. Being cautious, living at the mercy of fear had not protected me. It had not kept me safe or left me unbothered. Keeping my head down, attempting to not ruffle any feathers, and going unnoticed had not saved me. Of course it didn’t. Living in fear is not about being safe, it is about being controlled. Restrained. When I learned that fear was not my protector, but my prison, I began to understand what harm I was doing to me life.
I had to choose whether I would stay in my prison or escape. I choose to escape.
It was a fumbling mess in the beginning. It still is some days, but now I just don’t care. Okay, I’m lying. I do care. I still struggle to keep thoughts of failure from preventing me from going after my goals. The difference is I know now that being afraid is not the same as being safe. I have dreams to go after. I have things I want to accomplish that take me far out of my comfort zone. Things that shake me up, could uproot my life, and permanently change everything I know to be true about myself. I’ve already had that happen. I know how heartbreaking and uncomfortable it is, but growth is not comforting.
3. Growing from my failures made me expand my vision for my life.
When everything changes, everything changes. I have always been a dreamer. I have created entire worlds in my head that I would slip into whenever reality was too harsh to bear. It is my defense mechanism still. I taught myself how to hide in plain sight, and then I realized I couldn’t live in my refuge. I had to grow up. I had to let go of somethings that fed my fear if I was going to survive my personal tragedy. It wasn’t going to be easy.
I didn’t even recognize some of the baggage I’d picked up over the years. So I had no reference point for who to return it too. However, it was uninvited from my party. I was leaving my old life behind and if I couldn’t carry on, I wasn’t checking no bags. Yes, that is grammatically incorrect and a double negative. Bear with me. The positive to come from this was that I had to pack light and only hold on to what I could carry. Loneliness, fear, doubt, low self-esteem, all of these things (and many more) were too heavy to take with me. What was left was hope, faith, love, grace and mercy. With those things, I began to put my life back together.
I had to be honest with myself about what I wanted to make of my life.
I couldn’t short sell myself anymore. I couldn’t secretly believe it wouldn’t happen. Instead of wishing for a better life, I had to establish what that better life would look like. How I intended to get there, who I wanted there with me, and what I would do to maintain it all begged to be defined. I want to write for a living became and constant search and conversations with people who did write for a living. I couldn’t be my introverted self. I had to find people who were living parts of the life I wanted and ask them how they did it. Then, I had to do it too.
I’ve tried a lot of things while pulling together my method for the life I wanted. It isn’t perfect, and it isn’t quite there yet. It is coming along though. With every emboldened layer, I filled the voids in my life. I found my voice, became my best advocate and went in search of all the things I wanted.
4. Failing big made me invincible and limitless.
I want to own minimum one hundred acres of land. I want my primary home to be at least 2,500 square feet. I want to be a NYT and USA Today bestselling author. I want a minimum of two of my original works optioned for the small screen and at least one optioned for a big screen film. I want a backlist of over thirty novels and an undecided number of short works.
I will have all my hearts dream, because I work hard and have faith.
Annnnnddddd, because even if I fail again I won’t be intimidated. The best thing that came for the worst thing is that I am now either too stubborn or too foolish to give up on what I want. That list above…is the short list. The running list is between me and God. I know who I am when things fall apart. I know where my faith lies. I know that where I fall short, God provides. I know that if I work hard and fail everyday there will be something I can use in the rubble. I know how to put the pieces back together. I know that if all I have is what I can carry I can turn that into a new life.
Failing is not the death it was for me. Failing is the beginning of the life I want for myself.
Once that happened, I knew fear of falling on my face would never cripple me again. I am not too scarred to take the risk. I can own the bad decisions, the ill-advised choices, and the deep twist and turns life takes me on. It was more frightening to not try than if someone saw me attempt it and fail.
It is amazing what one can do when she has nothing to lose.
5. I realized that what I had to gain was worth the risk I would have to take.
The life that I want to share with my husband, with our children is one that demands I take some bold steps. Risks are a natural part of transitioning from being a dreamer into a doer. Knowing what I know now is the strength I bring to my life. All I have to do is go after it. Yes. I could fail again. Now, I have broadened the audience who would see me fail. If it happens on the scale it has before, it will be a shattering experience. Yet, I persist.
I am worth the numerous false starts because it leads to a great finish. My family is worth the struggle now because it means we with thrive later. When my little darlings grow up, they will have spent their lives seeing their father and I work hard for them. They will have seen the struggle of going after ones dreams and the value of it. They will know what it means to go for something that doesn’t have an immediate pay out and stick with it until it does.
My failings now have become fuel for the bigger picture of my life. They are part of my story, of my testimony. They make me brave. I have failed, but I am not a failure. It does not define me.
Going forward, I am sure I will have to remind myself of some of this on bleak days. I’m willing to do that. I know how to knuckle down and tread water until i can swim in it. I know how to keep my eyes on salvation and the shore.
So I push and I believe that no matter how things fall apart, they will fall into place again.
None of us are exempt from failure. How are you defeating your fear of failing to expand your life? Comment below with your baby steps and grand plans.