Let’s talk about failure. Let’s talk about failing in public, and how we react to it. Our culture is more likely to shame failure and cover it up than talk about it. We need to change this. The more we create a culture of fear around failure, the less we will innovate. If we allow ourselves and our friends and our country to maintain the status quo because we shame failure, we are setting the world up for a shallow and miserable existence.
We should not shame the innovators. We should not shame those who try. We should not shame those who take action, even when those actions don’t produce the desired results. We need to learn how to support each other.
Find your anchor points
Creating something is an act of vulnerability. Creation opens wide the gates of success and failure, fame and isolation, riches and poverty. The creator lives this reality daily, and it’s what makes support vital. Creating is like lead-climbing a rock face: there is no rope at the top to catch your fall. Instead, you clip into anchors as you climb, which means there’s always a length to fall before you’re caught.
In creation, the anchors are the people who support us. (There are other anchors in life, like savings, but that isn’t my focus for this blog.) The closer the anchor points are to each other, the shorter the fall. This is why having a wide support network is so important, because we’re all going to fall at some point.
Find the people who have come before you, and learn from them. Ask them questions. Ask them about times they fell and who caught them. Find the people around you who are also creating. You are not competition; you are collaborators. Finally, find the people who believe in you—the people who listen to your podcasts and read your blogs and promote you in your good times and your bad. As they say on Scandal, find your gladiators.
Shout your failures
Things like FAILFaire and Admitting Failure are trying to take the shame out of failure for non-profits. Monica Byrne created her anti-resume to “attempt at stating, as plainly as possible, that rejection is the typical landscape of an emerging artist. Or of any artist…” or of any inventor, entrepreneur, and “attempter”. JK Rowling even did a whole Ted Talk on failure. So there are people trying to change the norm of sweeping failures under the rug.
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” — JK Rowling
Is failing in public only for the privileged?
What happens if I shout my failures before I make my first million or before my book hits the NY Times Bestseller list? Will shouting my failures too early result in a lack of faith towards me and my business? I think this is what people worry about, because this is what I worry about. As a new business owner, will I be rewarded with applause if I share my failures? Will I be commended for my bravery? Will anyone still believe in me?
I hope so, and I intend to find out, because I intend on creating publicly, which means I will fail publicly. I’m going to try to be okay with that, because the alternative is to be shackled to the fear of shame. I don’t want to be shackled to shame. I want to be shackled to hope and love and creativity and freedom.
Some (most?) of what I create will fail. I will make mistakes. I won’t know enough. Some people won’t believe in me. Some people will. And I, I will continue to create. I will continue to try and bring light and life into this world. I will continue to experiment with storytelling avenues and technology, because that’s what I’m here for. I’m here to help you tell your story.
As Brené Brown says, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly;
who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”