I was recently talking to one of my many gifted friends and she has been hesitating on really dialing up the heat beneath a career transition she's been kinda making for years. She's done the hard part. She quit her job years ago. But the pursuit of her new career and her passion passion has been slow.
Sounds a lot like me, actually.
So she says to me, "what if I screw up? What if I fail?" My reply was that screw ups and even failures are guaranteed. In fact, you WANT failure to happen to because failure is what gives shape to your successes.
I've had the privilege to do what I love for 27 years. All but 10 of those years, I've been self employed. I think there's a fallacy out there that if you do what you love, the course will be smooth. You'll intuitively know what to do. You won't meet up against resistance. All the pieces will fall into place. You just have to get over your initial fears and leap.
I don't know who feeds people that BS, but that's exactly what it is.
Building a business is building a business, whether you love what you do, are just doing it because you believe it will be lucrative or are doing it because it's the only thing you feel you good enough at to do. Failure, embarrassments, screw ups and clients that run screaming are how you feel your way to what is right for you and your business. Bad decisions and nightmare projects help you define your target clientele. Doing a bunch of stuff that just. doesn't. work. is how you stumble upon the things that do.
You could read all the books in the world about how to build, grow and run a business properly and you'll still make mistakes. You could be a successful entrepreneur and still eff up. In fact, experienced entrepreneurs don't even use the word failure. Instead, they call it experience. Or lessons. And if you want to do anything bad enough, you're going to have rack up some experience and education.
What I know from my own experience is that I have undersold myself and oversold myself. I have failed to say the right thing and failed to say anything at all. I have ignored my inner voice and silenced my best judgment. I have disappointed others and disappointed myself. I have stood up for work that failed and failed to see the merit of work that succeeded. And because of that, I learned how to sell myself better (though this continues to be a weak spot for me,) share more professionally, follow my inner voice, have fewer disappointments and choose my battles more wisely. All of that came from failure.
And you know what? After 17 years I STILL make mistakes, still make the *same* mistakes and still can't claim to do it right. But I'm mostly successful. There are some things I did right the first time...some lessons I never had to learn. And, even after all these years, there are some things I'm still learning.
So that's what I mean about failure playing an integral role in shaping your successes and steering you toward the work that is right for you. Successful people don't get that way through success-only journeys. Their success comes more from how they see failure—as experience or education—and how they respond to it—by taking the information in without losing momentum. In a way, you're going to WANT to screw up and fail because, with each little kick in the groin, you get closer and closer to that vision you have in your head of the highly qualified professional who effortlessly handles any contingency. Plus, you may need to fail in order to hear the calling of something slightly different that is even MORE perfect for you. Personally, I'd rather be wrong and find my bliss than white knuckle my way to something I'm convinced will make me happy, only to find out it doesn't.
And here's another bit of good news about failure. It comes in many flavors and degrees. But there's only one way to completely and bitterly fail at the pursuit of anything you want badly—never do anything about it in the first place. Everything else qualifies as education or dues. So if you've already started in, whether you've just begun researching your new endeavor or have fully hung your shingle, there's no way you can completely fail. All you can do is learn.