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 has been slow.
Sounds a lot like me, actually. :D
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 something I love for 30 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.
business is building a business and building a practice is building a practice, 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 amok 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 ultimately failed and failed to see the merit of work that ultimately 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 20 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—and this is true whether we're talking about your career, your spiritual journey, relationships or anything else. 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 being that 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.
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 really no way you can fail. All you can do is learn.
Today's post was revised and updated from one I wrote two years ago.