How to Fail Without Being a Failure

This post was originally published on The Spare Room Project.

This goes out to the entrepreneurs who struggle to stay on top of things.  This is to the Type A’s who go a little overboard with their commitments.  This is to anyone who feels like a failure because they haven’t followed through on every single thing they’ve said they would.

How to Fail Without Being a Failure

This isn’t a tutorial.  This isn’t a guide.  This is simply a heartfelt confession and encouragement to anyone who is feeling discouraged when they fail.

I failed.

I had big plans for The Spare Room Project for 2016.  We were going to improve our consistency.  We were going to extend our reach. (“Reach” is my word for 2016.  I’ll be writing a post about that soon.)  Everything was going to come together and transform into a well-oiled machine.

As you can probably guess. . .  that didn’t really happen.

I felt like a failure!  After January’s plans fell apart, I beat myself up.  Nothing I did could be good enough, because I wasn’t writing blog posts.  Even though some of our other goals were coming up roses (or at least daisies), I was a failure, in my eyes.

In the midst of all this, my mind kept tugging at me.  I had read a blog post a while ago by Ashley Brooks about how her content strategy is more than her blog. (Kayla Hollatz also has some great tips for falling back in love with your blog – or business – too.)  The advice from these articles kept coming to mind as I was beating myself up about not blogging, and I finally figured out why.

See, we tried to post to the blog 2-3 times a week for a while.  That was back when I was only working from home, and I still struggled to get posts out on my ‘schedule.’ This year, I’ve added a half-time job to the mix, which has taken some juggling to get used to.  I still don’t know if I’m there yet, either.  So, with all of this upheaval, why was I beating myself up about a perceived failure that was – let’s be honest – only in my mind?

Go from failure to someone who failed… and got back UP!

I KNOW you’ve heard the saying about falling off a horse.  You’ve probably also heard that failure is good for you.

And they’re right.  Kind of.

Failure is good, if you know how to handle it.  It is definitely a learning experience, from many angles!  Without failure, we don’t learn our weaknesses and we may pass over our strengths.  But if we dwell too deeply on those failures, they’ll just draw us down into a well of self-loathing.

When we fail, we need to get back up!  Ashley pointed out in her article that it isn’t necessary to blog every day.  There are other ways to create community and help others – which is my end goal – without blogging every. Single. Day.  I had forgotten that!

This whole time, I had been getting so excited about the idea of a creative community that isn’t based on entrepreneurship.  I love my #createlounge and #CreativeCoffeeHour Twitter chats to pieces, but I’ve been looking for a more hands-on creative Twitter chat to go along with them.  I had been talking about it for weeks, and had been getting GREAT response from those I had mentioned it to, but I pushed it off.  It was something I would ‘allow’ myself to do once I had gotten back on the bandwagon of consistent blog posts.  I won’t sugarcoat it:

That. Was. Stupid.

A good community will not care if I post five times a week or once a month, as long as it is valuable, engaging content.  They won’t care if I’m blogging or creating other content.  Elise of the amazing Elise Gets Crafty podcast stopped blogging recently after ten years(!) of blogging every. Single. Day.  She said in a podcast that she’s felt like a weight was lifted off of her after she let herself let go.

That’s how I’ve felt now that I’ve let myself let go of this idea that I HAVE to blog frequently, or even necessarily consistently.  If I’m having trouble creating quality blog posts, I would rather focus on others things.  Things like building my community through the upcoming #creativespark Twitter chat community I’m working on (more info to come soon!).  Things like the free and paid courses Lucas and I are working on for you, and other projects that provide non-traditional content.  Things that will benefit you just as much or more than a blog post!

We really can learn from Failure

Just because we fail, we don’t have to BE a failure.  That mindset is in your head!  When you fail, you learn things you aren’t good at or don’t enjoy doing.  You learn what systems don’t work for you, and what you can do better next time.

In episode 6 of the Chasing Creative podcast, the guest of the episode, Amanda Shofner said, “The ability to fail is huge. You have to be able to fail in order to succeed. Failing means you are trying things.”  So often, fear stops more dreams than failure.  After all, if we let fear of failure stop us from even trying, we never even have the chance to fail!  It may seem at first glance like that is better, but if we don’t have the chance to fail, we won’t have the chance to succeed either.

Lindsay, the guest on episode 8 of the Chasing Creative podcast (can you tell what I’ve been listening to a lot of lately?), said, “There is an ebb and a flow to it all the time. I’m not creating in every spare moment of my life.”  So, in my own words: those times that you feel like you’ve failed at being creative?  Yeah, those may just be the ebb leading up to the flow!  Sometimes we need a little bit of downtime in order to find our creative flow again.

What to do when you fail

  1. When you fail, don’t beat yourself up!  Failing does not make YOU a failure.  Don’t get sucked into the vicious cycle of failing, beating yourself up about it, and then failing more because you’re too busy beating yourself up.  Get your head out of that cycle and get moving!
  2. Figure out WHY you failed.  By knowing why you failed, you can find ways to strengthen that weakness.  If you don’t try new things, you’ll never learn what your weaknesses are, but you’ll never learn find your hidden strengths either.
  3. Learn from your experience of failing.  Don’t just say, “Oh, I failed, and I know why, so I guess I shouldn’t try that again.”  Insanity may be doing the same thing over and over again, but if the results are different, then it’s not insanity – it’s progress.
  4. Get support.  I love having others around me to cheer me on.  Family is often a great cheerleading section, even if they don’t understand what you’re doing.  Maybe you’re a painter and are struggling to master a new technique or feel like you just ruined a painting you’ve been working on for a month.  Your friends and family might not be fellow painters, but they can still empathize and help you through your pain of failing, and they can encourage you to get back up.  There are so many communities online, as well, if your friends and family just can’t empathize in the way you need, too!

How have you coped and won your way back from a failed attempt?  Have you been able to fail without being a failure and use that experience to improve yourself?

Scintilla Studio