Notes From A Failure

I’ve never really been a risk taker.

I’m not adventurous. I don’t want to jump out of an airplane, or swim with the sharks, or climb Mt. Everest, or do whatever trendy, crazy things risky, adventurous people typically do.

It’s just not me. 

I think some of that comes from the way I was raised. Admittedly, my mom was a little, shall we say, nervous about letting us try a lot of things. We laugh now about the seemingly simple things she wanted us to avoid back then, but at the time, she was serious. To this day, I still haven’t ridden a jet ski because my mom convinced me that it wasn’t to be done without a helmet. (I feel ya, Jay-Z.)

But I think my aversion to risk also comes from the way I’m wired. I’m an achiever at heart. I want do things, and I want to do them well.So if there’s even the slightest chance I’m going to fail at something, I’m just going to avoid it all together. And if there’s a chance I’m going to fail at it and somehow other people will know, then that’s a big HELL NO! I don’t even want to consider it.

If there’s a risk of failure of any kind, I won’t even attempt it. 

That’s what makes my current career path all the more interesting.

Three years ago today, I walked away from full-time employment to pursue a lifelong dream of being a writer. At the time, here’s how I pictured it: me, some modern day version of Meg Ryan, glamorously sitting at my computer in a cool New York City apartment (that I can totally afford) while inspired words just naturally flowed through me. As it turns out, here’s how it really looks: me, still in my pajamas for a long time most days, not wearing makeup and huddled in the corner of my bedroom that I’ve transformed into my “office” working harder than I’ve ever worked in my life. 

Meg Ryan, I am not.

But regardless, the choice to move into full-time, self-employment remains the biggest risk I’ve ever taken in my life. It’s scary, and humbling, and emotional, and fun, and really, really hard. And the worst part? In order to do it well, I have to talk about it. I have to draw attention to it. I have to tell people what I’m doing in order to keep growing and thriving in my work. And that means, if at any point I fail—if the risk doesn’t work out—then everyone will know. #myworstnightmare

Yet somehow, here we are three years down the line, and I think what I’ve learned the most about along the way actually has been failure. You see, I think my whole life I’ve been looking at failure all the wrong way.

I always saw failure as something based on an outcome. If I tried something and it didn’t work, that was failure. If I quit my job, tried to be a writer, and it didn’t work, then I would’ve failed. That’s how I used to see it.  

But what the last three years have taught me is that real failure happens way before the outcome is ever determined. The real failure wouldn’t have been to try my hand at making a living as a writer and fail miserably at it. No, the real failure would’ve been not to try at all. To disregard obedience for the sake of what felt safe.

My mentor once told me that it was much easier to steer a moving car than a parked one. Duh, right? Of course, she wasn’t talking about actual driving. She meant that God can much easier direct a life that’s in motion rather than one that’s frozen on the sidelines by the fear of failure.

And that’s totally true. In the last three years, God has moved and directed my life in ways I could’ve never imagined. I’ve met incredible people, done incredible work, and been given the chance to work on incredible projects.

Most importantly, I’ve tried a lot of new things. I’ve taken a lot of risks.

And failed. 

A lot. 

For a recovering risk-averse gal like myself, you’d think this last fact would’ve sent me running quickly back to the sidelines of life. It might’ve even sent me back to the life of traditional, full-time employment. And if I’m being straight up honest, at times it almost did. 

This year in particular has been marked with a lot of failure. 2018 hit and suddenly, so did all the “no’s” in my career.

No, that’s not a good idea. No, we don’t want to pay you for that. No, we don’t want yoru help anymore. No, we don’t think your work is good enough here. No, that’s not something we need right now. 

No. No. No. No. No.

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I heard straight up, “No!” in just about every area of my life for about six months. It sucked. And I hated it. And I cried. A lot.

But here’s what I noticed: The old me would’ve taken the first no, hidden it away from everyone, and used it as a sign that I needed to throw in the towel and go back to what felt safe. I would’ve felt like a failure.  

But now, my inner-risk taker has woken up. And though, the no’s still sting when I hear them, they don’t stop me now. They don’t feel so much like failure as they do like freedom.

In the last month, I’ve had to do a lot of things outside of my zone, both personally and professionally. And since we’re all friends here, I think I can be honest and say I’ve still cried about each and every one of them. I even tried to find ways out of a few of them. But in spite of my best efforts to avoid a few risks, God said go. 

And so I went. I did the things. And guess what?

I survived. I came out better for it. And along the way, I even got a few “yes’s.” Not just little ones, but big ones. Some that I’m really proud of and almost can’t believe.

But you know what else? I still got some “no’s,” too. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine over here, ya’ll. For every one yes, there were probably ten other no’s waiting around the corner. 

And that’s okay.

Because the one “yes” is worth all the “no’s” in the world.

And the risk is worth the potential failure. Because without the risk, I would never be where I am, or who I am, right now. 

Now excuse me while I get back to my studies on deep-sea diving so I can cross “swim with sharks” off my new risk-taking bucket list.

Just kidding….

There’s still no chance I’m ever be doing that!