There’s nothing quite like setting out to do something amazingly big and exciting, and then promptly falling on your butt. All of that enthusiasm you initially had evaporates in an instant, and you feel a myriad of emotions that range from chagrin to outright nausea.
Whether we want to admit it or not, failure at any level hurts. The idyllic shine of the unknown that we found so intoxicating gets a little bit tarnished. We grow a bit more jaded. Worse yet, we might swing toward taking the conservative approach the next time we face the same challenge. Nobody likes getting knocked down twice.
Although it’s hard to see in the heat (or despair) of the moment, making a rash decision and quitting is the exact opposite thing you should do in these types of situations.
The best way that I’ve found to work through the emotional rollercoaster of failure is to take swift and immediate action. Any action is better than no action at all, but hopefully the action is guided by what I learned in my spectacular fall. I truly believe that it takes a lot more guts to dust yourself off and start again, and I consider myself up to the challenge (most days anyway). The sooner I do it, the sooner I find that my focus shifts back in a positive and productive direction.
In my writing, I’ve set deadlines and missed them. I’ve gotten less than favorable (and sometimes brutal) feedback about my books. I’ve been positive that certain stories would resonate with readers and then released the work to the resounding sound of crickets. Nonetheless, I continue to write, and I continue to publish. That’s because the act of writing itself is cathartic to me, and adding to the growing bookshelf of work available to purchase is a unique and heady rush. I love it and hate it all at the same time, and I’ve learned that sometimes the story works for readers and sometimes it doesn’t. But those readers who love my books and my characters rave about them, and hearing that kind of feedback never gets old for me, and I don’t take it for granted. Putting myself and my work out there the way I do is a risk, but the reward has a huge upside.
When it comes to my life and my day job, I’ve had some epic failures- some of them painfully visible to family, friends, and colleagues. What I can’t do is crawl into bed and try to forget that life exists. Pity and self-loathing gets me nowhere. At some point, I have to stop feeling sorry for myself, pull my chin up, and face the world. And you know what I find? People are usually gracious, and second chances come easier when the other person sees that you aren’t willing to give up. In fact, moving forward and learning from a failure like that will often earn you respect that you couldn’t have found otherwise.
It’s hard to take action in the face of failure, no doubt about it. But at the end of the day, it’s easier to look at yourself in the mirror when you know that you’ve given it your all, and you’re still willing to get back in the ring and fight another day. With that kind of attitude in your life, you’ll be unstoppable.
(photo credit Krissy Venosdale)