Considering failure is one of the Big Fears many of us creatives face, writing a post on how to fail might seem a bit . . . well, strange. But how are we going to ever push past this fear if we keep on giving it teeth?
You know how it is: when you feed the monster, it gets stronger. When your fear of failure gets sizable enough, it will choke the joy right out of your life. And the worst part is, you’ll be convinced it’s for your own good. That you need to “grow up” and not follow what delights you anymore.
So without further ado, here are three easy steps on how to fail.
How to Fail 101: Don’t start.
Well, that was easy. If you are super afraid of failure, of embarrassing yourself in front of your family and friends, then don’t ever start. Keep your dream hidden in a journal.
Side effects may include: Sadness, frustration, endless talking about your idea, a feeling like you were meant for something more.
When you finally do start a project, sabotage it immediately.
I’m really good at this, so as a professional sabotager, I will share how this is done. Find a project that gets you really excited. Maybe it keeps popping into your mind so you could say the project found you. Okay, now that you have the idea, you are going to do everything BUT the idea.
Don’t even write it down. Tell yourself you’ll remember it.
Clean the house. Walk the dog. Organize your email inbox. You might have to stay extra busy until the idea stops bugging you, but it will, eventually.
Side effects may include: Feeling like you can’t follow through on things, pity parties, being really busy and not having much to show for it.
Start the project, work on it really hard, and realize it is not going to work after all.
This is the crux of it all. This is what we’re actually afraid of (next to being embarrassed in front of our peers.) What if you start a project, and it doesn’t work out? Even if you really loved it?
I’ve had my share of failure, even failures that might not look like failures from the outside. Some of them were fails because I set unrealistic goals for the project. Some of them failed because I didn’t know what I was getting into.
But here’s the key:
I would have always wondered. I would have spent hours, days, maybe years, cycling my thoughts back to that idea, wondering if it would have worked. Wondering if I should have gone for it.
It doesn’t feel that great to put your heart into something and then fall flat on your face. But I think it feels worse to never try. To float through life doing what you think everyone else thinks you should be doing. (Which is a lousy way to live, since everyone else is thinking about other things, not your life’s purpose.)
Why Failure is Good For You
Failure teaches you about yourself. How strong are you? Is your creativity worth this? You will find as you step out more and more and offer your gifts to the world that you’re building brave muscles. You’ll discover you’re more capable than you might have thought. You’ve got superpowers! Use them!
Failure refines your ideas. Failure brings clarity, sometimes very quickly. You dive into a project and realize it is not working. Time to redirect. I hate to admit it, because failure isn’t exactly a bed of roses, but I’ve learned more from failure than I’ve ever learned from success. Often it’s difficult to see what I did “correctly” when I breeze through things. But when I fall flat on my face? It’s usually easy to look back and see what tripped me up.
Failure draws you into the worldwide community of practicing creatives. We are always failing (or experimenting, if you prefer that term.) We want to know what happens when we mix one medium with another. We’re curious about multiple subjects and wonder how they influence one another. We are multi-faceted, maybe a bit scuffed from the bruises of trying lots of things, but we have huge smiles on our faces.
Failure opens new doors for your creativity. It gives you a freedom you cannot even imagine. When you remove the fear from failure, you find that there is a whole world of opportunities to explore. You were afraid your life would collapse upon itself, but you realize the world is huge and you’re just getting started.
Now that is something to celebrate!
Let’s be brave together and push ourselves in our creative lives. Try something new. Let yourself fail. Take baby steps.
You’ll never regret it.