I was listening to a podcast about creativity and failing this morning.
The hosts were saying how their main creative efforts were how they ‘ate’ (I.e., pay the bills, pay their staff, etc…) and how over the past couple of years they were trying to branch out and try new creative outlets in an effort to expand their brand and reach.
They recognized how they were fortunate enough to have a main creative talent that allowed them to eat and afforded them the ability to branch out. They also recognized that this main gig gave them a cushion when they did try new things that didn’t work, to come back to center/home and regroup to try again.
The main gig allowed them the luxury to fail.
Luxury to fail.
This struck a cord.
Think about the things you’ve tried out in your life that didn’t work out or that utterly flopped. Think about how disappointed you were.
But now think about how you were received afterwards. Who was there? Who helped pick you up? Who gave you perspective and/or time to regroup and either try again or try something else?
How did that person or process help you recover when you failed? How did that shape your perspective around trying things and failing? Think about how your life would be if you didn’t have those cushions (no matter how big or small) to fail?
I’ve not had the luxury of failing.
Not that I’ve not failed. I’ve failed – in big and small ways and the consequences or learning curves have been steep. When I’ve failed it’s not just been a failure for me alone, it was usually a failure that would affect my siblings too, especially in the early years after our Mom died.
But the luxury of failing? Failing meant we didn’t eat or had no money for clothes or couldn’t afford medicine. There was little room for bounce back, a sliver of a margin for error.
Failure wasn’t ever an option and fighting back from one cost too many precious resources that could have been used for other things.
It hit me today how in the past 25 years, I’ve not had the luxury to fail.
It’s like my eyes opened and I realized how I’ve had to be different from my peers and why.
I didn’t have a young adulthood where I got to make stupid mistakes, where I got to try on who I thought I was as a person. There weren’t many (at all?) people who could help steer Me as a person and the hot mess of a catastrophe that landed in my lap at 21.
Listening to that podcast felt like I was let in on a secret and let off the hook at the same time.
The secret being that some folks have the luxury to fail. They have support and love and a cushion to catch them when they fail. They develop muscles that help them recover and rebound after a failure.
I didn’t have that and I don’t have those.
Most people handle failing way better than I ever do. To me personally, I take failure as the ultimate loss of face. Something I could have prevented if I had been more vigilant and diligent in my efforts. Failure feels like a stain on my person.
And so when I fail, i feel like I am personally responsible for all that that failure entails.
This is how I’ve lived for the past 25 years.
And it has wrecked Me/me.
Today was the first day that I realized, at 46, that I can fail at something/s and that IT’S OKAY.
Doesn’t mean I’m a failure, doesn’t mean I lose face, doesn’t mean I am the worst ever.
It means I tried something and it didn’t pan out. And that’s okay. I can think on how to course correct or pick something new entirely and that’s okay too.
I don’t have to top the best thing I’ve ever done. I can try something else just because. It’s okay.
In this space right now? I have a little luxury to fail. My ‘eating’ is finally independent of what I can produce. I can venture out and try things without fear or worry of upending anyone else. I can meander and take tangents to see where they lead. There’s really nothing chasing me now, demanding my attention or requiring me to subvert my own curiosities to take care of or see to theirs.
Whew, I’m off the hook.
I am relieved, amazed embarrassed and absolutely terrified.
I have the luxury to fail.