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How to Embrace Mistakes and Kick Failure’s Butt

Failure is the tuition you pay for success. ~W.Brunell

Do you feel like all you ever do is make mistakes? Do you feel like an utter failure compared to fellow artists who seem to ooze success? Do you ever feel like the planets never align for you?

We’ve all been there.

Insecurity leads to lack of confidence and lack of confidence leads to failure. The point about failure is not that it happens but what we do when it happens.

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The Human Condition

We are to “fall down seven times, get up eight.” ~Japanese proverb

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team by a short-sighted coach. John Grisham was rejected by a couple dozen publishers before getting his first big deal and had to sell books from the trunk of his car to prove his worth.  Poppy King lost her first business because of greedy business partners. What do these people have in common? Making multiple mistakes before their big and ongoing success. These success stories aren’t a flash in the pan, they’re ongoing because they each now know the remedy for failure.

Think about the adage: Circle of life. Like the infinity sign, the symbol snake biting its own tail represents eternity among Egyptians. Some believe in the middle ages the snake represents a double endlessness: The End is Found in the Beginning which is approximately what the Latin around the circle means. In this illustration, the snake biting its own tail is called “Ouroboros” and in this case, symbolizes the cyclic Nature of the Universe. In the cyclic nature of being human, it’s our duty to make mistakes. While it’s more important to learn from those mistakes, it’s also our duty to be kind to ourselves when we do make them.

Mistakes Happen

My business continues to thrive because I listen to my gut. Only once in my career did I go against what I believed in when all along I knew I shouldn’t have; it proved to be my only professional regret. ~Bobbi Brown

Mistakes are a part of life. We all make mistakeseveryone. Some try to hide their mistakes (only to resurface later smelling of rotten eggs) and others gracefully accept them as part of the process and continue along their path of exploration. Mistakes make for great experience especially when we’re honest enough to admit them and willing to learn from them. In many instances, when many of us make mistakes, we paralyze ourselves with grief and angst, preventing ourselves from the enjoyment of merely being human.

Stop, reassess, and be kind to yourself.

Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen? Does anyone die because of my decision?” Chances are pretty good that no one will lose a life if you choose a different color for your composition. In many cases, we either lose time, money, or ego and for many, it’s a very bruised ego.

See? No loss of life here.

If you trip and skin your knee, get up and note it as a lesson. For me, it was listening to all the ‘experts’ out there about licensing one’s art. While I understood the concept, I was jumping in with both feet into the coldest water known to a naked body. What I took away from the forums a few years ago was:

>”You won’t get partners if you build your own product”
>”Don’t go to them with your art, they want to ‘find’ you.”
>”They won’t license from you until you’ve spent 3 years and $30k on tradeshows to prove your worth.”

Does that leave you cold? You bet. So yes, we lost a ton of money investing our eggs in one basket. Funny thing, I don’t see those same experts exhibiting at tradeshows anymore. We also lost time and momentum. It takes a good solid 3 years to prove your worth to the IRS and I was doing extremely well when I launched CalligraphyPets -building my own product. I even had companies asking me at my first tradeshow if I licensed my art. My first tradeshow. Alas, the past 2.5 years I’ve been stroking my own ego convincing myself that I’m still relevant because my business nearly bottomed out –thanks WallStreet.

TIP: The best way to move through that moment is to do as the skilled inventors do: take notes. Copious, organized notes. By sketching out designs, colors, and processes –before, during, and after– you’ll better understand what areas failed to succeed. This allows you to retrace your path to the mistake and take an alternate route to success.

TIP: You can listen to the experts, but you don’t necessarily have to take their word as gospel. Gather all opinions, consider them, and then listen to your gut -that’s the only expert you need.

Harness & Name Fear

FEAR: False Evidence that Appears Real. Appears real.
If we can give it a name, we can control our reaction to it. Just because it appears, like heresay, doesn’t make it real. Fear, uncertainty, and doubt are the cornerstones of insecurity -also known as the ‘FUD Factor.’ Insecurity leads to lack of confidence and lack of confidence leads to failure.

The fear of failure can sabotage us in many ways and prevent us from trying new things. Anxiety, perfectionism, and procrastination will definitely prevent us from reaching our goals like finishing our project or calling that gallery. Low self-confidence will germinate, thwarting our dreams and finally, urging ourselves to sell our equipment in a yard sale.

Wait! Sell our equipment in a yard sale? That’s an a-ha moment.

If you can sell your supplies in a yard sale, then you can sell your art to a gallery. Use the same methods you used to advertise, put up flyers, and tell your friends. You’re just selling a different product and it just happens to be your art.

TIP: Tame your inner demon that erodes your confidence. Once you begin to feel FUD, replace with “I will learn why this happened.” Once you learn why things happened, you’ll understand how you can control them to improve your product, thereby destroying fear at its core. When you do this often enough, this will become second nature and make fear irrelevant.

What demon have you harnessed today?

Deconstruct Failure & Trendspotting Your Mistakes

If you are not failing, you are playing too safe & are not growing. If you want to succeed faster, double your failure rate! ~Angela Jia Kim, Om Aroma

Have you ever practice the piano as a kid? Remember all the finger trip-ups and stumbling across the keys you’d experience only to wish you could play perfectly? Only computers can play the piano perfectly. And since we not computers, practicing only shows us where we tend to trend our mistakes. As humans, we’re mindful when we reach a certain spot in the music to slow down and touch carefully until it become second nature. The same methodology applies to where we tend to trend our mistakes in the process of making art or in our small business.

Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes better.

Mistakes can be removed, not through burying them, but though your own process of elimination. Remember not to take mistakes personally. It’s about what is failing your design, not who. Mother nature, math, and processes couldn’t care less about your self-esteem and it’s time you put it on the back burner. Bring your ego out when you’re ready to accept applause for your efforts.

TIP: When you’re cognizant of where you trend your mistakes, quickly capture them in your journal by itemizing each process step-by-step as this will highlight the compromised area screaming for adjustments. Once you’ve identified the weak link and found a better solution to take it’s place, replace it.

How many mistakes have you made today?

Cultivate Courage

Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm. ~W.Churchill

We all know that Thomas Edison failed miserably before successfully inventing the lightbulb and yet he maintains, “I have not failed. I have merely found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He probably reeked with enthusiasm. I certainly know at least 300 ways my new handbags won’t work. Yet, I still strive to embrace the same kind of Churchill moxie as we push forward with each new project.

Remember, Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team because his coach didn’t think he had the skills. Having the skills to become a museum curator or crafting a new product is just a matter of learning. Same with running a business. If you immediately think of Richard Branson of Virgin empire (a high school dropout) and possessing him with your own body and your current skillset, a bit of fear and trepidation creeps in, doesn’t it? Not because it’s Branson’s body (ew) but because of the overwhelming urge to scream like Ophelia in the Reduce Shakespeare Company when facing decisions that Branson makes everyday. One day, you’ll be there too, just not today.

Deep breath.

There are several sizes of businesses -some choose to remain small or grow massively like Martha Stewart or Poppy King. Starting small is smart for a bootstrapping entrepreneur while learning how art, marketing, and finances blend together into a unified, workhorse of a company.

TIP: Ask Yourself: What does it take to reach X? If you don’t know, begin investigating either online, friends, and other areas of your connections. You’ll amass plenty of answers, some good and some better. As you learn through self-study, classes, or talk to like-minded individuals, you’ll become more proficient in your World.

Do you have the skills? Perhaps not today, but tomorrow is a different story, isn’t it?

Restore Confidence

It’s all about getting up one more time than you fall down – or get knocked down. Ariana Huffington

For me, confidence is the result of many hours spent illustrating same technique again and again, building product, or talking to people, knowing I could do it with my eyes closed. Okay, I wouldn’t talk to people with my eyes closed. The key is honing my skill through hours and practice. Confidence in a new arena doesn’t happen overnight -if it does, it’s the exception, not the rule.

When I introduced Andrew to the sewing machine, he began constructing fabrics together, learning what materials work well together and which work better. Let’s just say the student is teaching the master. 😉 Unfortunately, his idea of a finalized product didn’t meet my street-worthy expectations. While we met at the crossroads time and again, I finally realized that it wasn’t Andrew who wasn’t meeting my expectations, it was the machine itself.

Proper Tools
Good tools make all the difference in the World. I certainly couldn’t expect Andrew to sew leathers on an embroidery machine we bought year prior, no matter how much it cost and using cost as a crutch was a mistake. Upon that realization, it was decided we needed a proper machine. We bought the industrial machine, one I call ‘the beast’ and Andrew now constructs the most beautiful handbags ever.

TIP Create your own trials on a piece of paper by creating two columns. Label one Cause, and the second one Effect. There are many good answers, but some are better for your ultimate goal. Once you’ve identified the weak link and found a better solution to take it’s place, write out the system as your new template. It’s not only important to write out the step by step for yourself, but implement it when you scale your business. Multiplying your actions, events, and processes help you to eliminate the fear of uncertainty and doubt.

What are you using as a crutch to prevent you from getting to the next level?

Additional Thoughts on Mistakes and Failure:

I seem to always learn lessons the hard way. Mostly in terms of relationships & money. I don’t see any of them as mistakes though since it’s through those very tough lessons that I was able to make a shift. We don’t discover our own light until we’re immersed in darkness. 🙂 Nielle McCammon

My mistake: not hiring help soon enough in the life of the biz. Tried to do everything myself, wasted time, energy & opportunity. Caroline Colom Vasquez

Take baby steps. Do the small things you know where you can succeed to rebuild confidence. Giesla Hoelsche, Inkblotsart

Diversified Detour: Personal Disappointment by Ruth Apter
Having been exceptionally lucky for the previous 6 years, I experienced my first disaster! My initial experiments with raku fired bisque boxes were gorgeous so I felt confident to move beyond the prototypes and forward with making this a permanent part of my collection. After professional photos, postcards, & official announcements, I had several orders and I went to work straight away. Once I began firing the boxes, they start breaking in the raku firing process! After weeks of failure I had to admit defeat and pull the line!

So after a few restless nights I decided to start over and redesign the boxes and glaze and fire them conventionally….not raku firing them. The look was very different than what I had originally come up with and it took some experimenting to get them to a place where I liked them.

I called the accounts that had ordered and explained my situation. I sent them some photos of the new boxes via email and all but one account said they would go with the new designs!

Thanks to Ruth Apter, One Hundred Horses

Success Templates & Worksheets!

Eliminate the fear of uncertainty and doubt with my worksheets! Just for you, I’ve created two (2) Cause & Effect Worksheets for your project trials. These will become very helpful for you when establishing new ideas and trendspotting your own mistakes.

Join & Receive
Sign up for our newsletter and get these 2 Free Cause & Effect Worksheets plus a bonus step-by-step worksheet for any project you can create.

Also includes more tips! Can you stand it? Sign up!!

My Philosophy

In the end, I believe failure is just another name for giving up. Mistakes come by the truckload and dump them on your drawing board -it’s up to you to sort them, claim them, and check them off the list. So between skinned knees and ego bruising, you’ll want to pick yourself back up, dust yourself off, have a glass of wine and begin again tomorrow. That’s what I’m doing.

How did you kick failure’s butt today?

Here’s to Cultivating Your Creative Independence

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Lisa Stewart
CREATIVEGoddess, Design Entrepreneur, Guide for; Huge Pet Advocate; Lover of Wine, Food, Travelling, Tech & Laughing. Dreamy & Practical.

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