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What you need to know to overcome failure and feel confident
This blog offers a fresh perspective on how to overcome failure.
The first time I ever failed was in real estate.
It was shortly after cancer, and I was done sacrificing myself, working hard for no money, following responsibility instead of passion.
“I want to make money,” isn’t the usual thing people say after cancer, but I am not usual, and because you are here, neither are you.
I’d realized how stupid it was to sacrifice my life living in small towns I didn’t want to live in, writing about things I didn’t care about to achieve some future goal of what? Writing for the New York Times?
My future felt out of my hands. Like the gatekeepers of society could say yes or no and dictate the course of my life. I didn’t trust them to choose me. They never had before.
And I wasn’t happy anymore. Journalism once felt purposeful and exciting, but it now felt like a drain. So I quit. And became a realtor.
Back then, I was running high on adrenaline and did superhuman things.
I’d work all week (and did amazing work. I ended up winning three state journalism awards that year, two of them first place), and then drive down to the Valley, which is what they call Phoenix metro, to attend real estate school all weekend.
(This probably sounds fine for a normal person, but I am a low-energy person. 🙂 )
This went on for months, and by the time I finished, my boyfriend, now-husband, and I were ready to move back to the Valley. Our lease was up, we both hated our jobs, and were ready for a fresh start.
There were all these fees you had to pay to start real estate. To the state, to a broker where you hang your license. It started to add up, and I felt nervous.
I had enough money to last a few months. But still I’d lie awake at night feeling pure terror.
“It has to turn out,” I told myself. Nothing before had ever really gone wrong.
Hell, I’d even survived cancer.
I’m sure failure was possible, but I never stuck around long enough to see. I always quit first. Probably a protective mechanism to avoid getting hurt.
But I was getting older and wanted to change. Cancer in many ways taught me how to stay, how to endure.
I knew that if I was going to create anything worthwhile in life, I’d need to overcome my own weakness, my own destructive tendencies. I had to grow stronger.
Still, the fear. I told myself it’d be okay.
If only I’d known…
I ended up thousands of dollars in debt, burned out because I didn’t know how to stop working, and felt like for the first time… no matter how much effort I’d put in, nothing happened. No momentum built. I ended up worse than I started.
That’s maybe the classic definition of failure: ending up worse than you started.
Or when the result didn’t meet your expectations.
In which case failure isn’t real, but only a perception.
Even with the classic definition of failure, you can’t fail as long as you don’t stop trying.
And the truth was, I stopped trying with real estate because it didn’t feel like me. It wasn’t what was born to do.
To me, that’s the only real failure — not being true to yourself.
Everything is fixable. There’s always a lesson or bright moment because nothing is all good or all bad. Knowing that helps to overcome failure.
Even with real estate, I did end up selling a house to a super nice lady I met at the post office and followed up with for months.
That was a success.
I also learned that the difference between intuition’s warning of no and normal fear associated with change is whether there’s desire underneath the fear.
That was a valuable lesson on how to overcome failure.
The debt was no big deal. I found a way to make money writing while looking for a new job, and ended up finding the best-paying job I’d ever had. It ended up being super toxic, but that’s another story for another time.
Even when things didn’t go as planned, everything was still okay. Even though I felt like I failed, life still didn’t abandon me.
There was always a way forward.
I’ve been thinking about failure a lot as I gear up to begin work again.
I took a break. I needed a break. And when I pick back up, I want to do things differently. Different projects, a different way of working.
I can’t wait to share with you the beautiful, meaningful content I plan to create over the coming year.
It’s a fresh direction, and I’m grateful to have received the vision.
But in some ways ways I feel like I failed.
Objectively, that’s hard to see. I’ve connected with amazing fans and readers, and I love you all so, so much.
I’ve supported a lot of people, helped change many lives.
Created amazing courses and free content I’m really proud of.
I’ve made really good money from my truest gifts…or have I?
This is the key.
I lost touch with my deepest gifts along the way. I let the world’s ideas (and algorithms, not gonna lie) influence how I share my ideas and what I focus on.
Sometimes I trusted others’ guidance more than my own inner voice, which got drowned out by all the noise.
I’ve never been so dedicated in my life as I’ve been to my blog and business. Never poured so much of myself for so long into something.
Never rode such deep lows and high highs in a creative project. Learning to overcome failure.
The craziness distorted my answers to the only questions that really matter —
Am I creating what I am meant to create?
Am I doing my best to get that message into the world?
Am I doing all of this in a way that deeply aligns with my needs, desires and values?
The most important thing any of us can do is connect to what’s meaningful.
Decide what we want to give to the world, what we most want to say.
And let that perfect self-expression that be the reward. That’s life purpose, not something you find outside, but something you bring forth from inside. Because you want to.
Knowing what you REALLY want requires space. Lots of it. Away from this noisy world.
It’s important to have goals and to identify when your results aren’t what you want them to be so you can make changes.
But there’s a balance because sometimes in life you dedicate yourself to things regardless of the result.
This is the separation between art and business.
The art is the art. And the business is the business.
The art is what comes from your soul. And the business is the vehicle for spreading that art throughout the world so those who need to hear it, hear it.
Sometimes, business influences art too much and corrupts its purity.
Other times, art turns its nose up at business too much and never gains the attention it deserves.
But you don’t change the art so it gets more attention to overcome failure.
You change the business.
You find the right format for your gifts. >> this is everything
You believe in yourself enough to know what really matters, and what’s really true, and you keep hammering away at that until you die.
No matter what.
It’s easy to let others influence our art, our goals or the paths we take to achieve them.
We get inspired by successful people and attempt to replicate their methods, whether in business or art, when what we need to do is let our own inner wisdom guide us. Always.
We need trust the weird, winding, overgrown path our heart takes us on even when it requires a machete to clear.
Results are information, sure.
But the ultimate test is — does it feel true?
Because the only real failure is not being true to yourself. That’s the secret to overcome failure.
And the only real success is living a life that IS true to you.
Anything other than that will hurt like hell.
It will never feel good, even if you become a millionaire and walk red carpets.
And when you live this way, true to yourself, the work is it’s own reward.
Sure. I’m vain. I want congratulations and a big, engaged community of readers who love my work. I love flattery as much as the next person, and I love when people decide to work with me.
But when you start to chase those things, that’s when it all goes wrong.
When you start to mold the essence of what you have to give to fit into a box of what you think the world wants.
Fuck the world.
By now I feel I’ve failed a million times, and learned so much to overcome failure.
And I’m so happy I have.
Because I’ve failed, I now know who I really am.
Did this article resonate with you? Let me know by commenting below. Please share this article with another driven creative.
All the love,
Again, you’ve hit home and showed up in my mailbox just when I needed to hear this! There is a whole world to heal, keep it up! Between creating art to clear my mind, work I’m learning from but not fulfilling and a boyfriend who has decided to go at his cancer alone. Sometimes Fuck it is the exact emotion but we continue on because we know it’s whats needed
Hi DB, omg sending you so much love. Sorry to hear about your boyfriend. What a difficult time for you. Sending you so much love. You got this <3
Thank you Suzanne. This hit home for me. I’ve been giving SO much of my soul and art to the world and get overwhelmed with how to sell it. Sometimes it sells, sometimes it doesn’t and I get SOO depressed when it doesn’t…and majorly set off course. I’m trying my ass off to stay in alignment and not get so drained. Much love to you.
Hi Jaclynn, thanks so much for reading! I know… it’s such a roller coaster! Glad to be on this journey with you. <3
I feel so connected to so much you have written, especially that the only real failure is not being true to you, the only real success is living a life that IS true to you. As well as finding the right format for your gifts – this is something that I have struggled with as a performer – the works that I have been awarded for have been seen by tiny audiences and has lost me money to present. Then i get disheartened from making more of my art and get caught in trying to make money other ways that aren’t fully true to me. Im really looking forward to what you are going to be creating in the coming year. Your words always cut straight to the heart. Thank you for being true to you xx
Hi Christina, thanks for your beautiful comment! What an emotional ride to give your vision to the world and have it not work out financially. I know your art is worth it, and that you’ll find your way <3
Thanks so much for sharing this post. Appreciate your honesty and willingness to learn from your mistakes. I’ve had to do that many times and I’m still standing. I’ve also found when I follow my passion whatever happens is blessed. Wishing that for you.
Thanks for reading Nancy! Glad it resonated. <3
There is such difficulty in keeping on the path. Apparently you can never stray but sometimes it surly feels that way. How do you know when you are being true to yourself? I think I am listening along the way then I look back and see how far I have come the wrong way. Maybe that is just it? Maybe the actual success is when see where we are failing and change course. Just like in meditation as long as you keep coming back to your focus point you are meditating. So maybe in life as long as we keep readjusting to our true north we are actually succeeding. Good luck to everyone on the path. May we all keep finding our own truth.
I LOVE that idea about returning to your focus point just like in meditation. Maybe life is just one really big meditation. Thank you so much for sharing!
All the love,