Creativity x Failure
Alright my beautifully creative souls, I mean this with all the love in my heart…you will fail.
Failure is the most crippling and destructive fear. It will keep us from sharing our art, living our truth and even from just starting. The key to all success is to embrace failure.
I know it is easier said than done. Just the thought of failing triggers a physical fight or flight response in your body. Yet, training yourself to push past the fear and see it for what it is is the only way to be successful. Unless you are living your life walking on eggshells, suppressed as hell and fighting for nothing, you will fail. Those of us who have dedicated our lives to creativity can’t live in black and white like that and if you are, your life will be one big missed opportunity.
Fam, failing is actually really beneficial and….you are going to hate me for saying this…pretty damn beautiful. Failing is always an opportunity to look at your goals and decide what it is that you want and what is/isn’t important to you. It is a big fat reset button when you need it the most. It is the step back you need to reassess the situation! If you are failing at something, you are working for something.
Why Are We So Afraid to Fail?
We all have bills to pay and sacrifices we are making to chase our dream life. Yet there are some subconscious fears that sometimes play an even bigger role than those tangible fears.
So, let’s start by spitting the facts about what the fear of failure really means.
My therapist would always ask when I was worried about something, “what is the worst that could happen?” and wow did this question piss me right off. Like, hi have you ever been out there in the world, lady? Everyone has opinions and everyone likes to think and speak them.
“The worst that could happen?!” I would yell annoyed. “I make a fool of myself, everyone thinks I’m naive and useless, I’m never asked for an idea again, I realize I’m wrong about everything, everyone starts to hate me, my dreams are crushed and then…then…MY LIFE IS BASICALLY OVER!” this was my explanation every time. It didn’t matter if I was talking about starting a new business or the decision to post a photo I took to Instagram. Of course I would feel silly when saying it out loud as I knew my fears weren’t completely logical. Sure, I wouldn’t actually die if I failed but my pride would and come on, isn’t that the same thing?
It turned out that what I really needed to get out of this fear mindset wasn’t a therapist, it was a fabulously intense Peloton instructor named Cody Rigsby. Cody (I only pretend we are on a first name basis) would yell right when I would start to doubt I could go any further on the bike that “IT AIN’T THAT DEEP, BOO!” and I found this to be a pretty great life motto.
Listen. The majority of the time, you are not afraid to fail. You are afraid of what people will think if you fail. You are afraid your ego will take a blow. You are afraid of your friends, family, and coworkers finding out. Hell, you are afraid of that girl Sally from middle school finding out.
The harsh yet liberating truth is: no one actually cares that much. We are all too wrapped up in our own lives. The friends that are judging you, are almost always the same friends who are not taking risks in life and therefore not getting big rewards from it. Anyone who can or want to relate to taking risks to better their lives and fulfill their passions will not judge you. If they have walked a similar walk, they have also failed. In fact, everyone that you look up to has failed and these people will admire you for failing because they know how important it is for your growth.
Despite what your ego is screaming inside your head it just AIN’T THAT DEEP, BOO!
Creativity is always uncertain. Creativity doesn’t have a rule book. We all fear the unknown. I mean how many times have you gone back to your favorite restaurant? You know it is good already so it is a safe option! There is no real safety net for us living a creative life. Your creativity could be brilliant to one person and misunderstood by the next.
As annoying as this can be at times, we as creatives can be a bit addicted to this uncertain feeling. We tell ourselves we hate it, and we do, yet we wouldn’t have it any other way. Almost every day I am cursing the need to live creatively, wishing I wanted a secure office job and perfect little American life. I just can’t, and I’m guessing you can’t either otherwise you would!
Uncertainty is an unfortunate fact of living a creative life and career. This will always be a love-hate relationship we have. Your idea/product/performance could either become a massive life changing hit, or could be overseen and undervalued by everyone. The unknown sends fear into every ounce of our being. It is in our nature to focus on what could go wrong instead of what could go right making uncertainty a straight shot into spiraling into a fear based destructive pattern.
How to Embrace Failure
I am not asking you to enjoy failing and I’m not asking you to actively fail on purpose. I’m just asking you to consider thinking of failing as guidance rather than this all consuming end of the world fear. Below are some tactics to help you through the fear of failure.
Think of all the ways it can fail and prepare
This will put your mind at ease knowing you have a plan B. Even if your plan B is starting from the bottom again, what are actions that you can take to survive the fall? Sometimes this means getting a server job to bring in money. Sometimes this means putting yourself out there in an even bigger way. Whatever it is, even if you don’t like plan B, it will help to know it is there. If you do not think there is a plan B, think again. Everything can be figured out, you just need to be willing to try.
Now close your eyes and imagine what you are working on and imagine it failing miserably. Whatever that means to you. Feel those feelings deeply for at least 60 seconds. Now feel yourself overcome these feelings by getting out of desperation mode and into action mode. This exercise will train your brain to be motivated to overcome rather than sit in feelings of failure when it comes.
But what if it DID work?!
Focus on the positive. Why are you making that painting, writing that song, performing that script in the first place? Write this down. Explain on paper what it would be like if it worked out. Recognize the feelings you get when imagining it working. Stick with this emotion and whenever you feel fear creeping up, remember this and even read the note you wrote down. This energy is powerful.
Life is not happening to you it is happening for you
This is one of the most important mind shifts to work on and something you will constantly see me come back to. When you fail you are not being punished, you are being guided. It is an opportunity to learn and is preparing you for your next step. Ask yourself, what is this lesson here to teach me? How was I moving in the wrong direction? How is this bringing me back on course?
The 5 second rule
When I get scared to do something, I use Mel Robbins’ 5 second rule. Your head will always try to talk you out of something that triggers any kind of fear response. The rule is simply that when you get the instinct to do something that makes you excited, just count 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and on 1 take some sort of action toward that instinct. To learn more head over to Mel Robbins’ page here, the science behind this rule is incredible! It is easy to talk yourself out of something for fear of failure, but if you start one right action toward that goal you are more likely to follow through.
Let me leave you with this…
When I think about failing and come to the conclusion that if I fail, my life will be OVER, I take a step back and imagine if that was true. What if my life was literally over soon. Do I want to look back at a life of color with decisions I made to take risks, get vulnerable with my art and give everything I had? Or do I want to look back and see a black and white life, little lessons and little successes. As creative people, we always have the instinct to see and feel things deeply. Ignoring that part of us is self destructive. Treat yourself better that.