Being okay with failure
I was speaking to a group of animation students a couple of weeks back, taking them through my career and how I got to do what I do. Moving from career leap to career leap, everything sounds pretty impressive, even to me and I lived it. But the truth is that I am only ever telling half the story. Actually, much less than half.
Because for every success there are several failures. Sometimes many failures. I don’t usually get to cover those in a short talk but they are important to acknowledge, hence this post.
I talk about my first job being an animation position on TVC’s Willows In Winter. But in reality, it’s the first job that means something in my career. My real first job was picking tomatoes, a job I was fired from. I tend to talk about Fluffy Gardens as my first self-created show. It is actually the first self-created show that I managed to get off the ground. It is not the first show I pitched. I move on to my next show, Planet Cosmo, pretty quickly and, in doing so, neglect to mention the few show concepts that came in between those two shows. And there are so many more little disappointments, unsuccessful pitches and out and out failures throughout my career.
‘Failure’ sounds like a very dramatic word, steeped in negativity. Failure can bring fear, sadness and, sometimes, can kill our motivation. Why try if it’s only going to end badly? But that is the exact opposite of what failure should do for us. We all need to be okay with failure. In fact, failure is really important. Here are some things to keep in mind about failure:
1 - Failure shows we have taken a risk. No advancements, career leaps or worthwhile successes will come without risk. It just doesn’t happen. If there is no risk of failure, we’re not really doing anything and certainly not trying anything new. So failure shows us we’re pushing ourselves. That’s a good thing. Push further.
2 - When creating, it is all part of a process. Ideas must be tried and tested, and then the results evaluated. We use that information to make the next creation better, more relevant. And nothing is ever wasted. Ideas from that project that didn’t make it will resurface in another project, often in a better form.
3 - In the end, the failures don’t count. This is so important to remind ourselves of because one of the things we all have to move past is our fear of failure. Failures can teach us but they don’t count in any negative way. The successes are what people will remember. When I talk about my career, I can talk for an hour and I’m still covering the successes. I don’t need to talk about the failures because people don’t care. Do you remember Steve Jobs for the failed Mac Cube or the success of the iPod? Which counts? All it takes is a single success to wipe away all failed ventures. Failures don’t count. So don’t fear them.
Not everything you do in your creative career is going to work out. It certainly won’t work out first time. If you’re really striving for better, for something important, failure is more than likely something you will face many times. Be okay with that. Embrace it.