Lately, I’ve been feeling like failure is a necessary precursor to success.
Allow me to explain.
For those of you who have seen my Goal Tracking Tool over at Support Plans, you’ll note that I set a goal to guest post on a new site every other month. One could say that I’ve achieved my goal for the next 8 (!) months. I also have my first ebook coming out on 5/24. Guest-posting and releasing an ebook are my two major growth strategies for this site, and it’s exciting to have them converging during this time.
Let’s set aside the fact that I should have set a bigger goal in the first place and look at what happened to get me to this point. Specifically, I want to share the string of failures that preceded the posts…as case-studies in how to turn failures into stepping-stones toward success.
As my friend Leo* once defined humility: “I don’t know. But I think it helps…to not be afraid of your faults.” Likewise, I’d say this about defining success: “I don’t know. But I think it helps…to not be afraid of your failures.”
Let’s take it post by post, going behind the scenes…
1. Everyday Bright: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. (Also, make an effort to meet people.)
Ever since I met Jennifer Gresham, I’ve been hoping to post on Everyday Bright. Jen’s standards are high, with good reason: her work is amazing, and her readers are inspiring in their own right. So I set to work.
The only problem was, she rejected the first two posts I wrote for her.
Two strikes, baby. Before I went for my third attempt, I:
- Thanked Jen for her patience. (She writes the nicest rejection email.)
- Took a break from trying.
- Thought hard about what hadn’t worked in each post. I realized that the first was off in tone, the second in content.
- Thought about what Jen and I had discussed when we met, and chose my topic accordingly. This is where the importance of meeting people comes in. On the day I met up with Jen I was totally nervous, and I’d just come from a long day of work. It would have been easy to make excuses and not go, but I’m glad I seized the opportunity. Furthermore, the personal connection (prior to my submissions) facilitated a learning process, with second and third chances to get it right.
On my third try, I hit a home run. (Or at least a high fly ball into left field.) You’ll be the judge on May 24th!
2. Books Distilled: Encourage others in their dreams.
My best friend Brooke has been my writing partner ever since college. We’ve challenged and encouraged each other, and our writing is better as a result. So, when she told me that she wanted to start a blog, I was thrilled. I’d longed to share the world of online writing with her, and hearing the energy and excitement in her voice made me so happy.
What did I learn from the opportunity to post on her site?
- When you support others, they may well offer you support in return. It felt very natural for Brooke to ask me to guest-post, because I’d been supporting her and rooting for her all along. I’m so proud of her for being true to herself.
- When you start living your dream, you inspire others to go after theirs, too.
- You remember those who supported you from day one. It matters to be there at the beginning. I’ll always remember my first guest post, over at Be More With Less. Courtney gave me my first chance, and I’ll continue to support her!
3. Tiny Buddha: One rejection doesn’t define your work.
“The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that successful people fail more.” (Martha Beck, Ph.D, The Four Day Win.) In other words: successful people take more chances. It’s scary as hell, but it works.
A few months ago, I wrote a guest post for a contest. I worked on it for days, but it did not win. Three other posts did.
The rejected post sat in my drafts folder, unpublished, for several weeks. I thought about submitting it elsewhere, but it just didn’t feel right.
Until the day my friend Rachel sent me a post on Tiny Buddha.com. I liked the post, so I explored the site. In a few hours I had a new draft of my rejected post ready to go. I submitted it and received an acceptance the same day!
Here’s the kicker: the site I’d originally written the post for has a few thousand fans and subscribers. Tiny Buddha has over 100,000 Twitter followers alone.
- One rejection means one person didn’t see the beauty in what you created. I tend to fall into the false belief that if one person rejects something I wrote, it must mean it’s not good enough. (And I’m not good enough…)
- The shame spiral doesn’t serve you. When you feel yourself doubting your gift and your work, step back. Call a friend. Read a positive review, or look at something you’re proud of. Then, look toward the future.
- Keep your eyes open for a different showcase. As it turns out, Tiny Buddha is a much better fit for what I wrote!
4. Undefinable You: Take small opportunities (because that’s how you move forward.)
Successful people seize opportunities, even small ones. Last week, I noticed that Dusti Arab, a writer I admire, was looking to meet up with readers via Skype. She tweeted her availability, and I took a deep breath and tweeted back.
As in my meeting with Jen, I was totally nervous to Skype with Dusti…but it turned out to be a great move. Not only did I get to make a new friend and receive some timely wisdom and encouragement, but I also received an unexpected invitation to guest post on Dusti’s new site, Undefinable You! (If you’ve not yet checked her out, her latest post is deeply insightful.)
- If you don’t reach out, you lose out. Guest posting on Undefinable You is by invitation only. If I hadn’t taken the time to talk with Dusti, who knows if I would have received that invitation?
- Your heroes may be more approachable than you think. As Dusti told me, “I used to be so scared to talk to people I admired online. Now, I say, if they’re online, I’m going to talk to them. Everybody wears pants!”
- Small opportunities lead to bigger ones. You never know what might happen around the next curve in the road.
My hope for you is that you will be an alchemist…transforming ordinary failure into extraordinary success.
*Names have been changed.