My life as a failure
I was so inspired by Mark Rovner‘s encouraging response to my last post that I thought I’d admit more failure. I hate to fail, but through the cozy, comfortable viewpoint of hindsight, I can say that my failures are among the great moments in my life because they make me stretch. My first public speaking experience was horrific — a stammering recitation of written notes. And I was supposed to be a moderator on a panel! Now I think I’m a good speaker, but only because I was driven to improve by a serious fear of repeating that humiliation. When I wrote my book, I had to admit failure halfway through. I realized on page 140 that the book was only starting to work and threw out everything I’d written up to then. I finished the book, then went back and rewrote the first half. Though I nearly went mad over the process, the book and I were better for it.My favorite jobs are those when I feel scared at the sheer immensity of the tasks before me about 49% of the time. I hate that discomfort, but it makes me creative, productive and excited by my work.On NPR’s This I Believe, columnist Jon Carroll recently said:Failure is how we learn. I have been told of an African phrase describing a good cook as “she who has broken many pots.” If you’ve spent enough time in the kitchen to have broken a lot of pots, probably you know a fair amount about cooking. I once had a late dinner with a group of chefs, and they spent time comparing knife wounds and burn scars. They knew how much credibility their failures gave them.I have more scars than I can count.Failure is a big part of marketing. Most campaigns fail. Most messages start a bit off target. Most appeals for dollars don’t rake in cash. That’s okay, as long as we look at them as broken pots and tweak our recipes. Admit the dish tasted bad and go find your missing ingredients. I’m certainly still on a quest for them myself.