FAIL is a Four-letter Word
We all hate it; we’re all scared of it. We pass up opportunities every day in order to avoid it. It drives the first questions that come to mind when we consider change: What if I try it and disaster strikes? What if I’m not any good at it? What if it humiliates me? These are valid concerns, but allowing these concerns to keep you from trying means you’ve already failed.
The reasons above were my excuses for never testing my own limits. If I continued to do what had always worked for me, then I’d never fail, right? …Not exactly.
Prior to enrolling in UW’s graphic design program, I had this nagging suspicion that I was missing out on something. Although my marriage was strong, my spouse and I had just moved into a brand new home, and my job was stable, I couldn’t shake the feeling.
When my father passed away in 2009, it hit me hard that life does not wait for you to accomplish your goals. I realized there were so many things I wanted to learn and do. I wanted to knit. I wanted to create things. And most of all, I wanted to change the stale path that I had been paving for myself. But I’d been holding back….For what? I couldn’t say.
Don’t Be a “Commit-a-phobe”
The month after my dad’s passing, a couple friends took me under their wings and helped me buy a pair of knitting needles, some bulky yarn, and the how-to book Stitch n’ Bitch. They taught me the knit stitch, and from there, I was hungry for more. I bought more books, watched numerous tutorials, and I learned advanced techniques. It took me a long time to get really good, and I made some huge mistakes along the way, but the fact that I never gave up is what caused my life to take a new direction.
As odd as it sounds, my success in knitting drove me to enroll in the graphic design program. There were numerous times that I wanted to put my needles down and say “I give up; I’m never going to master this stitch!” But I didn’t; I always found a way to solve my problem. Through commitment, my confidence increased immensely, and I found myself thinking: “If I can teach myself to be this good at knitting, I can pretty much do anything.” Wow; having a thought like that was pretty unlike me.
What If You Succeed?
The graphic design program was trying, to say the least. I didn’t join with the intent to become a graphic designer. I went into it like I went into knitting–wanting to learn more about something that had always intrigued me. However, there were many long nights, many tears, and MANY thoughts of quitting…because that would’ve been so much easier.
Only half of the students who started with me ended up graduating from the program. Those who stayed, including myself, did so because they wanted it badly enough, and they had the moxie to finish. What I took away from the program was confidence in myself and my perceived limits. I learned that I’m only as strong as my most condemning thought. I learned to think differently about my capabilities, and I began to associate failure with the willingness to try and see what might happen. Thus, I surprised myself by realizing how much I really LOVE TO LEARN.
My Ownership of “Failure”
Last weekend I took Jeff Rogers’ online class on painting letters. Now, paint is not my typical medium, and he is quite a bit more free-spirited than me when it comes to art-making. However, I challenged myself to give it a go and just see what would happen. I chose the phrase “own it”, because I wasn’t sure where this project would end up, but the point was to not let that bother me. After all, I was exploring a new process and medium. What I found is that since I didn’t follow my regular, regimented creative process, the piece emerged more organically than what I’m used to. I continuously slapped on new layers of color without judgement and let the piece shape itself (which was a little scary). Once I finished, I noticed some things in my own work that I tend to be attracted to in the works of others, like Jeff. Most importantly, I allowed myself the possibility of failure; I owned the fact that it might turn out terribly. And because I did, I learned some things about my skills, and I got a glimpse of some new possibilities. None of which would have been possible had I not tried.
If you take away anything from this post, I hope that you’ll reconsider the word failure and what it means to fail. Failure is the undesired result of trying. It’s almost impossible to not learn from failure. And as long as someone is learning, he/she is succeeding.