This is what failure looks like
Since the Lunar New Year was last Friday, we though it was time to start thinking about new years resolutions, intentions, goals and all those things. I have a lot of goals and intentions already the new year just stirs them up but when I look ahead and I think about the tone I want to set for the year the one word that keeps coming up is failure… and what do I mean by failure? I don’t mean that I am aiming or aspiring to fail- but I do want to look failure in the face and say yeah, it’s worth the risk. Let’s do this.
Let me start with an example. This picture (below). This is what failure looks like.
No really, the photo pictured above is from a video I submitted to Yoga Journal to be an ambassador in their Live Be Yoga Tour, to travel the country exploring the current yoga scene and report back through video blogs, social media and blog posts. Basically my dream opportunity.
With no past video experience and only 48 hours of notice, I compiled a bunch of clips of me talking to my iPhone, my sweet roommate videoing me doing yoga, the ever-generous Dr. Chelsea Jackson met me on short notice to do an interview in Piedmont Park and I even got a dear friend of mine to get a shot of me doing yoga on top of a car (you know- because I was going on a road trip so there needs to be a yoga on-top-of-the-car shot although I could only wrangle up a mini-van). I taught myself to edit video, cropped it all together and figured out how to upload it to YouTube (please, please, please don’t look it up) and sent it off to Yoga Journal ready to set off on my calling: yoga + people + travel + adventure.
It was all good until… they turned it down. Rejected by Yoga Journal.
I tried not to be disappointed when two adorable California girls came through Atlanta on the tour and made a stop at the studio where I started practicing yoga 15 years ago. Even though it was months later I was still wallowing.
In the simplest terms, I tried and I failed.
Now I’d love to tell you that was my only experience with failure and that the next opportunity that came up was “meant to be” stars aligned and everything fell into place. But that’s just not true. I fail at A LOT of things ALL THE TIME.
I actually felt compelled to write this because I recently put myself and Dirty South Yoga on the line for an exciting opportunity that I thought for sure would help me take the festival & community to the next level and was met with a nice but equally disappointing. “No thanks, its not the right fit, maybe next time.”
I could easily start going down the rabbit hole of failures, rejection, and disappointment but really, who wants to listen to that? I certainly don’t! There is a point I want to make, and so I’ll get to it.
There are plenty of failures that could be taken as a sign saying, “Oh well, it’s not meant to be.” Or you might have a more self-preservationist response like, “I didn’t want it anyway.” (I use that one a lot). Usually, in those cases, the best course of action is to let it go and move on.
But then… there are the occasions when moving on just feels wrong. Where the feeling of being rejected clashes head-on with a clenched fist that just can’t seem to let go.
For me, that was Dirty South Yoga Fest. When I look back, I realized that it, too, came out of a failure. When I was first struck with the idea to put on a local yoga festival celebrating all the great yoga happening in Atlanta, I had been working at a well-known yoga clothing company. I originally thought I’d put it on through my work- as it seemed like a natural fit. I pulled together a powerpoint, pitched it to my boss who was enthusiastic and supportive and took it to her bosses on the regional level AND- it was denied.
Stop. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. No. Go. Sorry.
Now, I know it wasn’t personal, my vision just didn’t fit into what they were trying to do and that is ok. But I was still disappointed as I have been many times before. But this time there was something inside of me that said DO IT ANYWAY.
Also fortunately this time I was surrounded by people who echoed and shared that sentiment. I talked to my direct boss about it and she said hell yeah, DO IT ANYWAY. I had a conversation with a supportive family friend and boss-lady business owner who said DO IT ANYWAY. When I finally got up the nerve to put myself out there and DO IT ANYWAY I was blown away by how supportive so many people were.
My point is, you can look at failure as a roadblock and let it stop you and push you to do something else OR you can find a way around the roadblock and do it anyway. You don’t need anyone’s permission or anyone’s approval.
You might need collaborators, or support, or fellow creators- but permission granters NO.
It might take time. It might even take a couple rounds of failure, it might even evolve into something you hadn’t even imagined. But if what you are doing brings you joy and the desire to keep going is there- then, by all means, don’t let someone else’s lack of approval get in your way.
A big factor in my willingness to take the risk and do it anyway was the people who championed me along the way and said yes- go for it- risk failure – give it a try. So it’s my turn to pass along the favor:
Are you an aspiring yoga teacher who hasn’t gotten the go-ahead to teach in a studio yet? Then start offering a class for friends and family on your back porch. Are you an artist stuck at a day job? Then start creating art and selling it on evenings and weekends. Do you have a story you want to tell but have been too afraid to put it out there? Then do it anyway, write a book, make a film, start a blog. If it brings you joy. Do it. Create it. Sing it. Dance it. Don’t let approval get in your way.
No one ever said your passion has to be your vocation AND it’s possible that it can be.
So yes. I AM what failure looks like- and so what?
I may not have gotten the go-ahead from Yoga Journal and it might take me some time, but I know if it’s something that I really want to happen, if it is something that brings me joy, then I will certainly take an epic road trip across the country meeting inspiring yogi’s, telling their story and sharing the practice of yoga in a way that feels inspiring to me. It may look different than I originally envisioned but there is absolutely no approval needed. And a road trip is just the start of what is possible.
So my resolution for 2018 is to up the ante, to step out of my comfort zone to risk being embarrassed, risk getting rejected, to risk REALLY failing. So that one day, I can look back and say yes, I had the courage to look failure in the face and say you don’t define me, to say yes I fell but I got back up and I am still me- just me with a little more life experience.
I know that each and every person has their own life circumstances and that sometimes the season for risk, pushing the limits, getting uncomfortable isn’t right or appropriate. But if you have something that is pulling at your heartstrings, and you know you’ll always wonder if you don’t give it a shot. Then why not let this be the year that you risk failure or maybe even risk your greatest success….
And just in case you really need someones approval. You have my permission right here, right now to go do your thing 😉