All My Failures Weren’t Failures At All

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It all started when I noticed the performers weren’t getting ID’d.

I was at a bar on Vancouver’s Commercial Drive and I was 18, desperate to drink with my 19-year-old friends. We were all out on the town to support my friend M as he did standup comedy. He wasn’t very good yet, but showbiz kids stick together. I ordered an appy and settled in.

Every night featured about seven performers. Pretty much all of them were terrible. They were the entertainment for the night though, so the bar treated them with respect. There were occasional free drinks, and I guess they gave them the benefit of the doubt and assumed they were all 19+. I wanted in on that. I waved the emcee over.

“Hey, can I sign up for next week?”

“Uh, have you done this before?”

“No, but I’m pretty sure I can do what they’re doing.”

“Do you have any material?”

“No, not yet, but I’ll come up with something.”

After ten minutes of needling, he reluctantly gave me a slot. I’d invite my friends too, I thought to myself. They’ve been laughing at my dumb jokes for years. I walked home that night performing for an imaginary crowd. Surely, I was hilarious. This wasn’t even about the drinking anymore. When I was 18, I was about 80% hubris.

*****

I’ll spare you my jokes.

I was 18 at the time, and thought I was WAY funnier than I was. At best, my comedy stylings could be described as “bad”, and at worst, “probably somewhat racist against Koreans”. I was just another terrible performer. I got my drinks though, and I even went up four more times that summer and recycled the same shitty material for new crowds. Only once did I get great laughs. All the other times, I bombed hard. I gave it up, of course, but something started that summer. I learned the confidence I needed to go up in front of strangers and actually speak! Not just that, but FAILING my comedy show so many times made me realize the worst I could do was just piss people off for 10 minutes, and they’d forget all about me afterward. I was putting myself out there, and it was up to them whether they liked me or not. If they did, they’d pay attention – great! – and if they didn’t, they’d just ignore me, and that was fine. The end result was the same: I GOT MY DRINKS!

Even better than that was suddenly losing my fear of public speaking. I’ve now been invited to photo clubs, high schools, and industry events like 20Summit to speak about entrepreneurship and photography. I accept whenever I can. Because my business sense is better than my comedy, I’ve yet to have a bad experience. My failure at comedy led to success as a public speaker!

This is only one example, but I’ve failed at stuff a LOT. I once tried screenwriting. That led to film school, and I don’t even work on film sets anymore. I once tried drumming for a band. Over a decade later, I still struggle with a proper paradiddle. I once tried community theatre. The group imploded after only two productions. I’ve tried, and I’ve tried, and I’ve tried, and I learned a fuckton. Nowadays, I don’t see all those as failures anymore. Rather, they’re all TEMPORARY SUCCESSES that inform my CURRENT GOALS.

Screenwriting taught me how to take a written idea and translate it visually. Drumming for a band taught me how to work and collaborate creatively in a group dynamic. Community theatre taught me how to market my art locally, and how to drum up business for something that people don’t even need. IT WAS ALL USEFUL.

There’s something I want you to take from all this: Try – and fail – often. Seriously. Fail all the fucking time. Fail so spectacularly that insurance companies get involved. Fail, then fail again, then fail again. Try everything you’ve ever wanted to do. Don’t give a shit if you fail. I can guarantee you you’ll learn SOMETHING from it, and it WILL inform your future success. You’re not even failing. You’re taking small, measurable steps toward your next success. The modern day master is a jack of all trades. Anything more complicated can be looked up on YouTube. Hell, I’m trying to be a personal finance blogger. Have you seen how much fucking debt I’m in?!?

What have you always been afraid of trying/failing? Tell us in the comments.

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Prepare for Failure

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As you may recall, I set myself a few goals last month… They didn’t go well.

Am I disheartened? Yeah, a little. Did I fail? Some might say so. Am I giving up? NOT A FUCKING CHANCE, and here’s why.

Using lessons I learned from Jason Bell’s excellent ebook “Agile Timelord”, I now see setbacks as opportunities to reevaluate goals, and I always strive to keep them malleable enough to be achievable. After all, as long as progress is being made, I’m winning. I know setbacks are inevitable, and as long as they don’t derail the spirit of my goals, I can live with them. You kinda have to! You don’t quit an entire diet just because you had a moment of weakness and annihilated 30 McNuggets while drunk. You have to keep going so you don’t die the NEXT time you eat 30 McNuggets while drunk! Discipline can waver. Goals, and the habits that come with them, SHOULD be forever.

I fell short in my goals this month by not reaching 10 alcohol-free days, and not exercising every two days. I found I often liked to have at least one beer after a long workday, but I really don’t have a good excuse for the exercise. I’m just lazy, I guess. The reasoning behind 10 alcohol-free days was I wanted to cut my alcohol expenses down by a third. Seeing as how I somehow spent $1,120.27 on booze in January, I started getting more strict with my alcohol spending. I opened up my September expenses and tallied up the wobbly pops: $571.86. It’s still far more than any reasonable person should spend on alcohol – $19.06/day! – but the point is I’m trying, and I’m actually seeing progress. I can do better, and I will not be derailed. With my exercise, I still strive for one workout every two days, but one workout every three days is also acceptable in a pinch. In my mind, working out every three days allows me to maintain my fitness. Working out every two days is when I’m actually increasing it.

What I’m trying to say is self-development should be flexible. It should be fun, and you should allow for occasional “failures”. The point is to make a habit of continuous progress in a way that’s sustainable. I realized not being able to have even ONE beer after a long workday was making me less happy, so I’ve changed that goal for now. I’m now trying to simply decrease my alcohol consumption by a third, which was the point of the goal anyway. As for my fitness, ANY working out is better than what I was doing before. I kept within the spirit of my goals, even though I needed to reword and rework them! You can set big goals, but it’s more important to make continuous self-improvement a habit. Changing small habits and maintaining them over a lifetime is where real gains are made.

TLDR: Make your goals and habits sustainable, and reevaluate them when needed. It’s one thing to create a sustainable habit for the rest of your life with some flexibility built in. It’s entirely different to set goals so rigid and impossible that it lowers your quality of life and burns you out in three months.

What do you think? Am I off the mark? Am I simply going too easy on myself? Comment below.