Failure Celebration Week Begins! #failweek

Image by amboo213, available under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Failure Celebration Week Begins! #failweek

Written by Emilie

Topics: Goals

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that there’s no such thing as failure, only feedback.

This is a really common idea in the personal development world and it’s a good rational way of looking back at failure and putting things in perspective.

However, since reading Seth Godin’s book Poke the Box, I’ve been wondering whether there’s a better approach… Sure, the “feedback is failure” method soothes a shattered ego and helps us focus on what matters in the long run, but does it actively encourage us to get back up and fail again? I’m not sure.

Also, isn’t the standard still to strive for success? And doesn’t the celebration of success put a whole lot of pressure on us and make it insanely difficult to start something new?

I Propose an Alternative Approach

How about instead of denying the existence of failure (since it’s “all feedback”), we acknowledge that it exists and embrace it. What if we actually PRAISED people for failing? What if success were measured by ACTION rather than results?

I think that if we all took some time to praise failure and even encourage it on a regular basis, there would be much more experimentation, creativity and innovation in the world.

The more we celebrate failure, the more we’ll all be encouraged to take action. So lets do it. Lets take this week and celebrate our most mortifying, horrific, soul-crushing failures!

I Hereby Declare this Failure Celebration Week!

If you have a blog, I challenge you to write a response to this post: Tell us all about your most spectacular failure and we’ll praise the hell out of it!

If you’re not a blogger, then leave a comment or tweet it out on Twitter (use the hashtag #failweek so that we can give you props on your big flop).

But seriously, lets do this!

***

Other Perspectives on Failure

A few weeks ago, I reached out to some other bloggers to see what they thought of the idea of celebrating failure. I tried to get a range of entrepreneurs involved, some who are perceived as being incredibly successful (i.e. Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby) and others who are just beginning to find success.

I wanted to see how open they were about their most life-shattering moments and how their perspectives on failure varied. I asked each participant to answer the following:

Describe a time when you failed spectacularly.

Derek Sivers

Sivers.org

In one year: (2007)

  • My wife divorced me, and took my life savings.
  • 90% of my company was no longer mine, on a technicality.
  • My apartment was destroyed, so I slept and showered in the warehouse.
  • All my employees, led by my good friend and VP, led a mutiny against me. (I never returned, and never saw them again.)
  • I invested everything I had left in a mutual fund which fell 50% immediately, and never came back.
  • I invested everything I had left in a different mutual fund which also fell 50%, and never came back.
  • The woman I was madly in love with married the guy she would always complain to me about
  • My life had gone so off-track that I sold my company and left the country, just to shake things up.

People congratulate me for selling my company, but don’t realize that selling it was really a huge failure for me.  But at the same time, it was the most successful thing I’ve ever done.

Most failures are like that, in hindsight.

Matt Gartland

Modern Audacity

I quite absentmindedly destroyed my health following my freshman year in college. I was in pursuit of acute self-awareness, indestructible self-confidence, and divine self-empowerment. All meaningful goals to be sure. But the manner in which I pursed them – namely an unhealthy obsession with vanity – torched my greater wellness and wellbeing. I dropped 30 lbs in three months; from 185 to 155 when I was 19.5 years old and 6′ 3″ tall. Yes folks, that’s insane.

The resulting chaos corroded my life for years. I had triggered chronic IBS that drained much of my energy and resolve. And I became ever-anxious around food, not knowing what might ignite another IBS episode.

My failure was quite spectacular. But from the depths of anguish I discovered (rather ironically) what I had been searching for – namely my true motivations and true sense of self. I was able to return to my versatile creativity because, after all, I had to be creative to crawl out of the ditch I had dug for myself.

Ultimately, I succeed in my resurrection. It took seven full years to return to what I deem “good” health. Even better, I’m now a well-educated and highly-experienced healthy lifestyle artist. And today my health (in all aspects) has never been better :)

Mars Dorian

The World Needs You

I remember an event when I was in high school. Everyone was new in class, and me + a friend decided to make a kick-ass party where we would invite EVERYONE in order to introduce each other. We prepared the party for two weeks, snapped a cool location (a loft) and made delicious food.

We even  promoted the “event” for a whole week, telling everyone about the “big thing”.

Well, and on the party night, a whole 5 people showed up. That’s it. 5 fucking people.

One of them was so upset and screamed at me:” Mars, this is the worst party I have EVER been to in my WHOLE life”

I felt miserable. And after the failure, the bad news spread around the entire grade like a wild fire on acid.

#Epicfail.

I felt ashamed for two weeks. But hell, at least I took initiative when everyone was sitting on their fat ass doing NOTHING :)

Colin Wright

Exile Lifestyle

The failure that still makes me cringe when I think about it (despite the – let’s see – 6 or so years since it happened) is when I neglected to have a plan B for a massive concert I was throwing for the second issue of the magazine I founded while in college.

The first event had gone spectacularly, and the expectations were high for this next launch, so we pulled out all the stops. Partnerships were made with the University and with MTV’s Rock the Vote. Sponsorships were accepted from many companies, and we got some of the best bands in the area committed to play.

The event was to take place in the center of downtown, which we had rented out for the occasion, but that morning it started raining and raining and didn’t stop. We had to tear down everything, and though all the radio and TV stations were blaring out promos for it, nothing happened because of the deluge.

I panicked and scrambled to find an indoor location for a few days later, but our PR was spent. We had a total of 2 bands show up (out of 6), and about 4 people in attendance. It was so pathetic.

I wanted to run home and hide in my room forever. My reputation was on the line with all of this, and I just kept thinking about all the money and time and energy so many people had put into this, and because I had failed to think ‘what should we do if it rains?’, it was all wasted. Ugh.

Failure can be a bitch, but at least you never make the same mistake again.

Tyler Tervooren

Advanced Riskology

I spent my whole life up until about a year ago planning to be an architect. I prepared for it in high school. I majored in it in college. I got a job in construction and learned everything I could about buildings. Then, I realized I hated it, and subsequently got laid off from my job. Epic failure! So, I went and became a writer. Go figure.

Tammy Strobel

Rowdy Kittens

I got my bachelor’s degree in economics and loved the program because it was so challenging. When it was time to leave school and get a “real job” I decided to apply for a few positions in the investment management world. I’d already done internships with big investment firms in college, so it seemed like a good idea. Yet, my instinct was telling me not to pursue the position. But I did because my parents and peers said it would be a good for my career.

I ended up getting the job. However, it was an epic failure because it wasn’t something that was interesting or engaging. I spent hours driving to the office and then way too many hours sitting in my cubicle. By the end of the year, I was overweight, drinking too much and really unhappy. In the end, I decided to leave the investment world and pursue my interest in social justice based work. I could have avoided this epic failure if I had listened to my instinct from the start.

Ash Ambirge

The Middle Finger Project

When I was young and fresh out of college, I worked for a couple of years doing marketing and PR.  But I was lucky – I wasn’t just an assistant, but rather worked side-by-side strategizing with a seasoned marketing consultant in order to completely re-brand my company, and expand into a larger market.  I had my hands on everything, and I was in charge of execution on all projects, which was a fantastic experience, because I learned more in a period of 2 years than I ever could have imagined.

So of course, at one point I decided that it was time to strike it out on my own; I felt that I had eventually grown out of my role, and I wanted to tackle new and exciting projects.  So I left my job, and that same day, decided to start Ashley Ambirge Copywriting – my favorite part of the marketing equation.  I was overly confident, and my first mistake was in not being responsible with my financials – while I figured I had plenty of time to build up a client base, I watched my savings dwindle more and more and more, until I didn’t have enough money to pay my $1,000 a month rent.  Ouch.

The second mistake I made was that I had been doing a lot of pro-bono work in order to build my reputation, and somehow, I ended up doing a significant amount of work for the IT industry.  As such, I soon ended up with a reputation in the IT industry, and before I knew it, the majority of my clients were in the IT industry.  And let me tell you what – technical writing was NOT what exactly what I had envisioned.  So much so, that I actually grew to despise it, and by extension, despise my decision to start Ashley Ambirge Copywriting.  Next thing you know, I was caving from the pressure, and instead of finding a new niche and moving forward, I gave it all up in favor of a position selling advertising for a national magazine publication.

I failed brilliantly at my first go as an entrepreneur, thanks to a combination of lack of experience, lack of knowledge, poor planning, and plain old fear.  Fortunately, this time around I knew better.  ;)

Jonathan Mead

Illuminated Mind

I’ve failed over and over again to create my business. First I failed at Google Adsense, then I failed at affiliate promotions. Then I failed at creating a giant launch of my own product. I also failed at coaching.

And now I have a successful coaching business, regularly do five figure launches and wake up excited every day to go to work (down the hall from my bedroom). I would call that pretty spectacular.

Catherine Caine

Cash and Joy and Be Awesome Online

So I started a Big Important Now I Am An Entrepreneur course: 17 modules of video, worksheets and interviews, delivered once a week.

I was six weeks in, with a half-dozen people already having paid over their $597, when I realised that I didn’t really want to run this course any more. The idea of shooting a couple of hours of video every week filled me with horror and despair.

So I shut it down and offered the members one-on-one help instead. And I felt MUCH better.

I learned a lot of things about myself and walked away better off for it. Best failure ever!

Ev Bogue (borrowed from here)

EvBogue.com

The truth is, I failed more times than one during the last year.

I exaggerated headlines. I made shit up. I sometimes grew complacent in the writing. I pretended like my life was more awesome than it was. I even let other peoples opinions of my work, especially close relationships, decide how much of myself I would put into my work.

Sometimes I even let my work plateau, because I wanted to be safe, and because I was making too much money — I knew that a topic would be successful, so I just re-hashed it over and over again, despite the fact that it no longer challenged my own personal edge.

Nathalie Lussier

NathalieLussier.com and Raw Foods Witch

When I first started my business, maybe 6 months in I decided to launch a product. I didn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t have an email list, and I really didn’t plan it very well. What I did have though was the “learning mindset”, so even though the product launch was a total flop (no one signed up and I felt like a failure) I was able to learn and really get ready for doing it the right way. I think the biggest thing is picking yourself up and learning from the failure. My next product launch was a huge success, and kickstarted the business in all ways.

Lachlan Cotter

The Art of Audacity

I’ve screwed up lots of times; quite a few of them publicly. And that can be embarrassing—for a short while. But quite honestly, the only things I would really consider “spectacular” failures are times when I failed to give it a shot and talked myself down from doing something I really needed to do. Most often these things were about putting my heart on the line and being vulnerable to personal rejection. Those are the failures that really ate me up inside and left lasting wounds on my self-esteem. Those are the failures that kept me stuck in the same self-defeating patterns of powerlessness. That kind of punishment is more devastating than any public failure could be.

The real test is not whether you’re successful in accomplishing your goal, but whether you’re successful in beating the fear of failing. When you can beat that fear, success in anything else is pretty much inevitable. When you step up to fear, you grow. When you step back, you shrink. Truth.

Jacob Sokol

Sensophy

I look at most experiences as an opportunity for growth and self-mastery. The world “failure” doesn’t come up much for me. I think that failure is subjective – just like reality, love, and god. We all assign our own meanings to these elusive words and create belief systems based on them.

Okay, so excuse my improper use of this language, but I’m a bit rusty speaking this way. HERE’S FAILURE:

When I published the article “How Tim Ferriss Took Me To a Jets Game with Gary Vaynerchuk” I got a ton of traffic (relative to my blog at the time.) I thought that I’d get a plethora of people to sign up for my newsletter.

Wanna know what percentage of people signed up?! Less than one percent!!! Haha, yo – my free eBook was called “Psychic Reading.” WTF does a psychic reading have to do with living an extraordinary life. Nothing!

I really didn’t dwell on it as failure tho. I just went to work to do what I had to do. The next week Sensophy actually went viral (!!!) and not only was the traffic over 6 times as much as the week before, but the subscription rate itself was 6 times the amount as it was the week before. Screw you failure.

Sid Savara

SidSavara.com and BlogcastFM

I have failed over and over in my life.  I have built and destroyed businesses, lost friends and blown it in relationships with all my emotional chips on the line.

A few years ago I was working on what I believed was a revolutionary Twitter client – something that would change the way companies did business online, and that would make it easier for me and other bloggers to keep in touch with my followers

After spending weeks on the project, it was about 70% done when Hootsuite launched. Hootsuite was better, had outside funding – and with all the coverage they got on major blogs, there was no way I was going to be able to compete to even get a foothold.  Plus, I actually liked Hootsuite – I was happy someone had finally solved the problems I was having with Twitter with all the noise.

I threw in the towel and let go of hundreds of hours of software development – but the experience building software, working with people and making friends with others who had similar twitter frustrations has expanded my network and made me a better software developer.

All the time spent working on creative side projects to make the world better and improve my own skills is never wasted – it’s what prepares me for the next step.

Dirk (“Diggy”) De Bruin

Upgrade Reality

I failed at being good with girls for most of my life. I was good at everything else, sport, school, music…but not with girls. It really had a negative effect on my confidence and self esteem and only when I turned 18 I decided to change my life. I spent the next 4 years going out multiple nights every week and literally approaching hundreds of girls over that period. I used all sorts of lines, routines and methods I learned from books and the internet, and I was a nuisance to all those girls who served as my guinea pigs. Eventually though, they all helped me get to the point where I know I can get a sexy, intelligent girl and I can hookup with a girl almost every night I go out. (Cool feeling).

Corbett Barr

CorbettBarr.com and ThinkTraffic

I failed spectacularly at being an entrepreneur for the better part of six years before I finally made a significant breakthrough. Through that I learned that if you don’t fail at anything you’re doing, you’re probably not pushing yourself hard enough.

Lea Woodward

Location Independant and LeaWoodward.com

During our journey as nomadic location independent entrepreneurs, we “failed” spectacularly several times. There was the time we told family & friends we were moving to Panama, only to leave there after 6 weeks and move on to Buenos Aires. Then there was the time we tried to move to Chiang Mai for a couple of months only to fail at finding accommodation when we arrived and ended up heading back to Phuket.

In fact, we failed spectacularly in our overall quest to find somewhere else to live instead of the UK, since we’re currently back in the UK still trying to figure it out 4+ years later. And from a business perspective, our biggest fail was not promoting our own professional web design & copywriting services to the 2 decent-sized communities and audiences we’d built, for fear of seeming overly-promotional – meaning we did things the really hard way for 3+ years.

Do we regret the spectacular failures? Not one bit (well maybe just a tiny bit) – we wouldn’t have learned half as much if we’d done it all right the first time round and it wouldn’t have been half as fun ;)

Jade Craven

JadeCraven.com

The first time I attempted my final year of high school, I screwed up. It was around the time my anxiety disorder became a full blown one and I just couldn’t concentrate. I passed, but got average marks. I repeated the year and got into the university of my choice.

I had to drop out a year into my degree because the anxiety got so bad I couldn’t leave the house. The embarrassment was huge. I’ve always been the smart kid and not only did I repeat year 12, I dropped out of uni. 3 years wasted and my career apparently down the drain.

The next few years were tough. It involved screwing around with anxiety meds until we found the one that worked (yay effexor!) and then rebuilding all the skills I’d lost. I felt like a complete failure as a person and adult, and didn’t think i’d ever get my life back.

So. 4 years later. I’m still in the recovery phase of anxiety, and I doubt I’ll ever be able to go back to higher education. But you know what? I have a small business that allows me to work within my limitations. I have a boyfriend that I love – and I didn’t think I’d ever be capable of love. I have a home, and friends, and a solid relationship with my family. I fucked up BIG time when I lost control of my life, but I was able to get it all back plus a lot more.

Joel Runyon

Blog of Impossible Things

I fail a lot. One of the more memorable times was when I set out to do 100 pushups. I announced the goal, I gave my self a deadline and when the deadline came, I videotaped myself and posted it on my blog. I wasn’t even close. I failed spectacularly (and there’s video proof too). Failure’s bound to happen on the road to success, but that’s what makes success so much sweeter. I’m inching closer and closer to 100 pushups. I’m not the fastest person in the world to do them, but make no mistake, I will do them.

Emilie Wapnick

Puttylike

Okay, obviously I’m not going to get away with publishing this post without contributing myself. (Gotta walk the walk, as Abe would say.) So here goes:

In 7th grade, my friend and I decided to enter the school talent show. For some reason we thought it would be hilariously funny if we built dance partners out of balloons, dressed them in suits and danced around, with a grand finale culminating in us jumping on them.

As you can imagine, this was not nearly as funny as it sounded in our heads. All the other girls in my class had prepared these very complicated dances with lots of crazy moves and booty shaking. And then my friend and I took the stage and started waltzing to classical music with these ridiculous balloon men. Not only did nobody find it funny, most people, as I found out later, were positively mortified for us.

Your Turn!

Describe a time when you failed spectacularly.

  • Post a comment,
  • Publish a response on your blog,
  • or Tweet about it. Remember to use the hash tag #failweek

(also yesterday was my birthday and your contribution would be the most wonderful bday present ever… just sayin’. ;)

***

Check out the #failweek wrap-up post here.

61 Comments

  1. Morgan says:

    So, of course I was in love with this idea the moment I heard it yesterday. And you have so many people giving their failed experiences, which is that much more of a plus to this experience!

    My failure (I have many, but we’ll just stick with this latest one):

    I know social media. Like, I really, really KNOW social media. I’ve been in this business for the past 10+ years, without even realizing it would one day be a business. So for me, it all came easily. I knew I had what it took to get into the game.

    But I went about it the wrong way. I wanted to charge practically nothing for something that took a great deal of my time. And in the process I thought I was doing something so easy, something that wouldn’t take up very much of my time. But because of that, I realized that I was slacking with my clients, that I was doing great social media for myself, but I was beginning to falter for them.

    I don’t know why it happened, but it hit me: I love social media for ME.

    So, it didn’t pan out. Oh well. I still have my passion that has stuck with me for much longer than social media; voice acting. So my social media business failed, I picked myself up, examined why it failed and have moved on somewhat gracefully. :)

    Thanks for this great post!

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Morgan,

      It’s interesting how sometimes we mistake the enjoyment of a skill with the idea behind the project eh? I used to think I could be a full time web designer, since I really enjoyed building websites for my various bands. Turns out I only like building websites for “causes” I care deeply about. Otherwise I lose my mind from boredom. Now I’m far more selective about who I work with.

      Thanks for contributing your failure. :)

  2. Tracey says:

    Hi Emilie,
    First Happy Belated Birthday. I hope you have a blessed and abundant year.
    Failure for me as been living and making decision from fear. I have tried to make the online business affiliate marketing thing work, no luck as of yet. I am not giving up. Being a scanner and trying to comform and wondering what is wrong with me.
    I now know I am okay and I know I will succeed online. I love Celebrate your Failure week so much I plan to share with my ten year old so that it will enhance her life. Thanks. I get to fail all week. Yay me!
    Glad to have found your blog and be a subscriber.

    • Emilie says:

      Oh wow, that means so much to me that you’re sharing this idea with your daughter. Thank you, I’m touched. And she’s lucky to have a mom with such a wonderful perspective on these things. :)

      Persistence is key, absolutely. You should find plenty of inspiration re: the online marketing arena in the quotes above. Some of those dudes are pretty remarkable digital entrepreneurs and marketers! Most of them started out just where you are and some stayed there for quite a while even. Keep with it and keep embracing your multipotentiality! Yea!

  3. This is so great Emilie. All of your stories were really touching be it they serious or comical. I especially like the way Derek shared his…damn amazing we can go through such bumps in the road and still make our way to the top of the hill.

    Me? Hmm… well, this one time back in middle school I had a HUGE crush on this boy Zach. I liked him so much I made this false screen name on AIM and told him I was his secret admirer. So, we talked and talked and I gave him clues and this thing went on for Months! haha. We weren’t in the same social circles and he was much more popular than me and back then those stereotypes seemed to play such a role.
    Then, one day, something happened and I let it slip and he found out it was ME! All his friends found out…everyone knew! I was mortified!!!!
    If it were a movie we of cousre would have fallen in love and had a brief fling and gone to the prom where we’d all knolw the same choreography, but instead, I was just the blunt of a joke haha.

    What did I learn – Be myself, don’t have crushes assholes, don’t be afraid to be me, don’t lie, don’t be stupid, don’t use AIM to flirt with boys haha.

    CHEERS TO FAILING!!!!!

    PS = I would have cheered you on waltz or nothing! haha :-P

    • Emilie says:

      Aww this is an adorable story Lauren, and one I can totally relate to! I’ve made a fool of myself trying to win over people I had crushes on many many times- from baking cookies to sewing Hawaiian shirts to sending anonymous letters. Brutal lessons, learned over and over again. Hah..

      Cheers indeed!!!

  4. Rami says:

    Hey Em,

    My greatest failure is a hard truth that took me a long time to come to terms with.

    Here it is: I didn’t follow any of my dreams in the last 8 years, out of fear. I never became a writer. I never started an awesome website. I never talked to beautiful girls. I never worked out. I never accomplished the things I wanted to.

    It was awful when it finally hit me last year. I woke up one day and realized I was 26 years old, and coasting through life without accomplishing anything meaningful.

    The good news? Once I realized this, I took action. Within three months, I had taken lessons from one of the world’s greatest pickup artists in order to meet beautiful women. Within 6 months, I started writing a script with a wonderful and inspiring friend. Within 7 months, I was working out at the gym, and 3 months later reached my muscle building goal. And within 9 months, I started working on a website, which as you know is going to be launched in a week!

    All in all, I’d say failing was the kick in the ass I needed to get moving. The important thing is to realize you’re failing though. If you don’t, you might never escape the limbo it brings on :D

    • Emilie says:

      You’re amazing Rami. I’m honestly so impressed by what you’ve done in your life and the amount of personal power you possess. I love your ability to take action continuously to improve your life.

      All those years of failure prepared you for being the kind of person who now leads and initiates. I’m so thrilled to be working with you and I cannot WAIT for your launch next week! I’ll be spreading the word like the proud coach that I am. :)

  5. This is an awesome idea – contemplating on my fail moment now..

  6. Jen says:

    Let’s see, we could talk about the few occasions when I finally got the nerve to ask a guy I liked out and was rejected. Or we could talk about that time in college when I went from being Valedictorian to academic probation and nearly flunking out of school. Twice. Because I couldn’t admit I wasn’t wired for what I was studying.

    Or most recently, and perhaps most spectacularly, finding out how much I suck at working a regular 9-5 job I hate and the subsequent layoff. What I have rarely admitted to anyone is that I’m pretty sure they laid me off because I looked horrified every time they asked me to do something I had never done before. It wasn’t because the work was particularly difficult (I’m pretty good at figuring out things I don’t know how to do if I want), but it was so tedious and so mind-numbingly boring and I hated the work so much that no amount of positive self-talk could get me motivated. I dragged my feet on every assignment. And I hated myself for it, because I wanted to have more integrity with my job.

    When they laid me off (read: put me out of my misery), they said it wasn’t personal; they were happy with my work, but couldn’t afford me. However, they’re not stupid people, so I’m guessing they were just being kind. I’m pretty sure we both knew I wasn’t producing anything worthwhile. Even if I’m not proud of this fail, I was relieved to get laid off.

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Jen,

      Sometimes failure is an awesome way to learn what you’re not wired to do. Law school was like that for me. I could TOTALLY view my choice to not take the bar exam or even try being a lawyer after 3.5 years of law school as an immense failure (I’m sure some of my classmates view it that way)! But I just think, thank god! What a freakin’ blessing!

  7. ayngelina says:

    Wow love this post idea Emilie. Some of the posts are so raw, I really appreciate the honesty.

    I once coached junior high soccer. The boys were early teenagers, rowdy and it was hard to keep their focus.

    One day I was so frustrated I thought if I end the practice now, just walk out, they’ll see I’m serious and start paying attention.

    It totally bombed. The boys thought I wasn’t serious and not committed to the team. It took weeks to build up their trust again. It was the worst coaching experience ever, but actually I did learn a lot from it that helped when I managed people in my corporate life. But at that moment I realized I really fucked up.

    • Emilie says:

      Ouch! Brutal… I Love it.

      Eek rowdy teenage boys. Guess you got the psychology wrong there… But that group would baffle me too!

      • Ayngelina says:

        Teenage boys are tough but I realize that EVERYONE wants to believe they have unconditional support.

        This post made me think of all the other failures I had hidden in the back corners of my memory – oh the horror :)

  8. Annie says:

    Woah, hi Lach! *waves from America*

    My biggest epic fail was probably when I started up a website in 2010 trying to earn some money. I was so psyched about it, thought I would be set for life, spent all my time and money on it… and spiraled into misery.

    I tried to cling onto one unprofitable topic that I didn’t even enjoy writing about, and my scanner nature definitely took advantage of me when I got into other interests.

    But now I’m trying it all over again, with something I know will be self-sustaining, will interest me for years to come, and will get me out in the creative world.

    Failure? Not so bad. ;)

    • Emilie says:

      Nice! I too tried the niche marketing thing briefly. It lasted for about a week before I wanted to chop off my fingers. But thank god I didn’t give up on digital entrepreneurship! I just found a more multipotentialistic way of doing it. :)

  9. Joel says:

    Crazy to see how so many people we view as incredibly “successful” also tend to have some incredible failure. I love this idea Emilie. Thanks for putting it together!

    • Emilie says:

      I know, right?! It was so eye-opening to receive all those responses.

      Thanks for your contribution Joel. Your video was painful to watch, but so impressive!

  10. Holli says:

    Happy Birthday! I hope you had a delightful day, and super awesome year:)

    I really love all the examples and the willingness of other bloggers to share their story.

    Failure moment: This is really a cool story because it ends happily. I have thought about other failures I could share, but hopefully this one will put a smile on your or other readers’ faces.

    I was a Community College student at 17 year old. I was the geeky art girl who was new in town. Our family had moved in during the summer, just before school started. So, I didn’t know very many people.

    In my Video Production 100 class, we had to create a music video in a team of 5 students. I was the self-elected Producer/Director. I had just met a cool guy from the local High School who was part of a 14 member Swing Band. I arranged for 3 of them to perform for our “music video project” to be filmed in a few days. I didn’t put anything in writing, but arranged this in person, verbally.

    The day came, my classmates and I set everything up in our studio (we had allotted an hour to use the studio), and waited for the musicians to arrive. Ten, fifteen, then thirty minutes rolled by with no musicians. Everyone was looking at me, getting cranky and impatient. So, I went onto campus looking for the guys (it was a small campus). I could not find them anywhere and felt like an EPIC Failure. Then, it dawned on me to start looking for someone doing anything worth filming. I knew I had seen a few guys playing their acoustic guitars…
    I spotted one such guy, surrounded by a circle of girls. I had seen him before. He was usually surrounded by girls, and a handful of guys. He was the classic surfer boy with chiseled good looks and sandy blond hair. Fighting my fear of rejection and just plain awkwardness, I walked right up to him and kinda begged him to come immediately to play his guitar for my team to film. The girls encouraged him, and he did just that. We only needed five minutes of footage, and we had just enough time to get it for the project.

    My Professor was so impressed. My team mates didn’t hate me. Our final product earned and A.

    And the boy? We became best friends. And, I learned to surf.

    If that failure moment hadn’t happened, I never would have fought my fear of talking to him.

    • Emilie says:

      That’s amazing! You should turn it into a short film. :)

      It’s great how sometimes those moments that could be complete disasters are the ones that force us to step up and be our most courageous. Sort of reminds me of Krista’s story in last week’s podcast episode about being hit with the bottle cap on stage.

      That’s why I feel like if you’re ever feeling insecure, the best thing you can do is fight the urge to cower in a corner, and instead put yourself in a situation that requires you to step up, like raising your hand in class or talking to an attractive stranger. It’s hard to do, but it can also make you feel awesome.

      Thanks for the story Holli!

      • Holli says:

        Thanks, I had never thought of it being a short before:)

        Yeah, I really loved hearing how Krista turned that moment over into something GREAT. The best part was her overhearing the “culprit” confess it wasn’t cool.

        Sadly, this fun story ended with a broken heart in the very end of the friendship…such is life.

  11. Shenee says:

    Girl, all I do is fail, fail, fail. But I don’t see it that way. I experiment a lot because I am one of those people who needs their hands on every experience to really learn from it. But so far, entepreneaurship has been one experience (fail) after the other and I just get up, brush my digital shirt off and go hard all over again. : )

    • Emilie says:

      And I have no doubt that that is why you will eventually crush it Shenee! If the entrepreneurial “failures” in my sample are any indication, failure in this world is simply a right of passage.

      Keep rocking it! I love everything you do.

  12. Lora Frost says:

    “What if success were measured by ACTION rather than results?”

    Yes! Yes! Yes! This is the key.

    Over and over again I have had many failings, too many to share really, however if you have the courage to pick yourself up again, or pick up the phone and make that call, or perhaps it’s just getting out of bed that day, it’s the ACTION that matters.

    And persistence!

  13. Andy Hayes says:

    Loved this. Great perspectives – maybe we should make failure celebration a regular feature? :)

  14. Tessa Zeng says:

    Emilie, that dance with balloon people actually sounds UNBELIEVABLY awesome, haha. Typical booty shaking is so overrated. I totally would have laughed if I were there- and not at you, either!

    Incredible post. I love the business entwined with personal failures- I think the MOST interesting thing for me is seeing how people define failure! Definitely not always conventional :D

    Ok so. My most spectacular failure… gosh, so many, haha. But I have a pretty epic event fail, too. I was working on the philosophy thesis that led to my site now, and decided that before I left school, I would go out with a BANG- so I gathered about a dozen passionate like-minded creators at school and declared we were going to do a series of PARADIGM-SHIFTING exhibitions on campus. People seemed really into it and I was totally sure that it was possible and I was already doing it with my breakthroughs in fashion design.

    …except that I was *barely* getting started with experience design in theory, much less application…and completely overestimated my time considering I was taking a full class load and getting my website off the ground. I ended up not even being able to get appropriate venue permission for my OWN show! Not to mention that no one was coming to my planning sessions anymore, having either lost interest or were setting up their own projects as usual anyway (probably for the best!) And before I knew it, it came time to leave. I guess I can always go back next year and dazzle them with ‘This is Not A Fashion Show,’ right?

    • Emilie says:

      Ah awesome. Nice failure!

      I have that problem of taking on too many commitments too. It’s definitely been the cause of many of my past failures. Funny, I hadn’t thought of it that way. But it’s totally true.

      Haha Tessa, we might just have to recreate the balloon dance waltz in Portland. I wonder if Chris has come up with an after party idea yet… balloon waltz dance-a-thon? :P

      I’m pushing for karaoke though, which I believe would achieve the desired result (hilarity) and might be less complicated…

      Thanks for sharing!

  15. Eleanor says:

    God I love the idea of #failweek. In honor, I’ve published a post articulating a spectacularly stupid idea I had. One that if put into action, would quite possible fail, flames and all. You are welcome to point out what’s wrong with it in the spirit of helping me learn more!

    http://eleanordowling.wordpress.com/2011/04/05/2012-on-twitter-a-spectacularly-stupid-idea-for-failweek/

    Thanks again to Emilie, who has been an overwhelming source of inspiration and comfort and the same time!

    • Emilie says:

      I love it Eleanor! I left my comments on your post.

      Thanks for contributing!

      • Emilie says:

        err I tried to leave my comments, but your server gave me an error message (#FAILWEEK!!!)

        Here are my thoughts:

        I think this is brilliant! (as Jen said, you definitely failed at #failweek. ;)

        You know what you should do? You should start a website and Kickstarter campaign. You could almost copy and paste this verbatim. Throw in a quick video of you explaining the project with the enthusiasm that you obviously feel, and you’re good to go.

        And if you don’t reach your financial goal then you’ll REALLY be a failure (and can therefore celebrate).

        Go for it Eleanor! You get THIS failure’s stamp of approval. :)

        • Eleanor says:

          I just approved your comment on my blog, so it should be visible, but thanks for posting your comments here too! Redundant is good :)

          You know what, I’m seriously tempted to do what you suggested with a Kickstarter campaign. To be honest, I’m SO freaking curious if anyone (besides the awesome Puttylike community) would find this idea interesting, and would be willing to support it or get involved.

          Ok, I think i’m gonna do it! I’m nervous now!

  16. Jacob Sokol says:

    Hey Em… You did a *great* job with this!! Congratz on continuing to pick up momentum… I’m excited to see the seeds your planting sprout into juicy aromatic fruits!

  17. Happy to share my failure…

    I tried stand-up comedy for just the second time last night. I was actually pretty happy with how it went, felt comfortable up there, got some good laughs. I definitely didn’t fail, got lots of kudos afterwards.

    But I want to flash back to my first attempt at stand-up a few months ago. That didn’t go so well. In fact, I failed pretty miserably. I was obviously nervous, my jokes fell flat, I couldn’t wait to get off stage and disappear into a dark hole somewhere.

    But without putting myself out there and enduring that first failure, I know that last night wouldn’t have gone so well.

    Fail on, folks!

    • Emilie says:

      Nice one Niall! It’s so painful watching a comedian crash and burn. But congrats on getting up there and trying again! That is most awesome.

      In tomorrow’s podcast episode, we talk a lot about the idea that before “intelligent action” comes plain old action. You should swing back over here and check it out. :)

      Thanks for sharing. Post some of your stand up online sometime!

  18. Lex Mosgrove says:

    Speaking of failure, I failed at coming up with a worthy failure to write about until now (double fail? o.O ) – there were just too many and none seemed of enough consequence, or enough my own fault to be rightfully claimed as my failures.

    Then it hit me like a freight train from hell at top speed, just some minutes ago.

    The thing is, I could easily make much faster progress, and get better results, with my current projects than I actually do, but until now I had no idea why things went so slow. As it turns out, I was trying to cram highly creative work in a highly individual niche in the framework of a 9-5 job.

    And why?

    For a single, completely batshit reason – because people might think I wasn’t really working if I didn’t do so on a fixed schedule and preferrably during the day when everyone else works as well (note that I’m most creative during the late evening and first half of the night).

    As if anyone would see me sitting at my desk in my room and count the hours. As if it was anyone’s business when and how much I work (for the record, even I have no idea how many hours I put into these projects, I roughly estimate it at an average of 60 hours per week, probably more – haven’t seen a day off in a while either).

    Yeah, self-esteem fail.

    • Eleanor says:

      Hi Lex,

      First off, I LOVE this line “Then it hit me like a freight train from hell at top speed.” :)

      And second, I’ve grappled with the same self-esteem fail about people not thinking you’re actually working if you don’t obviously show that you are. I occasionally work from home for my 9-5 job and I have purposefully sent emails at 5:09pm, 5:15pm, etc, just so if anyone is wondering if I’m actually working (and not slacking off early), they can see that I am by the timestamp on the email.

      I hate that I do this, but I can’t get over the…need? to prove that “yes, I am working, SEE!!!”

      Anyways, just wanted to say that I hear ya.

      • Lex Mosgrove says:

        Haha, thanks. I love writing lines like that. They conjure up interesting pictures in my mind. :P

        It’s weird, isn’t it? I could at least somewhat understand it if I had a 9-5 job like you do, but I don’t (never had, so it’s not a left-over bad habit either) – I’m just doing my own thing, so there’s really no one checking.
        I wouldn’t even care that much if I wasn’t burning myself out this way, and delaying my projects. (Also, it’s a practise-what-you-preach fail in my case.)

        BTW, I jumped over to your blog for a quick look at your Spectacularly Stupid Idea, and I love it! :D

      • Emilie says:

        Hey Lex and Eleanor,

        I hear ya! I think it’s the plight of the beginner self-employed, feeling like we must prove ourselves, even if only to ourselves… It’s strange.

        I wrote a much longer response on your blog Lex. I think it’s great that you were able to share a current failure, not just something long in your past that you learned from. That’s awesome, and it takes guts.

  19. Seth says:

    Hey Emilie, talk about an epic post. I’m starting to think of the types of failure as points on a spectrum.

    On one end, there’s the really shameful failure that involves not trying, of passively accepting all kinds of suck, of indecisiveness, and of talking about stuff but never actually doing it.

    On the other end, there’s the kind of failure that involves quitting your job, moving around the world, and starting a big project, only to be derailed by something else (which eventually leads you to the next thing, etc).

    In between sits most everything else.

    Nearly all the wonderful people you profiled here described failures that required action and effort. These are the best kinds of failures because, as you mentioned, failure gives us feedback and moves us forward.

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Seth,

      I thought about this a lot as I was receiving my responses. People define failure in very different ways. Like you, my favourite kind of failure is the kind where you go for what you want, take massive action, risk something and fall on your face. This is the kind of failure I believe we should be encouraging.

      I’ve had so much fun this week. It’s amazing how big #failweek got. I wasn’t expecting that! but I guess failure is something we can all relate to. Looking forward to writing my round-up/reflection post this weekend.

      Thanks so much for your comment and response post Seth. :)

  20. Tom says:

    “I think that if we all took some time to praise failure and even encourage it on a regular basis, there would be much more experimentation, creativity and innovation in the world.”

    Wow, that’s a REALLY powerful point.

    Your balloon men story really made me laugh out loud and reminds me of a similar fail. I was 11 and me and two friends sang ‘Blue’ by Eiffel 65 at a school talent show. With no backing music. And LAME dance moves.

    This was before just before shows such as American Idol had funny auditions, so it wasn’t even ironic – we genuinely thought it would be good. Still…time can make these fails seem funny, and now looking back, I praise myself for having the guts to go up and do something like that.

  21. Stella says:

    Emilie, as part of #failweek, I wrote a post on some of my glorious failures. Come check it out and let me know what you think! http://bit.ly/fSip63 Thanks for making it happen.

  22. Baker Lawley says:

    I’ve been loving this post for a whole week, following along with everybody’s comments. It inspired me so much that I put a failweek post up at my own site–here it is:
    http://www.catfishparade.com/how-to-be-a-badass-failure

    But that was only one. I fail all the time, every day. Here’s some more.
    One time I asked a girl, who I was friends with, if she wanted to start daing and she said, “Uh…I kind of like things how they already are.”

    I sported a “butt cut” hairstyle for sixth through eighth grade. Parted right down the middle, feathered with mousse. Oh yeah.

    I took an amazing trip to Italy with my brother, but instead of enjoying a great time together, I started an argument that lasted for two days, over cheap wine.

    But I learn much better from failing than anything else. What I really hate are failures of mine that came about from not even trying. Like these:
    I once didn’t ask out a girl I really liked because I was sure this other guy would make fun of me.

    I never played in a band, because I thought people might boo me.

    I never went out for Little League baseball because I was sure I’d get put on the team with this other kid who played the position I wanted (catcher, because of all the cool gear you get to wear).

    Those are even worse as failures because I never even gave myself the chance to fail–I just accepted failure as the better option over trying/possibly succeeding!

    Thanks so much for the great idea of Failure Celebration Week, Emilie! Thanks to you, the internet is now more awesome than it was before.

    • Emilie says:

      Aw thanks Baker! I loved your post and your list here. I also very much agree that the times you don’t even try for fear of failure are the worst failures of all.

      What you wrote reminds me of something Dan Savage says to people who are afraid to ask out the person they like. He says that what they’re doing is choosing the certainty of failure over the risk of failure. It’s incredible how we choose certainty over risk. It’s like we have more control that way… Except the regret is haunting, like for YEARS afterward! I’ve learned that it’s way better to take the risk and get rejected. I try to push myself to do that now.

      I love your “Uh…I kind of like things how they already are.” story. :) I have a very similar one myself. Actually it’s worse. I think the response was something like “Oh… (long pause) Should we go back inside now?” LOL the epic Halloween night of 2008…

      Thanks for your comment and the awesome post Baker!

  23. wow! Everyone here has failed at something.

    I am more drawn to Jonathan, who failed at Google Adsense and affiliate marketing. That is exactly the spot I am now.

    My Epic fail.
    * Went to The University to study a course I would never practice. I got a bachelor degree in Education, but hate teaching the course (Physics).
    * Here now, I am now Failing at lunching an online Business. I have failed to get comment on my blog, failed at getting a good design for my blog, failed at updating the blog weekly.

    Am on a journey to curate and design those failures so as to break even at it. I have had certain successes guest blogging, successful blogs like my insight and approach me for write up, local news papers found my blog and writing and want me to write in local traditional news papers.

    I am currently killing perfection and failing more, the more I failed the better I see what needs to be done to get better, like a change of strategy. I have my ultimate Goal in view and failing forward towards it ;-)

    Thanks for this Emilie. <3

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Jesse,

      I’m glad you could relate to the “failures” in my post. When it comes to internet business, you certainly are persistent! I bet you’re learning a hell of a lot through your failures too.

      Great stuff. Thanks for the comment.

  24. Angela says:

    This is a great collection of stories showing how successful people fail just like the rest of us. It all depends on how we see the failure, as either mortifying or something to learn from.

    I had a pretty big fail a few weeks ago. I decided I wanted to exercise more so I bought a bicycle. Things went well for a few days, I would ride my bicycle part of the way to and from work. Thing is my muscles didn’t like the sudden new strain, and some of them gave out on me. I ended up spraining a lower back muscle and a leg muscle. I missed a few days of work because I couldn’t sit or stand up. Even now, a few weeks later, I’m not walking right and can’t seem to stand up very easily. I’ll be getting back on that bicycle once I’m better, but I’ve learned to not be so anxious and take it easy at first. I can be so darn impatient.

    • Emilie says:

      Ah I have a similar story that just happened to me. I busted my foot last week from wearing my beat up Vans instead of buying shoes with proper support.

      I should have known better… I have notoriously bad arches. I even fractured my foot for no apparent reason (other than wearing converse and nothing else) a couple years ago and had to walk around with a giant hideous boot and go to 6 months of physio therapy! All from wearing shoes with poor support.

      So it was really stupid what I did last week. Anyway, I started wearing my (ugly) good support sneakers, rested the foot and did some strengthening exercises and am now feeling better, but it could have been really bad. Not being able to walk SUCKS!

      Bike’s are awesome. Once you heal, get back up there… Just go more gradually this time. :)

  25. I’m sad I missed Failure week, but I’ll post anyways.

    Two months ago I resigned from a job because I felt like I was being bullied by my boss and no one wanted to do anything about it. I had tried my best to work with my employers, but it wasn’t getting better only worse. I deliberated and worked with them, under high stress conditions, for over two months. I was so unhappy where I was that I every time I smiled I knew it was fake. I had started drinking every evening, and almost never saw my friends anymore. I was isolating myself. I had pains in my rib cage which made me feel like I was straining my heart, and I had gone into physical therapy to deal with a serious issues regarding my knees. Going into physical therapy meant a break from any physical activity as I recovered. I’m an avid soccer player, so this last part seriously made my life empty.

    My entire blog right now is about the failure in my life, and how I’m recovering from it by learning how to program in Python. Without this serious change, and the courage to choose trying self employment, I don’t know if I would be as happy as I am now. I still have days when depression hits hard, and I have trouble leaving my bed. But if I hadn’t taken this time to take care of myself and change what was making me so unhappy, I don’t know where I would be. It frightens me to think on it.

    • Emilie says:

      Wow, inspiring story Rachael! There’s something about hitting rock bottom… It can sometimes really make for a fantastic catalyst for turning your life around. Even then though, there are some things that stick with us and come up again from time to time. From what I understand, depression is like that.

      But really, good for you, turning your pain into something positive. I love the concept of your blog! Very original, combining those two parts of yourself.

      Thanks for sharing Rachael.

  26. Kerilyn says:

    Can I just tell you something? This post must be seriously a gift to me today because I have been having the greatest amount of anxiety about failing at this project that I’m working on at the 9-5.. that all weekend, I barely had the energy to leave the house (I basically didn’t) The thought of “What will it say about me if I mess this up?” has paralyzed me this weekend actually…if I look back on it.. for a LONG time now.

    Never feeling like I was in the right industry for me, I’ve felt the discomfort of shoving a square peg into a round hole for years now, and am just about to break out of that attempt, hopefully (fingers crossed) once and for all.

    Your post and subsequent comments/examples of others alleged failures, makes me feel SO much better. I laugh as I thought this weekend that I am the only one that feels like this…. a big failure in my career and in attempting to find my purpose, seeing and reading this makes me feel better that I, in fact, am not the only one. Thank Goodness.

    Thank you all for sharing your stories. For helping this girl out
    @marriedtoachef

    • Emilie says:

      Aw thank you, Kerilyn! It’s so nice to see this post revived. Failure week was such a revelation for me too.

      Good luck, and congrats in advance!! And yeah, when it comes to “failure”, you’re definitely not alone. :)

  27. iva says:

    I am always trying new things… OBVIOUSLY!!! a few years back I patented “leg protectors” this is made for girls (or anyone with chubby legs that wears a skirt) that when we walk, our inner thighs seem to rub against each other, making it terrible uncomfortable to wear a skirt!!! truth is, i have been procrastinating the commercialization of this product… seems way too big for me to handle and I called it a failure!! :(
    but hey, i learned how patent, went thru the process… and kept some for myself… i have chubby legs so have made good use of them :)

  28. werkbladen says:

    Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.

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