Learning to Fail
Updated: Dec 12, 2018
When failure leads to your greatest success.
Failure always just felt like failure to me.
It didn’t feel like growth. It didn’t feel like “the road to success”: it felt like failure and it didn’t feel very nice.
You’ve probably heard a hundred quotes on failing, all to the tune of, “failure is a stepping stone to success.” Do you roll your eyes at them like I did? Only recently, after what can only be considered a lifetime of undulating waves of failures, did my perspective change.
Me and co-creator of the show Girls vs. The City, Brynn Peebles, were asked in a podcast interview what our biggest failure had been. I wasn’t very keen on answering this question, mainly because I felt like I had so many to choose from that I didn’t know where to start.
But Brynn, quite simply, explained that our biggest failure had undoubtedly lead to the success of our show; and she was absolutely right.
When we were given one of the 30 grants for Telus Storyhive’s Web Series edition in 2016 to make a pilot, we were ecstatic. We had spent many years talking about creating a show that had more of a narrative. Up until that point we had made videos of us sitting on a couch and edited themselves using a heck of a lot of jump cuts. When we were given 10K to make a narrative short, wheels were set in motion.
We learned a lot in creating that pilot; about writing, about working with and managing people and about our abilities. I don’t think we really knew what we were capable of until we were forced into it. And yes, that came with much exhaustion, immense doubt and many tears.
Once the pilot was complete, the next phase of voting began. For those of you who are not familiar, part of the Storyhive process includes getting votes from the community. We had already gone through one round of this to get our initial grant and we were now in the running to win an additional 50K to create five more episodes. We thought we had a pretty good chance, since we already had a decent following from our YouTube channel and our pilot had gotten a positive response.
When the day came to announce the winner of the grand prize, Brynn and I had decided that no matter the outcome, we would somehow get the rest of the season made. But, 50K would really help. We didn’t win. Our good friends over at Inconceivable won, and very deservedly so.
But it was still hard. And as much as we were proud of ourselves for what we had made, it still felt like a failure to me. But we had made the commitment to continue with the series, so we started looking at other options. We eventually launched a Kickstarter campaign, asking for a modest 5K to make the season. We figured that was the absolute minimum we could make the season for, if everyone was volunteering.
The idea of asking people to volunteer their time, searching out locations that we could use for free or cheap, while also doing the jobs of about 14 people was intimidating. Many of our friends were working in the industry, making industry rates or running their own production companies and the idea of asking them to work for free was scary.
But we had no other choice, so we did. And they said yes.
Then people we didn’t know started to get in touch, saying they had seen the pilot and they wanted to get involved. They wanted to volunteer because they wanted to be a part of our project. This continued and we made a season on about 5500 dollars.
We worked our butts off (as did everyone involved) and didn’t make a penny; and there was nothing that I’ve done that has ever felt better. The most satisfying part was that we set the intention that our team would be comprised of people who really wanted to be there and we wanted to have fun, because it was a comedy, after all. If no one was getting paid, we might as well make it a party.
We finished the season with a team of people that felt the most like a team I’ve ever encountered. Yes, we were all tired and relieved that the madness was over, but every person there, at least to us, felt invested in this; our dream.
Not only did the team of crew and actors feel like they were a part of something rare, but we had also gained the support of all the people who donated to our Kickstarter campaign on board. They too, were just as much a part of the team, because without them, none of it would have even happened. What we had now, was an expanding team of supporters who loved the show and wanted to share it.
I’m not sure that would have had the same magic if we hadn’t had to work so hard for it and get so many people’s valuable time and money involved. That felt like success: a sweeter success.
But that perspective changed things for me. There are infinite possibilities as to how things are going to look. What matters is how we take it, our attitude around it and keeping in mind what is most important (and that can be different for every person).
For us, it was getting the thing made. We did it despite our circumstances because we had no other choice. The only other choice was to not take action, which is a different form of failure; one that is far more detrimental than trying something and it not going the way you think it will. Because, isn’t that all failure is? When it’s put like that, who really cares whether you fail or not? It’s just taking a step and your foot landing in a different spot than you thought it would. I’m not sure about you, but I think I would get bored if I always knew exactly how everything was going to go.
That’s not to say I don’t still feel defeated sometimes, wishing things were different than they are. I think that’s a human condition. Failure hurts sometimes, absolutely. There is no minimizing that. Especially when you put your heart into something.
But try this: when you fail, or when things turn out differently than you thought, be open to the perspective that you can relax a little. Some energy out there, the universe or whatever you believe, knows what’s best for you. If you try something and it doesn’t work, thank the universe for saving you from that. From, what could be, hours and hours of energy into something that’s not meant for you.
If you take on this new perspective, then every failure is a win: it’s a time you can relax a little more into the flow of your inevitable path. This trust can make every move a failure (aka a win) and doesn’t that sound better than not moving at all?