Several years ago, I watched an important career door for me slam shut. I'm not going to lie. It definitely stung. And while that door closing had nothing to do with me, I couldn't help but feel like on some level I had failed.
I've failed a lot in my life. I've failed a lot in my career. I've had so many mom fails, there isn't enough space to write them all. And I just consistently make mistakes as a human being. But do you know what's interesting? I've learned to embrace failing.
Let me explain why.
I am a fighter. I'm also a people pleaser. And my #1 love language is "Words of Affirmation." I like to do a good job. An honest and sincere pat on the back can keep me going for days. I want people to see that I'm working hard and giving my all. It's important to me.
So you would think that when I fail, I would totally crumble and fall apart. Don't get me wrong. I cry. I get upset. I get hurt. I'm a normal person who reacts fairly normally to disappointments and failure. And I don't like failing any more than the next person.
But here's where I'm ok with failing. Let's go back to the "I'm a fighter" statement. I don't take things lying down. I fight for the things I want.
Did you know that I was let go from a prominent crafting company? It's true. After a few years with the company making charming little paper pieced figures and icons, they made a huge swing in their design style and hired a fabulous new team which included amazing modern designers you would definitely recognize. The company gave each of the current team a chance to continue with the team if we could alter our style to match their new designers' aesthetics. I certainly tried, but I couldn't quite figure how to go from cutesy to artistic and within months they politely let me go. That wasn't fun. I loved my job and loved my style but suddenly my style wasn't cutting it any more. There went my lovely income. There went my product compensations. And in the process a little bit of my self-esteem got chipped away.
After the initial wave of disappointment and sincere frustration with myself, I realized I could do something about it. I vowed then and there that I would learn to adapt even if I thought a new style or technique didn't quite fit me. I would always watch the trends and try to incorporate at least something into my style so that I would stay relevant and be a good match for any manufacturer looking to hire a dedicated designer.
That attitude has served me well. While it has meant stretching myself creatively, I've been able to continue to work with companies whom I love and respect. I've also learned that I like creative challenges, and I enjoy learning new things about my industry. It was an important lesson, and I'm very grateful for the experience of being fired. From disappointment came a greater desire to improve and adapt, which is important in any industry.
Did you know that my dream job of starting a new company was dashed within weeks of getting hired? This is one failure not many people know about. I was hired by a company to completely run a new business and brand for them. What a challenge! It was a dream come true and would test every ounce of my creativity and talents. As I worked hours and hours to set up the company, and establishing relationships with vendors and team members, the company suddenly chose to go in a different direction. The brand was disbanded within days.
While I completely understood their position and choices, I was left without a job weeks after quitting my previous job, which I also loved. It also meant that I had to personally reach out to the new relationships I had established and let them know we wouldn't be moving forward. It was embarrassing. It was frustrating. And it was very, very sad for me. It was a tough period of time.
It taught me to continue to build myself as a brand and to learn how to act professional in a difficult situation. And it taught me there are more important things in life for me like family and friends (and my friends and family definitely rallied around me).
Did you know I had a boss tell me to my face that I was a "nobody?" Sitting across from this person in a meeting, they rather abruptly shared with me that I was a "no one" in my field and no one recognized who I was. Not particularly needing accolades or distinct recognitions, this still bothered me. It bothered me a lot because the message I got was that I didn't have any significance. (Remember that whole "Words of Affirmation" preference? It goes both ways. I don't like hearing I'm not doing a good job.)
For this one, I got tough and I got determined. While the message he was trying to convey probably wasn't delivered in the most politically correct terms, I did know what he meant. And I was determined to prove him wrong.
So I set out to make a splash. I worked long hours. I did everything I was asked. I improved my relationship with others. I participated in every opportunity that I could to show that I knew what I was doing and could bring something unique and special to the table.
In time, he started to realize that I DID know what I was doing, and that I do have something special to bring to the table. And I was given more opportunities to represent the company.
I could have rolled over and retreated within myself. I could have believed what was said. I could have even quit. But that's not like me. I believe in using actions to show people what I'm made of. I didn't give up, and it's paid off. And I learned that I AM somebody because no one's really a "nobody."
Did you know I had a book title that was pulled from publication at the last minute? After working hundreds of extra hours after my regular 40-hour work week designing, writing, and editing, the title was pulled. Everything had been turned in. Only photography and the publication process was left. The publishing company closed its doors, leaving me without a book and people I cared about without jobs. The economy had more to do with this door closing than anything, but it was so very disappointing as publishing a book has been on my bucket list my entire life.
In this situation, I wasn't ready to let go of the dream so I learned to self-publish electronically. I set up my website to sell the book and classes, and I learned so much about making your own dreams come true. I learned to do some scary, technical things that helped me grow in so many ways.
If you're recovering from failure or in the middle of a failure of your own, what can you do about it?
- Don't give up or give in.
- Give yourself permission to be upset, sad, disappointed, or angry but give yourself a time limit to work through these feelings. Then move forward!
- Dig in and work harder. See if there's something you can do to make the situation better or to find a new situation.
- Don't accept the label of "failure." Turn it into a life lesson or make it work for you.
- Have faith. Have hope. Believe in yourself. Believe that God has something better for you or that He loves you enough to guide you to something that's more right for you. Look for the good in the process despite how painful it might be.
- Believe in yourself. No matter what others tell you or your situation tries to tell you, you DO have meaning and you DO have something special to share. Show them. Show them so brightly that they will never doubt you again. You CAN do this.
So while I've failed more times than I can count. I'm NOT a failure. I'm strong, confident, intelligent and worthy of good things. Sometimes I just have to be the one to make those things happen. You can do that too!