I received an email from Kayte Ferris from Simple & Season earlier this month entitled “Failure is a different type of success.”
In it Kayte wrote this:
I don’t care how much you believe in creating your own definition of success, this all or nothing approach gets us all at some stage, creeping up behind you with the chloroform.
I think this is because we never see another kind of success. We hear it talked about on podcasts and in blog posts where the author smugly writes about how they redefined success for themselves, but we never hear them give specifics. We hear a lot of theory, not much practice.
We see the brags (humble or not so) about sell out launches, we see the piles of packages ready for the post run, we see the bestsellers. But where are the people gleefully declaring their increase in sales by one? The people booking out 50% of their courses? The person who made less money this week but measured success by the time they spent walking?
My immediate reaction was to get defensive on reading this. I have written quite a lot about my version of success on the blog and bring it up as a topic with many people, as well as including it now in my Flourishing Entrepreneurs interviews. I think it’s a really important topic and one that many people don’t give enough time and thought to.
I felt quite hurt that apparently talking about my version of success wasn’t enough.
But as I read on I understood Kayte’s point. We see so many people talking about the amazing things going on in their business, when do we hear about people just doing mediocre? Celebrating an increase of any size? When do people shout from the roof tops about messing things up? Or failing spectacularly after putting in loads of time and effort into something?
It’s super vulnerable to share those things but I decided this would be a really good exercise.
So I’m here today to give you 3 things that I’ve ‘failed’ at recently, in the hopes that it will encourage you to reassess your ‘failures’ and reframe them in a more positive light.
We didn’t sell out The Reset in October 2018
There. I said it. Not everything sells out. Especially when you’re getting started. And yes that has resulted in sleepless nights, tears, panic about cancellation and deep questioning about why we’re doing what we’re doing and if there is any point continuing.
From our less-than-one-year running two retreats it turns out it’s hard work to keep showing up, spreading the word, reaching the right people and continually telling people the value and benefit of what you’re offering.
I love it when I meet people and hear them say “wow, The Reset seems to be flying!” I need to spend more time taking that in, and feeling like yes we are flying. Because we are in so many ways.
We sold 9 spaces on our October retreat to women who really loved the experience. They got a lot from it and gave us wonderful feedback. We had fabulous conversations, shared tips and ideas and really made the most of the time and space we had together.
We’re aware of other people that have put retreats on sale and then quietly removed them when their sales targets haven’t been met. We know we’re already doing better than many and need to celebrate what we do have, not what we don’t.
Selling any spaces at all takes a lot of hard work and planning which most people don’t see. Or perhaps they choose not to see when they look at your ‘success.’ But it’s the truth.
I made an inedible vegan cake for dessert at my Supper Club
Our Supper Club this month was a huge success. I loved the group we brought together, the chats that we had, the connections I’ve made and the endless possibilities this kind of forum offers me for the future.
But it also taught me a lot about cooking for large groups. I’ve always known it is a challenge having assisted Ceri at Natural Kitchen Adventures on two retreats now, and also watching Sinead from Delalicious so capably serve up amazing food at The Reset this year. Doing it single handedly without any practise on some of the dishes (error!) for our Supper Club was a real eye-opener.
The lovely Lea from Rosemary & Robert who attended Supper Club is Coeliac and vegan. I tried three different cakes to suit her dietary requirements, frantically trying to find something that worked in the morning of the event after a failed packet mix which I thought would save me.
In the end I served Lea a slice that had risen and looked like a decent cake. But I didn’t try it first, and apparently it was inedible. Too much baking powder and soda. She politely ate it that evening but I was caught out when my co-host Charlotte served it to family the next day!
Supper Club was out of my comfort zone in terms of catering for 10. But I learned so much from doing it. I need to work on my presentation skills across all dishes (there’s a reason there are very few pictures of the food available!) and I need to test every single recipe before I make it on the day. Probably twice.
But if I hadn’t done it I wouldn’t be where I am now, excitingly planning four more Supper Clubs next year, with their own name, design and curated guest list. That’s awesome.
I launched a course that totally flopped
Earlier this year I decided I needed a low-maintenance income generator. I am doing less and less work in the music industry and going forward I need to find ways for my blog, The Reset and my coaching to earn me a sustainable income, without demanding hours of my time.
Watching others like Sara Tasker from Me & Orla run hugely successful online courses really inspired me. I also signed up to Teachable and took in all their wisdom about what makes the most profitable online courses.
I really believed an online course was the answer. I was going to have an online course that would fly off the shelves and give me a wonderful trickle of income on which to rely going forward while I built everything else around it. It would be a launch-pad for all my other content, a hub for me to connect and learn more about my audience and a set of resources I could re-use time and time again in the future.
In launching my course I discovered two things:
You can’t launch a course if you haven’t done any market research.And to be honest I hadn’t really. I was too scared to ask people what they wanted. Scared of not being able to deliver what they needed or hearing things that I didn’t want to do.
I just went ahead and designed a course around what I knew and put it out in the world. That’s called being an infopreneur – so surely it’ll work! Nope. I simply didn’t know if there was a market out there (despite many loving, well-meaning friends and family assuring me that people needed this content). I hadn’t met or discovered my ideal customer. I was basically hiding from them.
You can’t sell a course you don’t believe in.The ridiculous thing about this ‘discovery’ is that I knew this already. I know that if you don’t believe in something, neither will anyone else. I worked for four years in a sales job. When I didn’t believe in the product I was selling, I could tell the customers I was selling to could read it on my face.
In all honesty I was not proud of the course. Don’t get me wrong – I spent hours on it. I filmed pieces to camera, edited videos, designed downloads, started a Facebook group where I ran live cook alongs, created emails to take people through the course and invested money in the platform. It wasn’t for want of trying.
But I still didn’t feel proud. I just didn’t think the course was of any use. It was all things that I know and do naturally, and I felt a fraud selling that to others. I looked at others with lead magnets and courses they were really proud of and were saying things like “you NEED this course – it has everything I know in it!” “This course is going to change your life!” “This is what you’ve been waiting for!” The more I heard, the more I knew I didn’t feel the same about mine.
So I pulled it. With zero sign ups. On the face of it a total, complete and epic fail.
But I learned a lot from doing it. About creating content that I’m proud of. About video editing. About the potential for online courses. About the voice inside my head and how I need to address what it says to me.
But I also learned that I don’t know what people want yet. I don’t have a clear idea of what is missing from their lives that they would love a course on. And I’m going to have to start having those conversations first, before I go back to create another one.
I recently listened to The Life Coach School podcast on How To Fail. The dictionary definition of failure is "The omission of expected or required action." So failing is all about not meeting expectations. That’s not exactly life threatening is it? So why are we all so afraid of failure?!
We’re afraid of failure because of how it makes us feel. And guess what? We get to choose how failure makes us feel. Our feelings are a result of our thoughts, and we choose our thoughts.
Thoughts are not facts, they’re just opinions from our mind. So why not change your thoughts from “that was a disaster” into “wow I learned a lot from that” or “what was funny about that?” or “what is the good news about this situation?”
So there we have it. 3 fails. Are you willing to share yours with me? I’d love to hear them and how you have reframed them as learning experiences. Because if you’re putting yourself out there to fail then you are streets ahead of those that haven’t even started.