I run my life and my business as if I have never failed.
I never thought about failure until I asked people on the Art Biz Blog about the role of failure in their art practices. You can read the responses here. There are some insightful observations and excellent dialogue. I read through the comments once before deciding to isolate myself from them because I had something to add.
It might seem strange to you that I have never, until now, considered failure, but it’s true.
True failure is rare. It’s more likely that one experiences disappointment or dissatisfaction.
I believe the only failure is not trying your best.
Perhaps it’s how I was raised, but failure wasn’t an option. I don’t mean “failure isn’t an option” in the Apollo 13 sense. I mean that I always believed I’d succeed . . . at something. So I just kept moving forward.
I know I’m lucky to have this mindset and wish I could instill it in others. Let’s see if this helps.
What’s The Lesson?
There’s a lesson to be learned in every attempt. Yes, I know you’ve heard this before, but stop to think about it.
Whenever something negative happens to you,
there is a deep lesson concealed within it.
– Eckhart Tolle
How will you improve if you don’t look for the lessons, and if you give up because things didn’t go exactly as planned?
You won’t learn how to do better next time until you’ve analyzed what went right and what didn’t go so well. Do this exercise – this analysis – after every exhibition, event, or marketing action.
While analyzing, resist the temptation to project blame for your disappointment onto someone else or outside circumstances. When you accept 100% responsibility for your life, you understand that it’s up to you to do the research, ask questions, and follow through with appropriate action.
Always aim for improvement in your results and in the way you present yourself as a professional.
I’ve created many programs that have had results far below what I had anticipated.
Just two weeks ago we had a disastrous Google+ Hangout. By anyone’s standards, it was a failure because I didn't know how to use the technology properly. But I don’t look at it that way. I broke through a technology barrier and I learned.
And . . . I had a wonderful guest with valuable insights. Those who watched got some excellent information. I will definitely do another Hangout, and you can bet it will be an improvement.
When Art or Marketing Go Bad
When something doesn’t work well, try it from a different angle, turn it upside down, or deconstruct the parts to make a new whole.
Maybe your latest artwork didn’t turn out as you had hoped.
It’s not what you thought it was going to be, but it’s not a failure. It’s one step closer to the work you were born to do.
Fix it. Paint over it, or break it down and recycle the parts.
What questions could you ask about the situation that will lead to progress?
It would be a failure to let it out into the world without your full endorsement. If you don’t believe in it, nobody will.
Perhaps you had a low turnout at an art opening.
While low turnout might be a disappointment, it isn’t a failure. Analyze it.
Why were there so few people?
Was it the weather? Was something else going on? Was parking bad?
Did you rely on social media or word of mouth and not send that last email reminder?
You get the point.
Accept the responsibility that things didn’t go as planned and, if you think your idea still has merit, analyze it. What will you tweak to get better results?