Pretense is strong here online. We see people making their lives seem happier than they really are, or sharing their successes when failure comes more frequently. I love to share my joy, and I feel joy a lot of the time. Sharing only that becomes a problem when we decide to take responsibility for the mental health of those who follow what we do. I don’t think it is necessary that anyone take on that responsibility, nor do I think one can, fully, do such a thing. However, we can learn to be more honest about our lives and in doing so, give others permission to have bad days – to feel bad things, and to consequently dig themselves out of that rut.
In that spirit, I’m starting #FailureFriday where each Friday I will share an image/story/etc. of a failure. It could be photographic, it could be in business, but all of them will be in good humor. I have learned to laugh and learn from myself. Who better than the person embodying this life and all of it’s demons and butterflies? I decided to start this after having a long chat with my darling friend Lindsay Adler. We were helping each other with our businesses and talking about connection, when I thought it would be a great idea to intentionally show more of who we are.
Share your #FailureFriday to create a kinder,
more human online experience!
For this first Failure Friday, let me note, that I use the term “failure” very loosely. I don’t consider most things I do to truly be a failure, because when you learn something from your experience, that experience has value. Hey, you might like these pictures (if so, I appreciate that! and if not, I feel ya). Take failure to be whatever you feel. For me, I categorize a failure as a project that doesn’t turn out how I had hoped. Failures often lead to even better things, so keep an open mind.
It was June 2015. I was in Australia – Perth – for my first solo trip to the great continent. I was speaking at a convention (AIPP) and didn’t know a single soul. I was scared out of my mind. I am the first in a room full of people to turn bright red, break out in a stinging sweat, and locate an exit. I found that this event had a lot of socializing and I was so uncomfortable I didn’t know what to do with myself. I tried, so hard, all week to connect and put myself out there and make friends. And, I’m proud to say, I did. But I did a lot of floundering as well. I spent too much time in my room refusing to come out. I even tried to go to the big event party, but in reality all I did was get in the taxi, get out for 5 minutes, and immediately run around the corner and call the same taxi back.
When it came time to give my speech, I knew that I had to break out of my shell. So, when I was finished talking, I told everyone about how nervous I get in crowds and how this was so very out of my comfort zone, and how I wanted to change that habit. So, I invited everyone in the room to come with me the next morning for an impromptu photo shoot at a beautiful location, locally known as the secret garden. I had scouted it the day before.
I woke that morning with trepidation, as my demon brain told me that no one would show up and I’d be there by myself. At least, I said aloud, I would have a camera and a smile and some neat pictures, so it wouldn’t be a waste. To my surprise about 30-40 people showed up and I did some shooting demonstrations. We started branching out, using each other as models, and soon everyone was laughing and having a good time. I do better in those moments, when I have some control over the situation and I’m doing what I love.
It was very, very muddy that day. We were sometimes knee deep in thick, sticky mud. I decided, after about an hour of shooting, that someone had to do something about it. Naturally, I volunteered myself for a self-portrait. I asked for help, and everyone gathered around me with their tripods set up and helped slather mud all over me.
When I was well up to my ears in mud, a girl appeared. She said she had driven hours to join the group and possibly be photographed, and there I was literally covered in mud and unable to take her picture. I felt terrible! So, I said, join me! I asked her to jump in the mud, on a leap of faith with people she had never met before, and that we could be in the picture together! Her name is Laura, and she was such an inspiration in that moment.
We finished the shoot and laughed so hard I thought we were all going to have sore stomach muscles the next day. We tried our best to wash off in the creek but it was of little use. Some people offered us towels or clothes from their cars which we tried to change into, but we looked like we had just been dragged through a swamp…which was not far from the truth. I was having such an awesome time connecting with everyone I didn’t want it to end, so I suggested, looking like a crazy lady, that we all go out to eat. Looking like we did, embracing our complete weirdness, we went to lunch and made even more new friends as people asked us what – in the world – had happened.
The images never turned out how I wanted. I have worked on them every single month since I went to Australia and played in the mud with my new friends. It breaks my heart that I just don’t like them, because the experience was so rich with wonder. That’s how it goes sometimes. Sometimes the picture was never the point. It is just a bonus if it works out. If the experience itself isn’t worth it, don’t bother. If you can’t say that you would still have done what you did without the success, don’t do it. Life is too short to rely on outcomes when the journey is so much richer.