The Opposite of Success
Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
The business of publishing gives us frequent opportunities to feel like a success or … not a success. At every step of the journey, we receive feedback and results that tell us whether our efforts are working. It’s an uncertain path riddled with possibilities for disappointment.
→ We pitch our book at a conference and nobody seems to want what we’ve written.
→ We search for an agent, to no avail.
→ Our book is being submitted to publishers, but none are biting.
→ Our book is available for sale, but the numbers aren’t good.
→ We arrange a booksigning event at a bookstore, and nobody shows up.
When things happen that don’t make us feel exactly like a “success,” the instinct is to brand our efforts a “failure.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and I no longer believe the opposite of success is failure. Instead,
The opposite of success is learning.
Obviously this is not an original thought, but it repeatedly strikes me anew as I navigate the perilous paths of the publishing world. The minute I brand myself a failure, or even say, “I failed,” my entire outlook changes. At that point, I become weaker. I deflate. I’m poking holes in my own resilience and persistence. I may stop believing that I can accomplish my goal.
But if I say instead, “This effort didn’t succeed, but I learned something so that I’m better prepared for the next time,” I am actually building up my resilience and persistence.
If I don’t succeed and I’m having trouble figuring out why, that’s my cue to spend some time reviewing the effort to figure out what went wrong. It may or may not have been due to anything I could have changed or controlled. If I missed a deadline because my basement office was flooded (yep), at least I learned I need to give myself more margin, and also to make sure my office is physically configured in a way that my stuff would sustain the least possible damage in the next big rain.
Sometimes you might need help figuring out why something didn’t succeed. If you’re pitching and submitting your work to agents and editors without success, and not getting any helpful feedback as to why, then you’re going to have to hook up with another author or critique partner, or hire an independent editor, to get an honest assessment of what’s going wrong.
The point is not to wallow in failure, but instead to appreciate the learning.
Have you had any notable “opportunities for learning” lately? How did you handle it?
The opposite of success is not failure, but learning. Click to Tweet.
Saying “I failed” pokes holes in our resilience and persistence. Click to Tweet.
The publishing biz gives frequent opportunities to feel like a success or …not. Click to Tweet.
“The point is not to wallow in failure, but to appreciate the learning.” Click to Tweet.