The occasional failure, even an #epicfail, is an inescapable part of life. But do you escape from the doldrums that envelop so many of us thereafter? I’m not talking about the “before” picture (fear of failure), I’m talking about the “after” picture that many succumb to–I am my failure.
So many of us fall prey to this mindset. It’s so easy to view a major setback or mistake as a harbinger of bad things to come.
It’s one thing to own your mistakes, it’s another to let them own you, to assume you’re no better than the mistakes you’ve made. That’s why you simply must remember these six powerful words:
You Are More Than Your Mistake.
Let me illustrate just how powerful these six words can be.
I worked on my first book, Make It Matter, for five years. I wrote (and ultimately published) the book while still in high level, super demanding leadership roles at Procter & Gamble. A lot of weekends and late nights. An intense amount of research, including original research. Blood, sweat, and tears were all just a drop in the bucket.
I wrote a book proposal after the fact, after having already finished the book, which is a backward way of doing it. Normally (at least at the time) you’d flesh out your book idea enough to write a proposal, then if you get a literary agent and then a publisher interested in the idea, it’s time to go write the book. I didn’t want the pressure of a deadline while still working a very full time job, so I rolled the dice and wrote the entire book first.
I beat the odds and got an agent interested in my book, but he wanted substantive changes to the proposal, which would ultimately mean a lot of rework. I bit the bullet and put in still more work until my agent was ready to go pitch it to publishers.
He took it to a promising boutique publisher first, and after a month’s wait, I got the answer. “They really liked it, and x, y, and z, but, no.” OK, disappointing, but there were 11 more publishers on his list.
He went one by one, and I waited. “No.”
I waited some more. “No.”
On this went for a year and a dozen publishers. I’d reached the end of his list. At that point he told me, and I’ll never forget the words, “Nobody wants this thing. We’re done here.”
He rightfully suggested I go self-publish. That’s a great avenue in many cases, but for my business model it was critical that I become an author with a major publishing house. I’d already decided I was leaving my corporate job to be a full-time author/speaker, so, right or wrong, I needed this book to be published for my own self-confidence.
I was devastated. After five years of work and so many sacrifices, nothing. I had failed. I was a failure.
I made a huge mistake in investing so much work into a book I thought for sure a publisher would snatch up, writing the whole book before I had a book deal. For a period of time, this failure defined me and told me I’d have to stick it out in corporate, despite how fierce the passion to speak and write full time burned inside of me.
I’d have to bring my life down to the level of my error.
After some time had passed, I found a notecard with something jotted on it–something I’d scratched down when I began writing the book five years prior. It was stuck between the pages of an old version of chapter two. I wrote it as a preventative measure, because I knew I was taking a big risk in deciding to write the entire book first.
I wrote, “You are more than your mistake.” I wanted to remember that if things didn’t work out with the book, if I was wrong about its appeal, it wouldn’t define me.
Seeing these six words again heartened me to go back to my agent one last time (difficult to do because he was done with me). I figured, I’m more than a series of no’s, no matter what happens, I can take another “no.” I told my agent that we actually had one more potential suitor on the list and convinced him to do one last pitch.
48 hours later I had sold my first book. I was going to be published. The book went on to be an award-winning launch of my new career.
I honestly don’t think I would have had the courage to ask for one more try if I hadn’t gotten into the mindset those six words put me in.
I hope they prove to be equally powerful for you.