To be unsuccessful in achieving one’s goal.
To neglect to do something.
A mark which is not high enough to pass an examination or test.
A mistake, failure, or instance of poor performance.
As we approach the end of 2018, instead of the obligatory annual end of year post about everything I’ve achieved and what my plans are for the year ahead, I thought I’d do something a little bit different and come face to face with my failures.
I’ve always believed that failing was part of life and everyone’s individual journey towards a desired goal. Ultimately what you achieve, whether it’s that successful career, lucrative business or simply the work life balance you’ve been longing for, you owe it to a succession of trials and errors. I was raised to believe that failure would not be ‘my portion’ – the word was somewhat demonized, the very experience of failure deemed reprehensible, void of any hope and prospect. I was taught to hide this aspect of my journey, as if it were something to be ashamed of. The times I didn’t do the work, the times I didn’t do my research, the times I procrastinated and missed important deadlines, the times I simply didn’t show up, …
We’re encouraged to only show the glamorous parts of our life story – social media in particular has birthed a whole new generation of people who constantly feel under pressure to project the idea that they have it all figured out. We see people’s shiny finished products while we’re still working on draft number four. We read the best parts of our age mates’ life stories, because those are the chapters they chose to put forward. Not only that, we’re also conditioned to see other people’s failures as a means to legitimize our own, and feel better about ourselves. This is how ‘failure’ as a concept becomes stigmatised. When in fact, going back to its core definition, it is essentially a succession of misses or errors that contributed to the end result not being achieved. And it happens to the best of us.
So I recently decided I would try and break free from the mentality that forced me to reject the idea of ‘failure’ at all costs. The culture of silence around failure, I find, can be damaging. Because when you deny failure, you essentially reject the things it can do for you. When you go through a difficult process and only choose to share the end success, when you’re intentional about omitting your mistakes along the way, you make the process look easy. Do I want to keep on failing? No. But am I going to completely shun that part of my journey and pretend I’ve not gone through some of the blunders that come with being a mother, a wife, a career woman, a Christian, an aspiring business woman? No, because I would be doing myself (and others) a disservice.
Contrary to what I’ve been led to believe, there’s no shame or dishonour in opening up about the times I messed up. I believe self-awareness is an extremely important part of growth.
In 2018, I failed at some aspects of parenting.
I’ve never hidden the fact that motherhood isn’t the easiest of journeys. I have endured and been challenged more as a mother than in any of the other ‘roles’ I’ve held in my adult life. And with my children being this young, I’d say the journey has only just begun. As a parent, I have felt overwhelmed and alone on many occasions. From not being able to help my child with difficult school work to feeling completely out of my depth with matters relating discipline, the list of challenges goes on. Where do you go when your children begin to show behavioural issues you thought you’d never had to deal with? Who do you talk to? And what do you do when you realise your some of your children’s bad habits may be the result of years of over-coddling, over-protecting and overzealous vigilance inflicted on them from a very young age?
As a parent you start to ask yourself an array of questions. A lack of discipline, perhaps? Too much discipline? Not enough dialogue, not enough understanding… Was I too harsh? Or not harsh enough? Every time I go through a difficult parenting phase, I have to do the introspective work that will enable me to do better for my children. The unconditional love I have for my children and my desire to see them thrive in life is what drives me to seek perfection when it comes to my parenting, and not settle for average. I have to make tough decisions, I have to re-think some of my methods. But most importantly, I have to come to terms with the fact that somewhere along the way, I did things wrong. Not because I didn’t know any better but because I didn’t always exercise patience, I didn’t always listen, I didn’t always assess the situation properly and I didn’t always seek help. Those are my failures.
In 2018, I failed to reach my financial goals.
It was all a dream. I used to think about how much money I’d put away now that I was working a secure job in financial services. I had goals that I would increase my income by at least 50% this year. I still have the vision board I created at the end of 2013 with every career and financial goal engraved in thick black felted pen. Pictures of the house of my dreams still very much present in my mind and vivid images of what my life would look like by 2018. I had ambitions to take my career to the next level and my savings through the roof. It was all a dream.
What happened instead was a mixture of circumstances that forced me to make financial sacrifices I didn’t expect to have to make; a redundancy situation during my maternity leave (although voluntary – I’ll elaborate on this in a different post); some very poor financial choices and of course the birth of our beautiful daughter in late 2017. In the midst of all this, I decided not to seek the career ascension I initially wanted within my field; and instead, take a step back and look for less stressful role in a different sector.
This decision, along with a few others to fit my new lifestyle as a mother of three, is one that took a long time to process. It’s also a decision that didn’t make much sense to some of the people around me. The slight decrease in my salary means that I’ve had to rearrange my finances and re-work my day-to-day expenditure. But this new role brings so many other positives which to me make the sacrifice more than worthwhile.
So where is the ‘failing’ part? I hear you ask. Well, quite simply put, knowing where I’m at now, I could have done a better job at managing my finances when I was earning more. There was a lot of impulse buying over the last couple of years, and not all of it was baby-related. I indulged and treated myself way more than I should have, I allowed myself access to my savings in ways that were unnecessary and I made some very poor investments. It’s great that I’m able to look back and learn from it, however I can’t help but look at my bank statements with a sense of disappointment, because I know what I want for myself and my family. The fact that I didn’t attain my own expectations when it comes to my finances was the result of my own failures.
In 2018, I failed at business.
When I think about the many ventures I started over the past decade and why they didn’t work, I often come to the conclusion that I am my own worst enemy of progress. And when I tell people, their response is usually that I’m too hard on myself. However I’ve found that throughout my entire adult life, the two things that have hindered the success I desire deep down are my lack of motivation and my tendency to make excuses. This isn’t me being too hard on myself, this is me admitting that I don’t always put in the work.
A few months ago I embarked on a brand new business venture that I believed was going to change my life. I wrote about it, my excitement and all the steps I took to make this dream a reality. I was overwhelmed with the amount of support I received from people when I first announced it. Everything was in place, I started trading and made my first few sales. Then the sales just kept on coming. But as time went by I started to encounter issues with my suppliers. I was no longer satisfied with the quality of the products I was putting out there and I stopped believing in the business model. Slowly, this became a burden more than anything and I started to resent the whole venture. But the truth is, I was the only person to blame for the lack of research and due diligence into the business model. In the end, I felt I couldn’t continue anymore, as my belief in what I was selling had completely gone.
But instead of reaching out to people or organisations that could have helped me, I allowed my disdain for the business to take over and I completely switched off. I told myself I wasn’t cut out for this, I wasn’t made for entrepreneurship. At the beginning of autumn this year, I made my very last sale and eventually brought my e-commerce venture to an end. I consider this a failure because all I really needed to do was to pick myself up, make a few phone calls, change direction slightly and embrace the challenges. But I chose not to. And now, as far as my desire to rescue my business and start over, the boat has sailed. Referring back to the core definitions of failure, I’d say I “neglected to do something” that could have led me to great success.
As long as there’ll be lessons to be learned from failing, there’ll be no such thing as ‘failing in vain’.
This year has been full of ups and downs, but none of my failures have been in vain. As cliché as this will sound, with every failure there’s always a great lesson. Admit your shortcomings and don’t shy away from talking about what you could have done better. You’ll find that many people can relate.
The year ahead is looking wonderful, I’ve settled beautifully in my role both at work and as a working mother of three. Things aren’t easy everyday but overall, I’m content with my choices. I’ve got a new mindset when it comes to parenting, money, my career and all the things I’ve been struggling with. And if failure does occur again at some point in my journey, I’ll embrace it, learn from it and most importantly, I won’t be afraid to talk about it.