OK; in re-reading this before publishing it, it’s turned out much more introspective than I originally intended. Just be forewarned – I ramble!
Have I told y’all about The Luminaries Club? It’s a business group I’ve joined, primarily for solopreneurs and creative types.
The Luminaries Club is your creative business headquarters. It’s a private space filled to the brim with tools, resources and trade secrets. Inside, you’ll find a place to connect, recharge and reimagine your career. This is a membership program unlike any other. The Luminaries Club was built for creative entrepreneurs by a creative entrepreneur. It is designed to ground and nurture you when you need a healthy dose of perspective, and fuel your journey when you’re ready to launch.
I’ve been following Lisa Jacobs for years, and when she started the Luminaries Club last Fall, I knew that since I’d already gotten so much from her – for free, from her blog and guest posts in other locations – that this was an excellent time for me to put my money where my mouth was. I joined up maybe even on the first day, and haven’t regretted it at all… for all that I feel I’m dropping the ball on it right now with house and moving things being my primary focus.
One question that Lisa asks, and it’s been a topic of conversation in the group a lot lately, is “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”. I cant tell you what a hard time I’m having answering that question… but maybe not for the reasons you think.
“I’m not so afraid of losing something that I won’t try havin’ it.” – Zoe Washburn, Firefly
What would you do if you knew you could not fail? Literally. What would you do?
I’m a very literal person. One year in math class, the teacher told us, when teaching us about Pi, to “imagine, for this class, that Pi equals 3.14”. Now that I’m older, I know that she meant “let’s just say that Pi is 3.14 because if we take it out to a hundred decimal points it’ll take forever”. But what I thought she meant, what I heard, was “imagine this is what it is for this class only; in the next class it will be something else.” Next year I couldn’t do any math that involved Pi, because the teacher didn’t tell us what Pi was for that class. I thought it could be anything, like… solving for X.
So when I hear “what would you do if you knew you could not fail”… I think “parachute” or “bungee jump” because those are two things that I’d love to try, but only if I knew I was going to survive them. Otherwise, no flipping way would I try those!
It’s not that I don’t have goals for HaldeCraft. I just don’t have a fear of failure.
Everyone else in the group is mentioning things they want for their business. Goals. Destinations. I’m having a hard time using my business goals and destinations as things to reach for if I knew I wouldn’t fail, though, because I would do them anyway. I would have tried to get a bigger studio anyway – regardless of outcome. I have a plan for the growth of HaldeCraft, involving thrown ceramics and wood-fired kilns and building up a community of crafty makers, and I’m going to head towards that whether there’s a chance of failure or not. I have no fear of failure because failing doesn’t faze me. Failing at something doesn’t mean that I am a failure. Failing at something just means it wasn’t the most effective idea, and when I do fail I’m jumping right back up and figuring out what’s next.
So I feel like an idiot when I say in that group something like, “if I knew I wouldn’t fail, if I knew I wouldn’t get turned down, I’d apply to the Downtown Fall Arts Festival.” Yes, that’s something I want to do, and after I have a larger catalog of thrown and handbuilt ceramics (as they don’t accept slipcast) I will probably apply anyway — even if there’s not a guarantee. But it’s a teensy tiny step in what I want out of life, and it pales in comparison to the statements of others.
“Feel the fear and do it anyway” – Susan Jeffers
But don’t you have an Ultimate Goal for your business? A True North?
There’s this anecdotal story, sometimes attributed to John Lennon, and sometimes attributed to Goldie Hawn, about being asked what they wanted to be when they grew up. “I want to be happy”.
I always envied other kids who knew, in grade school, what they wanted to be. Firemen. Doctors. Engineers. What did I want to be? I wanted to be happy. I wanted to live an uncompromised life, I wanted to be true to myself, I wanted to be creative, and I wanted to be happy. And I am those things. But are those the right goals to have for a business? Because I’m reading other people’s lists of things they’d do if they knew they couldn’t fail, and part of me feels I’m not reaching as high as they are. “She wants to sell all over the country! I just want to be happy.” Way to lower the bar, there, Little Miss Raised in the Wild by Hippies.
Part of me also thinks maybe I’m just too caught up in the “if you knew you wouldn’t fail” part of the sentence. If the question was just “What would you do?” I have a whole list of things I’d do! Some of it is already accomplished (learning to throw; getting a wheel; getting a larger studio). Next up? Refining my throwing technique; setting up said new studio; branching out into different clays and glaze techniques; building a wood fire kiln; building a salt kiln; getting a second electric kiln; learning raku and building a raku kiln; setting up a community of crafters to fill my studio space with laughter and creative energy. But these are things I’m going to do. Not things I’m only going to do if I knew I wouldn’t fail. They’ll take years, but I’m going to do them.
Am I not afraid to fail? Or am I crazy?
I worry that maybe when I say I don’t have anything I’d do if I knew I couldn’t fail, what people are hearing me say is more along the lines of “hey, I’ve reached my goals, nothing new here!” or “I have no goals at all!” … but that’s not the case. I just don’t have a list of things I’d do if I knew I couldn’t fail. I have a huge list of things I plan to do for my business. It’s just that “failing” or “not failing” doesn’t enter into it.
Why is that? Why does the chance of failure not even make me blink my eyes? Is it because when my father died, the man who helped to spark the flame of who I am… well, he had always said that you have to play it the way that you feel it; do what you want in life, be true to your inner self, and give no f*cks to anyone who tells you “you can’t”. And yet, when he died, he left behind unreached-for dreams and 750 hours of vacation hours he never took. I don’t want to be the person who gets to the end of my life and looks back on things I never reached for. I’d rather fail, and have a great story, than be too afraid to fail to even reach for it.
Maybe I’m over-thinking this.
Because believe me, I have been told in the past that I over-think things! Maybe I’m just over-fixating on the “if you knew you would not fail” part of the question. Maybe because my things are things I’d do anyway, I’m worried that I don’t fit in with this group of business women. Maybe I’m afraid that Lisa, whom I look up to and admire, won’t like me, or won’t want to work with me, if I can’t come up with a list of things I’d do if I knew I couldn’t fail. Because trust me, ladies, if you’re reading this, I have a list of things I’d do! They’re just things I’d do whether or not there was a risk of failure.
“A lot of people enjoy being dead. But they are not dead, really. They’re just backing away from life. *Reach* out. Take a *chance*. Get *hurt* even. But play as well as you can. Go team, go! Give me an L. Give me an I. Give me a V. Give me an E. L-I-V-E. LIVE! Otherwise, you got nothing to talk about in the locker room.” – Maude (Harold and Maude)