The Secret to Handling Failure (And Success)
on Monday, December 08, 2014
Updated Wednesday, September 07, 2016
As a writer, you've probably dealt with a lot of rejection. What you may not know know is that the better you deal with failure, the more prepared you'll be for success. And the healthy response to both happens to be the same.
If you've ever submitted your writing for publication then you know rejection. The dark cloud of disappointment and self doubt can follow you for days--or much longer.
If you've ever started a blog and could count the number of page views on one hand, then you understand feelings of rejection and failure. You feel like you're wasting your time and wonder if you're any good at all.
You may think you understand failure more than success, but the two have more in common than you think.
Let's imagine that after years of writing and piles of rejection slips, one of your books suddenly becomes a bestseller and you become a millionaire. We are programmed to think such rewards are the fulfillment of all our dreams, that all our problems will be solved, that we'll finally have the freedom to reach our creative peaks.
Author of Eat, Pray, Love on Success and Failure
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, has something different to tell us. She's seen it from both sides--years of rejection on one side and the resounding success of her novel Eat, Pray, Love on the other.
Her success came after years of toil as a writer and constant rejections. But when her success came, instead of feeling liberated, Gilbert felt out of her element. She felt the pressure to perform, of having to please her readers with another novel just like Eat, Pray, Love, of having to produce an even better novel.
She realized that she felt just as uncomfortable in success as she had in failure.
In her TED talk titled Success, failure and the drive to keep creating, Gilbert shares how success and failure are in many ways two sides of the same coin.
Both success and failure are deviations from the norm. Most of the time in our lives we feel, well...normal. Just normal. And actually, that's a good place to be. Failure and success take us into uncharted territory with new expectations, new challenges, new fears.
Gilbert managed to push forward and release another novel after Eat, Pray, Love. In her talk, she shares how even though it was panned by critics, it was a relief to her. She had proven that she was still able to write and the pressure of having to write another bestseller was now a monkey off her back. She could finally get back to normal.
Normal for Gilbert, is writing. It's not rejection, it's not success, it's spending her days doing something she loves to do. The work of writing.
Daily work that you love is the remedy for both failure and success. Creating your own normal even in the midst of suffering or victories is the path to happiness.
This Too Shall Pass
I'm reminding of a popular saying:
"Always remember, whether in good times or bad, this too shall pass."
When people hear the common phrase "this too shall pass," most will apply it only to suffering. It offers hope to those in pain and gives them the strength to endure.
But fewer people understand how it applies to success. Success can be just as fleeting as suffering. You are happiest somewhere in between failure and great success. You are happiest when life is just normal and you get to do the work you love each day.
That's not to say you can't get used to success. Elizabeth Gilbert, for one, seems to have made peace with it as she continues to find solace and normalcy in writing.
Find Your Normal in Your Daily Work
As odd as it may seem, one of the secrets to dealing with failure is the same as dealing with success. Maintain your normal.
Just keep doing what you love, writing. Remind yourself why you love it and lose yourself in the work. Continue to grow. Continue to get better.
The forces of failure and success have similar effects on us. They can be disorienting and stressful.
People buy insurance to prepare for catastrophic events. They put emergency supplies in the basement. But few people prepare for success.
This post is mostly about preparing you for success, for the day when you surprise yourself. If you don't know how to handle it, you may be overwhelmed and find yourself in one-hit-wonder land.
Find your normal in your daily work and, when they come, you will be able to weather the storms of failure and success.