Has fear of failure ever kept you from trying?
The ‘what ifs’ are often the biggest obstacle between us and our real destinies. Maybe you’re meant to be the first member of your family to clean up your diet and lifestyle. ‘what if they look at me differently after I’ve changed?’
You might be meant to start a business, or maybe you’re meant to be a teacher. ‘What if I fail and lose money’? ‘What if I look like a fool’?
The worst case scenario often looks just scary enough, that it’ll keep us on a quiet, small road to nowhere.
In honor of failure week, it’s time to blow that fear wide open.
I’m going to tell you about the time I tried to change the lives of hundreds of children, and ended up looking like a fool. And losing a wonderful relationship. And having to start dumpster diving for food.
I’ll also share why I wouldn’t go back and trade the experience for anything.
Think of the children!
Like most socially minded jobless young seattleites, in late 2008 God introduced me to canvassing.
In short, I was given the opportunity to go hit the streets of seattle and do my very best to inspire people to sponsor children in need. My task was simple: get complete strangers to hand out their credit card info on the street, and agree to start paying $22 a month in exchange for making a difference.
Naturally, I was pretty excited to have the chance to inspire other people to do something worthwhile. My boss was crazy inspiring, I cared a lot about the cause, I was excited to have the chance to overcome my (then still fairly intense) social anxiety, and the pay was enough to allow me to live up to my end of the relationship I was in at the time.
Then reality hit.
I was ignored. I was politely dismissed. I ended up in exciting conversations that petered out and ended up with a ‘we’ll check it out when we get home’.
The quota is to get two kids sponsored every day. You need to earn your keep obviously, and it was a little bit more than I could handle.
I had three days of straight zeros. I had to fight just to keep having the opportunity to try again another day, and I had to do that knowing full well that I was costing the company money that could be going to the kids. As long as I was failing, I was taking food out of their mouths.
I did manage to save a child my fourth day. And my fifth, and my sixth. My eighth day I had another zero and that was it.
My relationship ended, I moved into a closet (at an amazing intentional household in the U district) and went out looking for another job.
In the end, I only managed to get four kids sponsored. Assuming those sponsors stayed with it, it would be almost a year of payments from those new sponsors before they’d end up making up for the pay I recieved. The three kids I’ve been sponsoring might even things out a bit, but obviously this wasn’t a rousing success.
Here’s the silver lining though. – every one of the entrepreneurs I respect started out in one-on-one sales of some kind. Tony Robbins, Robert Kiyosaki, Frank Kern, Perry Marshall, etc. Part of my mission in life is to bring a worthwhile message out into the world, and tough times as a salesman seems to be a grand tradition I unknowingly followed in the footsteps of. Here are some of the other successes that came on the heels of this epic failure:
- I didn’t end it with a complete failure. A few weeks later I ended up canvassing for the ASPCA for over two months, and slowly but surely got good enough at it to keep my job, and make a measurable difference. I raised around $4,000.
- that old social anxiety? Gone. Without a trace. Phone calls don’t make me break out in a sweat anymore, and if you and I happen to make eye contact on the sidewalk, I’ll smile and maybe even strike up a conversation. My world is friendlier and more connected because I spent time as a canvasser.
- I had some truly meaningful moments. Girl with the H.P Lovecraft constellation tattoo? You know who you are. You were a tour guide at Yellowstone national park. Our conversation a year and a half ago made my day, and I still think about how you stepped up and donated, even though you were bootstrapping. When I came three days later with the beer I said I owed you, your appreciation (you were clearly having a hard day that day) really gave me a moment to remember. Moments of true gratitude are rare, and any path that brings those moments to my door is one I’m grateful for.
Why This Matters To You
If the only failure you’re worried about is embarrassment, or ‘failing at yet another diet’ who cares?
Keep believing, keep striving, and keep your eyes open for the beautiful (and sometimes painful) things that will come your way.
Want an easy start on something you can do right now? Today is ‘one day without shoes’ day. Tom’s Shoes was founded in 2006 by a brilliant philanthropic entrepreneur, and the basic idea is that for every pair of shoes you buy, they donate a pair to a child in need. They’ve given over a million shoes so far, and it’s a great thing to be a part of.
I made a short video, basically going over why one day without shoes is a cool thing to be a part of, and how exactly I managed to fail at it before 8:00am. New record?
Failweek was inspired by Emilie Wapnick, brainchild behind puttylike.com.
Now it’s your turn! What are some of the lessons you’ve learned from failures? I have a dozen I can think of, ranging from my parents divorce, to my failed business ventures, to my failed classes. All of them taught me something, and I am a better person for all of them. What are your hardest earned blessings?
And of course, more importantly, what important things have you been putting off due to fear? Make this month life changing, all it takes is putting one foot in front of the other.
namaste my friends,