The Path to Success is Failure
Ask any successful entrepreneur about their success and they probably would say a variation of the same thing. “I failed. A lot.” I’m sick of success stories. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s failing. Surely, If I stick to it long enough, something good must come out of it all. Something great. So now I would like to share my series of failures. To exorcise the “I can’t do it, I’m not good enough” voice in my head and keep on keeping on. To become a model of failure so you can compare yourself (don’t lie, I know you do it) to me and feel a little bit better about yourself in the process. Cheers to failures!
Failure Story #1: I Hate Advertising
As a young graphic design student, it was pretty hard for me to accept that my career would be limited to brands and advertising. It was a love/hate relationship because while I am fascinated by brands and the psychology behind why we buy, I’m also pretty anti-consumerist in my minimalist ways. I hated advertising, but I thought I had no right to say so until I could say I worked for an ad agency. So I did. I landed an internship at a popular ad agency in Portland and felt uncomfortable and out of place in the work culture. It didn’t help that I am shy and quiet especially in new situations. I think the lady who hired me expected that I would be hip and cool and fun to be around because I can project confidence in an interview and feign sociability but err on maintaining the act. She thought I would be the perfect fit for their agency but I was anything but. I barely talked and felt insecure. By the time my college brought in the evaluations for internships, my supervisor who hired me gave me low scores and wrote that I was way too quiet. I was mortified and felt like a failure to my social awkwardness once again. And I still hated advertising.
Failure Story #2: Volunteering
I volunteered my talent as a web designer to a non-profit that helps educate special need kids in rural China. They needed a web presence period so they were very thankful for my output, but my self-critic barged in and said that the website sucked. I hadn’t touched web design in years and it showed. My skills were rusty, and aged to 2005, when I last made a site. They needed updates to the website and since I didn’t build it around WordPress where end users can easily update on their own without developer skills, they came back to me for maintenance and I completely choked. I clocked out. My fear that I wasn’t good enough was so great that I couldn’t deal with the “pressures” and didn’t respond to any of their emails. I probably looked completely unprofessional along the way, but I was also at a phase of my “quarterlife crisis” where you could say I sort of went crazy and blocked the real world. I was ashamed that I was so unprofessional and that if I were a freelancer receiving a client reference, it would likely be negative. I couldn’t bare to face myself.
Failure Story #3: The Shitty Thing about Small Towns is Small Networks
I hated my nine to five office job. It wasn’t challenging and wasn’t doing anything towards enhancing my graphic design skills. I was running a one-woman print shop all day and layouting hospital forms. By the 6 month, I was ready to move on. In a valid attempt, I decided to look for another job and found a great opportunity at a production company which handled several local magazines and newspapers. This was my chance to become a designer again! To do what I loved.
The shitty thing about graphic design jobs is that there are so many vast areas of design to get into and if you don’t have a portfolio built around the particular industry, you’ll probably not get hired. A hard thing for a recent grad who only had one year of real experience at a souvenir company, and nothing in the way of a publication design portfolio. I was a joke. The head of company kindly smiled, said I had a good portfolio (yeah right, bitch) and never contacted me again. The worst part is that since I had applied within a town of 85,000 people, my boss found out from someone he knew who worked at the place I interviewed. Oops. Boss man had a private meeting with me stat and basically
bullied guilt-tripped me into staying with the company and saying that he wanted me on “long-term”. I never looked for new jobs ever again and quietly sucked it up to the man.
Failure Story #4: Sticking it Up to The Man (Sort Of)
Two more years of said shitty job that I hated and I was getting antsy for change. The East and my motherland was calling me. I followed my intuition and decided to uproot my life to Asia. I had one more month to go before I was planning to resign and par-tay when the company fired me instead, due to internet usage on company time. By my “third strike” I was only checking e-mail. It’s not like I was ever looking at porn. Surely, the company was looking for an excuse to fire me and terminate the $16/hr. employee when my $9/hr. assistant that I trained to do my job could do it for cheaper (she has since been laid off too, which is a perfect example of why employee loyalty doesn’t really exist anymore). It was truly one of the most joyful experiences of my life, but I guess it left a “bad record” on my resume, and left them with the advantage and control over me instead of my last fanfare where I was supposed to call the shots.
Failure Story #5: Sub-contracting and (Not) Managing
I found a part-time social media gig through Twitter which introduced me into the world of updating client Facebook, Twitter and SEO blog writing. By the time I made it to Asia, I was basically on fuck work I’m taking a sabbatical mode and told the client I was working with that I would let someone else take over for four months while I took a monastery retreat to meditate. I found someone qualified through Brazen Careerist but I had no idea about this strange world of contracting and sub-contracting (I didn’t even realize I was “sub-contracting” my job) since I am basically
dumb new to business and still learning. Because I had no idea I was subcontracting, I also had no idea that this process meant that I should manage my sub-contractor. I left the job completely up to her without much “checking up” and the client was unsatisfied with her output. I learned the important lesson that whatever your sub-contractor does is still completely under your own ass. It wasn’t surprising that this eventually lead to me being fired. Again. And brief thoughts of “I suck, I’m such a loser, I’m so unemployable,” were soon quieted down when I was free for my next adventure.
Failure Story #6: Your Big Year Fundraising
I entered this amazing year-long round the world travel contest that encouraged entrepreneurship thinking. There were several ways to make it to 24 slots of semi-finals which in itself was an all expense paid trip to England. I decided to focus my attempt on the fundraising portion of the contest and tried to make it in the top 6 fundraisers which would have sent me UK bound. I was able to gather almost $200 in donations but ended up donating my own $300, justifying that I had received a $300 grant from Taiwan when I went to a Buddhist Youth Conference. I donated a bunch of my own money (which I suppose isn’t very entrepreneurial of me) and came in a tight 8th place, just two slots off from being in the top 6 and $80 short of 6th place. No exciting travel plans were to be had and I was $300 poorer, knowing that my money was already under $2,000 and soon to run out.
Failure Story #7: On Communities and Eco Living
I’ve had a lot of false starts to my business goals (wherein I try to focus on making money from scratch as someone who’s “self-employed” but undoubtedly lacking clients…) and one of them was volunteering my time in a raw foods community, living freely off their space. I was tasked to make a web design but long story short, I was left with no final product as the “client” decided to abandon the project and left me feeling unwelcome to their place while I was away on vacation, waiting for my friend to finally come visit me and tour the Philippines for a bit, which I had briefed them would happen. I was about 95% “finished” with the site except for hosting issues on the client’s end, and the content that I struggled to come up with based on insufficient information was the best I could do for a yet unfinished eco-village with no real content in itself to feed the website that was supposed to advertise it. Turns out, the “client” just wanted an excuse to use the eco-village site to advertise his new projects that had absolutely nothing much to do with the eco-village itself. Yes, I’m a bit bitter and yes, this might come off as a bit “be careful what you say on the internet” but fuck it, this is free speech. The client just wanted an excuse to get something done for free rather than have to pay the developer he was about to contract with and used me to their advantage, mentioning that I would receive a monthly allowance for the work, but never receiving anything…Falsely telling me that I would essentially get paid, and “forgetting” to mention to their partner, who assumed that I was still paying for my stay, that I would become a free resident. Moral of the story: Fuck doing shit for free and fuck hippy communities. They try to be outside of the ‘system’ (the real world, the economy), but Utopia never really works, especially when it becomes dogmatic.
Failure Story #8: Going Broke
First, it was the money pouch that got snatched in Bagiuo, Philippines where I lost about $200 and my bank cards. I promptly canceled the cards and had the bank reissue me a new one which my parents kindly sent me via air mail. Then, it’s the fact that I have under $100 to my name and live in the slums where I sleep on a concrete floor (with some mats and blankets and cockroaches and stuff). This living an ex-pat life wasn’t what I had expected it would be. I thought I would automatically be this location independent rockstar that would have projects come my way, NOT a struggling semi-local in a poor community that makes me feel slightly uncomfortable from my American middle-class upbringing. I have been trying to work for the past month with a handful of leads but nothing solidifying. I know this process is normal and I know I have to be patient but fuck, I’m not in a good place financially. And it’s my fault that I didn’t think this uprooting to Asia thing a little bit more carefully and actually having money and savings while I’m here. That “save up to 6 months” advice they tell you if you want to become an ex-pat or build your own business? Yeahhh, I kind of skipped that. I’m a perfect example of what not to do. So here I am. $75 in the bank and foolishly or cockily (or perhaps dazzled by marketing and a good sales pitch, OR the fact that there are hot showers which beats the bucket and cold water) joined an expensive gym. Waiting for my car to be sold so I can live frugally off $1,500 in a year (yes, it’s possible here). Waiting for my marketing friend who wants me on his start-up team to land some clients so I can get work flow. Waiting for leads to become jobs or for job applications to become interviews and hopefully to become hired. With all this waiting I should probably do something more proactive and so I’m starting to blog again, because lets not even start with how I’m a failure at blogging…
I’m stopping at 8 and not the magic 10 because this is all starting to depress me (I thought this was supposed to help exorcise the “I can’t do it, I’m not good enough” monsters in my head!) and because well, I’m kind of crazy right now like crazy eights. Nah. I just made that up this second and stretching for a correlation. But sure, we’re all crazy in our own right, in this mad mad world. I’m also stopping at 8 because I’ve got nothing else and this pretty much ends to the present. I’m broke. But now you can see how much my life kind of “sucks” and how grateful you should be for yours. To be fair, my life doesn’t “suck” at all, but I’m just using this entry as a dumping ground for all of my mistakes. The bias lends towards “sucking” but when you consider the positive side of things, you’ll see that it is an unfair judgment. I chose this path and I will keep on keeping on. Making mistakes. Failing. And eventually turning into a success.