Happiness In The Face Of Complete Failure :)
A month ago I launched a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo to raise money for environmental causes, including part-funding my own social enterprise, Love Zero. It was a response to Trump selling plastic straws on his website to help fund his re-election campaign, and the theory was that I could leverage global outrage to make a statement and raise more money FOR the environment than Trump had raised by deliberately messing it up for personal gain. I worked really hard in the 4 weeks leading up to the launched, and then exerted a huge effort to get the word out.
The campaign failed quite spectacularly.
The goal was £12,000 and I managed to raise only £302 in the whole month. And although there were a few external factors, if I'm honest that was mostly down to me not promoting it enough or in the right way/right places.
I always knew that I would have limited capacity to build a full and "normal" crowdfunding campaign all by myself; most crowdfunding campaigns have entire teams behind them, and I didn't, but I thought I'd try it anyway. I tried to minimise possible losses by keeping costs low, and based everything on the hope that it was an idea that might catch fire in people's imaginations and take off organically, and knew this would either happen or it wouldn't.
It really didn't.
In the end, it seemed like no matter what I tried, I couldn't get the message out beyond my immediate circle of friends and acquaintances, and when that became clear after a week or two of trying, I lost momentum and then interest. I didn't really know what I should be doing to promote it better and the little I did know clearly wasn't going to be enough; I was also tired and fed up, and there were a million other things to do, and so I just stopped trying.
And actually, that's ok. In fact, I feel great about it :)
Yes, it's disappointing that I don't now get to give a whole lot of money to some really amazing environmental causes on behalf of a whole pile of people. And yes, I may have disappointed some people with the promise of beautiful rewards that they will now not receive (I'm sorry if this is you). But I have learned so much about business and social media and campaigns and being on camera - and about myself - from the whole experience that it was worth it anyway.
And here's why: I have failed at many things, many times in my lifetime and I have always felt every millimetre of that failure. I have been intensely embarrassed and guilty whenever things didn't work out the way I'd hoped. And I would beat myself up about what I did wrong and what I should have done better. For years afterwards.
But this time it's different. Unlike my younger self, this time I managed to pull back from total emotional involvement in my project and was able to make a conscious decision NOT to spend weeks throwing myself at a problem that wasn't going to work out anyway. This is huge progress for me. In the past I felt like I was letting myself (and everyone else) down if I didn't cover every possibility, every avenue, and expend every last ounce of energy trying to move impossible mountains. I thought caring about a project meant throwing absolutely everything I had at it...and I usually ended up caring more about a project than about myself, leading straight to burn out every time.
This time I decided to leave all the guilt and embarrassment behind, to treat failure like it's just part of the journey; part of the learning curve, and really nothing to be embarassed about. I am now (finally!) coming to realise that being in business and wanting to change the world means trying things, taking risks, making bold choices, creating room for new possibilities, and then just...moving on when something doesn't work out.
I have to say, I feel like this is a MUCH healthier way to think about failure than the devastating emotional involvement I used to experience!
I'm not sure why I felt like I should be so ashamed of my failures. I think many people feel this way, and maybe that has a lot to do with the way we talk about failure in our society, and the way we punish people and judge each other for making mistakes. And especially the way we are all often our own worst critic. What I do know is that it's been holding me back for years, and I feel so much lighter now, so much stronger and more capable than I did before. Ready to face into the wind and celebrate my failures for what they truly are - marvellous opportunities to learn :)
So this post is about revelling in my glorious "failures", and shouting about what I've learned in the process of taking a chance and it not paying off. I am a better person for having tried something, I am a better founder for learning to put my own health first, and the fact that this didn't work out is certainly not going to stop me from trying the next thing, or the one after that. Not this time!
To the lovely humans who believed in me and my crazy idea, and pledged to support my campaign - thank you. You have contributed to this journey, this revelation, and are a part of my growth as a business founder (and most of all as a human!). You rock and I'm incredibly grateful, and I hope you'll let me talk you into supporting another crazy idea sometime in the future...
You never know, one day some of them might even work! :)