Archive | May, 2007

The Glorious Success of Failure

4 May

Yesterday I saw a panel at The Tribeca Film Festival all about Superheroes. Zak Penn, a notably successful screenwriter, whose credits, notably, include the X-Men 2 & 3 movies, was one of the panelists, and during the Q&A at the end, a woman asked the panel if there were plans to feature a strong female superhero anytime soon. Zak responded by saying something to effect of: “Well, hey, I made Elektra, and that sucked!”

This, caught my attention.

He then went on to detail the mistakes he had made with that movie, and how he could have made it differently, and perhaps, better.

This set off a sequence of flashbacks in my mind, and I recalled how at several times throughout the panel, Penn had tossed off casual references to “failures” he had been a part of, to standing up for things he felt strongly about against the studios and then “being fired,” to a “big mistake” he had made on X-Men, and then, in my mind, this little failure montage culminated with his Elektra comment.

I could not believe he was copping to so many mistakes and failures! And he is a successful screenwriter! It was so refreshing!

Our society presents success as a finished product and props it up on display for the rest of us to Oooohhhhh and Ahhhhhhhhh over. I know deep down that every new venture takes trial and error, but I don’t often spend much time actually contemplating this truth, or how it could relate to me, and my life. The conditioning that success is born of success is that strong. But. This isn’t true. Success is actually born of failure. And sometimes. Of lots and lots of failure.

How this relates to me personally is fairly obvious – I hate rejection. I can sometimes be afraid to even try something new unless I have a pre-guarantee that it will be a smashing, well-received, success.

However. Failure can be, and often is, the catalyst for an ever greater success. A few years ago, when I decided that I absolutely must be a writing teacher and that this was my passion, I applied to several MFA Graduate School Programs. Many of you already know how this story ends. I got rejected from all of them, and was devastated that my dream of teaching writing would never come to be. Until. I decided to start my own company and teach the writing workshops that I wanted to teach, exactly the way I wanted to teach them. I believe that my success, and my feeling of pride in what I do, is so much greater because I was able to create it for myself, according to my own terms, and in line with my own passions, even after others had told me, quite definitively: “No!”

I was struck by how powerful it was for a successful writer to be publicly cataloging his mistakes and failures, and reminding me that every project I undertake does not have to have a pre-guarantee of fabulous and absolute success. Every project does not even have to succeed, as long as I can learn from my failures and use them as catalysts for even greater future successes. Reminding me how powerful it is to step out, with your enthusiasm and your passion behind you and within you, get really messy, and maybe just…fail. But do so gloriously, courageously, and even…successfully. To take a chance, because there is no way to succeed without lots of big, glorious, juicy, and sometimes even humiliatingly sucky failures under your belt, and there is not one Success Story out there who doesn’t have their share of disastrous mistakes paving their path to success.

Have a great weekend! Live large, and take a chance on failure!

And if you want to share one of YOUR glorious successful failure stories, you can do so right here! I’d love to hear from you!

Lots of love!

Jen xoxoxo

Copyright © 2007 by Jennifer Garam.  All rights reserved.