Letting Failure Fuel Success

I work in a school.

Unfortunately, failure doesn’t always precede success in school settings. I’ve been one of the culprits at times, not allowing kids to try again, making scores final before they should be.

One of the things that has steadily changed my mind about overall grading practices is drama. As I started teaching drama, it became painfully obvious to me that one of the great benefits and necessities of drama is failure. Everyone fails at drama. Everyone misses a line. Everyone flubs a delivery. Everyone has an off day.

We had one of those today. This morning, my group performed a song from our performance to a group of students at school. It was the same song that they nailed perfectly during the performance the night before. Today, for some reason, everything went wrong. A lyric was missed and it through off everyone. The entire piece crumbled in a frightening and painful way with the entire cast standing awkwardly on stage, not knowing in the slightest how to continue or what to do.

When they eventually left stage, they ran outside and let out a litany of “oh my goodnesses” because they could not believe that they flubbed things so badly.

But I didn’t yell. I didn’t love their performance. There was not much too love, but I was interested in how they would rebound.

It was dramatic. Failure on stage in front of peers is an excellent motivator. They all practiced and went over the mistake. When they performed again later in the day, they nailed it. When they performed this evening, they nailed it.

They learned. They grew. They felt pain, and they felt triumph. That’s real life.

I don’t need to give a long list of famous people who needed to fail in order to succeed. We all know the stories. But do we ever do anything with those stories. Are we allowing our kids to fail? To fall? To embarrass themselves? Are we allowing them to look awkward on-stage and not belittle them or ream them out?

No one is perfect, so why do we expect them to act that way. We need to allow failure to lead to success.

Indie Authors: How do you define success?

What does success mean for independent authors?

Robust sales? (this, of course, needs defined)

An eventual publishing contract?

A certain number of reviews on Amazon?

One great letter from a reader who enjoyed your book?

More sales this year than last?

A blog that has an increasing reach?

I’m starting to think that success for independent authors might be defined differently by every single independent author. I’m sure there are those authors who are waiting for the big day when a novel finally breaks through the noise and sells tens of thousands of copies. That would be one type of success – commercial success.

And perhaps that is the motivation of some authors – fame, money, a traditional publishing deal, a house at Cape Cod, summer vacations in Santorini, etc…

I’m not opposed to money and selling books. Actually, I wouldn’t mind selling some more and increasing my bank account a little.

But I’m determined that the amount of sales or the amount of royalties will not define me and absolutely will not define whether or not I am a successful author.

Success for me is not one specific achievement, but it is, and can be, any number of tangible and even intangible results from my writing.

I remember the day I received my first rave-review on Amazon from a reviewer I didn’t know. That was success.

I remember the day I received an email from a reader who was personally moved and affected by one of my stories. That was a humbling success.

I remember the first free promotion I offered and a huge number of readers downloaded it. That was a success.

I remember my first reading, where busy people decided to come hear what this no-name author had to say.

I remember the day I finished my first novel. Then my second novel. Then my third. I edited them, re-read them and felt satisfied with the story I told. That was a success.

I remember when one of my plays won an award.

I remember when an audience member came down and greeted me with tears in their eyes because of one of my productions.

I remember when an artist drew an amazing piece of fan art based on a piece I had written.

I remember pushing myself last year, trying to find the write ideas to develop into a new dramatic production, doubting what I had created, only to hear reviews beyond belief.

I remember when I finished my fourth novel, and when the ideas for novels 5 and 6 popped into my head.

Every little step, every little piece of writing I’m satisfied with, every single reader who reads my works, every single person who clicks on my author page, every single individual who joins my promotional campaigns or shares one of my links.

Success isn’t measured in dollars or reach. It’s measured, at least for me, in the incremental minutia of the business. Every single small achievement is a small victory, a minor success.

Everyday I have to pursue my passion for writing is in and of itself the definition for success.

That’s what it means for me.

What about you?