What Do You View As Failure?

Last night I saw a link to a post on a blog called Engage, which looks like it has multiple writers. In this case the writer’s name was Andrew Hanelly and the post was titled 5 Lessons From my Biggest Blog Fails of 2011. In the post he talked about articles he’d written this year that didn’t get much attention and how it was his own failure that caused it.

I commented on it, then decided to write about it more here. This concept of “failure” is a tough one for me to deal with because of its strong negative connotations. While some motivational and sales training types try to turn the word into something that helps you become better, I find that having words such as failure linger too long in one’s mind, such that you’ll concentrate on it more than you will the good things you did.

I thought about posts I’ve written in the past on the subject, in its own way. Years ago I participated in something titled 34 Questions and my answer to #17, which was “What Do You Fear The Most”, was failure. I also wrote a post titled The Fine Line Between Blog Visitors Success and Failure where I was saying just how you never know when good things will happen based on something you do and how others react to it.

We all see failure in our own way. For instance, this guy talked about 5 posts that didn’t generate the publicity he expected they would, then examined why he thought they didn’t work as he had hoped. I wrote in my comment that no one hits a home run with every single post they write. I alluded to my recent article about 14 Favorite Posts and said how I looked at over 280 posts to come up with 14 that I thought were somewhat superlative. I decided that, in my own mind at least, I didn’t come close to failing with this blog because I’d written so many posts here, and on my other blogs, in the past year and other years.

When you’re putting out a lot of material, you always try to do your best, and there’s a lot of good stuff out there, But let’s do a short comparison between Mozart and Beethoven, if I may. Mozart wrote more than 600 compositions that we know of; Beethoven wrote 200. Mozart was a “staff writer”, if you will; he was employed to write music, pure and simple. When whichever benefactor he was working for at the time said music was needed for something, he wrote it. Sure, he wrote things on his own as well, but sometimes he had to write something really fast, in less than a week. I used to write music and songs would come to me fast, but I was on my own time; I’m not sure I’d have been able to have the kind of output Mozart had.

Beethoven was different. He was a professional composer, one who lived at a time when musicians were finally being seen as artists and not lower class workers. Because of this, Beethoven got to take his time writing, and he was known as a perfectionist. And yet, even as a perfectionist, he had his flops. His opera Fidelio flopped, even after many revisions, and it bothered him the rest of his life. Some of his sonatas connected with audiences while others threw them off. Of all things, his 9th Symphony, considered one of the greatest works of all time now, had a grand opening, mainly because of the respect he garnered, then failed miserably with every other performance until the 1900’s.

Or did it fail? As I said, these days its seen as a major triumph, especially when we consider that he was deaf when he composed it. The same with Mozart’s music; do we consider any of it as “failed” music because he couldn’t take all the time he might have wanted while composing it? For the rest of us, if we produce consistently, can anything we do really be considered as failure, even if it doesn’t all resonate with the masses?

This is why I’ve written in the past, and need to reiterate again now, that most of us have to realize that we need to think of ourselves when we write. I’ve read those who write about how to make money that we need to write for the customer, write to their level so that they understand and will buy your product. I tend to believe that unless you’re hired to do something specific you have to like what you do in order to give your writing personality. If you do that, you can never say you’ve failed at anything. Maybe it didn’t do as you’d hoped, but failed… never!

Now, if your favorite football team goes 0-16… well, we’ll save that for another time. lol

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16 comments on “What Do You View As Failure?

  • Good point. For me, I started writing because I wanted to learn. That was more than ten years ago. To this day, I am still improving on my writing. My standards are my own. The only failure for me is when I stop improving.

    Thank you for sharing. Merry christmas!
    jim syyap recently posted…One more reason why LinkedIn sucksMy Profile

    • That’s funny Tory, but I agree with you. I mean, he got the post written, and he put in his homework in writing it and all the others. To me, that’s not failure at all.

  • Enjoyed your article on failure but I like to put in my two sense. Too often when people do succeed at any task on goal they consider themselves a failure when in fact it is the step or the action that failed. Your are not a failure you just made the wrong choices.

  • I just looked the article on the other blog, well I guess most of the things apply for every blogger. I can’t say that I’ve failed, but probably I choose radical direction to blog on different that WordPress platform. Actually this blogging software is quite good and very flexible, but doesn’t support native comment system. However in the last 3 days, I’ve extended my working day, spending nearly 18 hours a day coding and actually, I just build native commenting system, with a bit of twist that may help for my strategy.
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  • Thanks for this post! I have felt many ups and downs about my writing, my blogs, etc over the years. It can be an emotionally roller coaster with the highs of new subscribers and comments and the lows of no inspiration and losing PR. I like the musician comparison since the “creatives” probably face the roller coaster more than any other profession.
    Julie recently posted…Inspired to Follow Your Dreams from a Football PlayerMy Profile

    • Glad to be of assistance Julie. I think most of us pour our heart and soul into the things we do, and to ever label them a failure just brings us down. For instance, I’ve created a lot of products, but I’ve not had any of them break out and make me a millionaire. And yet, I can sit back and say “hey, I created stuff while many people have never created anything” and that makes me feel pretty good. Even the worst writer at least finished something. 🙂

    • Love your attitude, Rummuser! Indeed, especially in the beginning, the lessons we learn from failures are the lessons we NEVER forget. You can read how-to-do-something in books/magazines, on web, etc. a hundred times, but something we learn from a practical experience – especially failures – is the something we tend to keep in our minds for quite a while.. (if not forever).
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