Failure is the other side to success. Nobody ever gets anywhere without going through some setbacks or encountering some obstacles. This is a universal truth for all of us.
I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t made mistakes or gone through a hard time. That’s just part of life. However, in the age of social media and the “I’m happy all the time” mask many of us have on, this is something we are confronted with less and less. We have this false belief that everyone is doing better and is generally a lot happier than we are. This false belief is created through images, videos and messages we see on social media. Sunny white beaches, perfect plates of food and happy family photos are what dominate most of my social media timelines. Even I sometimes feel this unsettling feeling that everyone else is living a worry-free life with zero struggles. Although I know this isn’t true, it’s easy to get lost in other people’s online happiness.
So I decided to try and break this cycle and share four of my failed ambitions with you. Just to make you feel a little better about all your non-accomplishments and ‘failures’. By the way, I don’t believe in failures; I believe that every little ‘mistake’ brings you somewhere else, somewhere better. You need to make these mistakes, otherwise you’ll never get anywhere. As Alexander McQueen said:
“You can only go forward by making mistakes”
So make a lot of them and laugh while you’re making them. Mistakes are necessary. They will get you somewhere else. And if you find it difficult to laugh at your own mistakes, just laugh at mine. I promise, you will!
1. I wanted to become a gymnast
Yes, really. When I was like 13 or 14 years old I wanted to become a gymnast. I know most girls start a lot earlier, but my mind was made up. With two friends and my younger sister (who had a lot more potential) I joined a gym and started training twice a week. I got a blue/pink leotard and spent most of my time doing handstands and cartwheels in the gym as well as in my room and the backyard. I really, really enjoyed it but I was never going to excel at it. The other girls in the class were much younger, thinner and more limber than I was. I lost interest after a few months and moved on to something else. I do still like to tell people I could once do a split though!
2. I wanted to become a lawyer
In a previous post I wrote about trusting your instincts and the importance of listening to your gut. Well, I didn’t learn to do that until a few years ago. When I was 18 I went to university in Maastricht (in the south of the Netherlands). I went to law school to become a lawyer and I was very excited. After all, I was good at memorizing long pieces of text and I could totally picture myself in a courtroom. The fact that I never watched the news, knew very little about Dutch history or the law never crossed my mind. I have never felt more out of place than I did during my first lecture. Every student around me was excitedly taking notes, nodding their heads and enthusiastically asking questions while all I could think was What the hell is he talking about? I sank as far down in my seat as I could, praying the lecturer would not ask me any questions. This is exactly how I felt through most of my chemistry classes and I can tell you, it’s not fun. I was completely out of place and I soon realized I was never going to be a lawyer. Fail #2!
3. I wanted to work in television
After law school I went on to study Communication Science in Amsterdam, which was much more up my alley. When I had to choose an internship I decided I wanted to work in television. The Netherlands is actually a great country to live if you want to work in the media industry. Many of the big TV shows like Big Brother and The Voice originated here. So, in 2009 I applied for an internship at Endemol, a famous media company which produces many TV programmes (including The Voice!). The internship involved working in the production team of a new weight loss reality show. I got it and I was so excited. As it turns out though, it really wasn’t for me. As much as I wanted it to be! I spent 6 months at the company and as each month passed I enjoyed it less. I didn’t like the fact that during castings, you had to ask potential participants for whatever drama they had going on in their lives. The more dramatic the participant, the better it would be for ratings. Sometimes I wanted to tell these people: Go home! This isn’t the place for you! Buy a weight loss book, join a gym, but don’t do the show! I didn’t, of course. I stayed, completed the internship and never looked back. Although I did enjoy seeing my name on my TV screen (see the photo below), working in TV was not for me. Another lesson learned.
4. I wanted to design stuff
I know I’m not a designer, I can’t even draw, but last year I decided that putting some quotes on a tote bag or a T-shirt had to be doable, even for me. So I bought some cute fonts, opened Photoshop and started ‘designing’. I found some sites where I could quite cheaply have my bags and shirts made and created some drafts. Below is a photo of one of the tote bags I made. The T-shirts were a complete fail, the text was too small and it wasn’t even aligned right. You realize you’re not passionate about something when you encounter an obstacle and immediately decide to give up. That’s what I did. The tote bags are still in use though. I take them grocery shopping every week :-).
I hope you enjoyed this post and feel a little better about your own failed ambitions. Even though I failed at many things (many more than I’ve written here!), I’ve learned so much and wouldn’t have it any other way. How to deal with failure is simple: you just accept it didn’t work out and move on. Easier said than done, I know. But that’s the only way. Give yourself a little time to grieve and then let go. The fire inside you will start burning again and when it does, you’ll have so much more to give. You really only fail when you stop trying, so never stop trying new things. Learn from the past and move on to something new. Because if you never try anything new, you really haven’t lived at all.