This week I did a presentation to the staff at an amazing forward-thinking social media company called Born Social. Being the new age company that they are – they ask people to come in and share insights and personal stories to their staff over their lunch break. They probably thought I was going to talk about photography or industry insights, but as they said I could talk about anything I wanted, I chose another subject altogether: Failure. I decided to call the talk ‘Fail Big’
You see – there is beauty in failure ( and with that, a link to beauty, which is at the heart of this blog:). To open yourself up to the possibiity of failure is completely necessary in life. In fact it’s the only way I think to live your best life.
Failure and fear go hand-in-hand. We feel fear when we open ourselves to the possibility of failure. If we can manage to accept that we might fail, and that it’s ok to feel fear – then we can start to Succeed Big – not just Fail Big.
Failure is ok (and the truth is no-one really cares if you fail – they are all so worried about failing themselves), then you can start to tune into what you really want to do in life and who you really are – and tune out of what you think might be ‘exepcted of you’..or ‘ the sensible choice of career’ ..or any of those other limitating small voices in your head or from people around you.
So you might be wondering why there are pictures of me in an ocean-going rowing boat above: well the only reason I am a photographer is thanks to my many failures. My biggest and most life-changing being when in 1999 I departed from Tenerife in the Canary Island on a rowing boat named ‘Star Atlantic’ with destination Barbados. I was attempting to become the first woman to ever row solo across the Atlantic.
This attempt ended it total disaster when 10 days later I capsized in the dark, at about 4am in the morning, due to a terrible storm and an enormous wave which picked my boat up and dumped it on it’s head. I am not going to go into all the details (that is for another blog!) – and the fact that I am writing this of course means I survived. However it changed me. To be alone for 12 hours in the middle of the ocean sitting on the keel of an upturned boat not knowing if you are going to survive is a very strange experience indeed. The fact that I was ok one minute, and not the next, really made me question my choices and what I was doing with my life. You could say my attempt was a massive failure – I did not become the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic – but looking back at it over time, I have learnt to see if as a personal success story. It gave me the clarity to change direction and try to become a photographer. It also gave me more confidence – I had after all survived. I had no idea if I could succeed as a photographer. In fact part of me thought I probably had no talent for it – but the experience gave me the strength to give it a try. After all – what could really go wrong?
And so you see – failing big might be the best thing that ever happened to me.
When photographing people it’s also interesting to see that the biggest obstacle I come across is fear of failure. Fear of failing to take a good picture. I do understand that being a photographic subject can feel like a vulnerable position to be in. But the truth is that we all have a great picture in us. And the only way to get it is to let go, relax, feel the fear and dare to fail – and with that we will succeed.
And they are all digital files anyway – so we can delete all the bad ones at a push of a button…