Freelancing 2.0 - Embrace the Errors of Your Ways

Have you ever heard of WD-39? No? Like the 39 formulations that came before, it didn't work. But formulation # 40 was a different story, and WD-40 eventually became a household icon found in about 80 per cent of North American homes.

That's not an isolated tale.

Thomas Edison, the inventor of the lightbult, once told a reporter who asked him how it felt to fail 1,000 times (that's how many non-working prototypes came before the first lightbulb actually lit up): "I haven't failed. I just found 1,000 ways that didn't work."

James Dyson of vacuum cleaner fame had a failure rate five times greater than Edison before finally claiming success.

In fact, there is no shortage of tales of persistent failure that demonstrate the need to try - and try again - and again. In fact, the road to success is usually paved with failure.

In my very early days as a freelance writer, a seasoned vet told me that the best way to succeed in the business was to prepare to 'wallpaper' my office with rejection slips. Althoght not quite room-sized collections, J.K. Rowling's debut novel 'Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone' was rejected by 12 publishers before a small press agreed to sign a contract, while 21 publishers rejected the novel that Richard Hooker spent seven years writing. You may not recognize his name, but I suspect you have heard of M*A*S*H.

Fear of Failure Guarantees Lack of Success

It would be all too easy to keep going with a laundry list of similar examples: Rovio's 51 failed games before Angry Bird went viral, Henry Ford's five epic business failures before creating one of the world's most famous automotive brands, cartoonist Charles Schulz's rejection by even his high school yearbook staff before creating the well-loved and long-running 'Peanuts', and so on.

Sure, there are bound to be a few first-time efforts that turned to gold. Just like there's bound to be a multi-million dollar lottery winner. But the odds are so shockingly small, that you'd be silly to count on either one happening. Better to get use to the facts that 1) you will fail and 2) you can learn something from every failure.

I'm certainly not advocating that you purposely seek failure. That would be equally silly. But don't be surprised when it happens. Just remember to pick yourself up, figure out where you went wrong this time, and start again with that well-earned lesson in mind.

And if everyone around you is telling you to give up, consider the case of the late Robin Williams, who was voted by his high school peers as the 'Least Likely to Succeed'.

Or think about the long-distance swimmer who, after five grueling hours in the water, got within sight of the shore but was too tired to go on, so he turned around and swam back home.


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