Succeeding at Failure: Realizing My Mistakes (feat. CCC)
Growing up, we usually get scolded for doing things incorrectly, or failing, in other words. For getting a low marks, breaking things, wasting things, writing badly, speaking out of turn, or even just looking not quite right. So many times we’ve been told the right way of doing things, the right way of being, and so most of us grow up overly cautious so as to avoid making mistakes.
But over the past couple of months, and more so in the past couple of weeks, I’ve been repeatedly exposed to people, both in physical form and in pixel form, who welcome mistakes. J. K. Rowling, in her 2008 Harvard Commencement Speech, says:
It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.
I failed to write this article yesterday, which I promised myself I’d do. But I’m writing it today. And while it may not be the most life-altering article on Failure and How It Helps Us Succeed (or something to that effect), I am taking a break from work to write this in hopes of lifting the spirits of whoever might read this.
I realized some mistakes and failures this week and added more to that list over the weekend, and I hope not to sound preachy, but I would say that acknowledging the mistakes is the first step to remedying them, as Kathryn Schulz shares in her TED talk. The second step, as Joshua Foer wisely advised, is to study yourself failing.
Now I won’t go on claiming that I’ve got this down pat. In fact, I do fear failure quite a bit. In business, I constantly worry about whether or not I am making the right decisions, by producing this type of good, in this quantity, by hiring more people, or by doing this type of collaboration with these particular groups/individuals. In art or design, I aim to avoid creating work that might look like a clone of other people’s work, yet I am usually afraid (or lazy) to really push myself to do groundbreaking work, and in effect, I produce nothing of real meaning, value or personal fulfillment. In travel, I am always admiring how others set forth on extended solo travel, yet I chicken out on the rare chances this is made available to me (i.e. REAL budget airline seat sales, not “seat sales”).
I’d like to interject myself and say that like many other people in the world, I too have self-esteem issues and more doses of self-doubt than I’d care to have on a daily basis. I guess that’s why having a network or “support group” of sorts really helps push me to go ahead, and take the plunge, even if I am not certain of the outcome of events. In my professional life, I have my team at Punchdrunk Panda to help me overcome this fear. My team, along with the other people I encounter who believe in our brand or other people who want to collaborate with us help make me bolder to take risks and try things out and change things up a bit. (Perhaps as a survival mechanism. :P) In my personal life, I’m lucky to have supportive parents, an extremely thoughtful partner, and really, this blog, which forces me to reflect on things (i.e. mistakes) I might not have bothered to reflect on with such detail if not for the existence of this little plot of land in cyberspace.
My, do I ramble.
BE WARNED: Prepare for more rambling as I enumerate other realized mistakes. Scroll to the bottom of this entry if you’d like a concluding statement on failure.
Apart from my earlier stated personal failures, some realizations on the Punchdrunk Panda end, and what I learned from them include:
- Our products lack proper merchandising in retail stores.
Now, our products have long been in retail stores, but perhaps due to a lack of attention in that area, this was not resolved. When I go to visit our consignees, our BRAND (note, not design) hardly stands out, and there is little to inform people about the value PdP presents (i.e. lack in highlighting our artists, etc.).
Last Saturday, Sept. 24, we finally had our Community Creativity Camp (CCC) - a half-day creativity workshop made to bring art to and open the minds of 154 6-8 year-olds from Brgy. Fort Bonifacio. And while I saw that the kids who took part in CCC enjoyed themselves, and we in turn were happy to help them enjoy themselves, I also gained some insight on realized mistakes.
- I relied on people who are not under my employ for 100% commitment on work without offering monetary reward or recognition.
In creating the CCC, I had initially intended for it to be a way for PdP artists to give back, but wound up with only 2 participating PdP artists in a group of around 40-50 volunteers. And these PdP artists were PdP interns before they were artists.
Looking back, I should have known how difficult it would be to coordinate schedules with artists who frequently have freelance rackets or work in agencies that have sudden weekend shoots or client deadlines. Getting volunteers for social endeavors is challenging enough as it is because it requires coaxing to people to go out of their way for “nothing”, so it poses an even greater challenge to even busier people with more erratic schedules.
- I engaged my young company in a community-oriented activity that was not as immediately aligned with our target audience and area of expertise; an activity that took too much time away from much-needed income-generating efforts.
Yes, I’m sorry for sounding so corporate, but sales/income is really essential to a company’s survival. And when you’re a small company, and you don’t make millions of bucks, and you don’t have a lot of manpower (i.e. there are only really 2 full-time members on your team), and yet you want to give back, I feel that our community-oriented activities should really tap the same age bracket as our target market to make it more meaningful for us as a brand/company. And that maybe our cause should be more about pushing for better design, or highlighting the arts, or showcasing talented individuals (which we’ve been doing through our other events, i.e. Anteroom Sessions, and our webisodes). Then maybe, when we’re bigger, more steady and able, we can more fully explore activities that are further from what is more familiar or immediately connected to us.
- I realized that we tried to do too much.
We took on too many kids and injected too many songs and activities, and this sacrificed the initial experience we wanted the kids to feel.
The people from My Masterpiece Movement really have something different and more enriching to offer to kids, and it’s sad that CCC seems to have lost the being in the doing. We bombarded the kids with too many things to do, that we left them little time to reflect upon the seeds we were trying to plant in their minds and hearts, which was ultimately more important. Less is more. :)
- I realized that we work better with some than with others.
I feel that Nica and I were really enriched by having My Masterpiece Movement (MMM) in our lives. Haha, I hope that they can truly say the same about us, but somehow I feel they really bore a lot of extra work as a result of CCC, and a lot of stress as a result of that. So I hope they don’t resent us for that. :P I feel they were our strongest ally in this project, and that the real credit should go to them, because even if it was our seed, MMM really nurtured it.
In spite of all the time and effort spent, and the stress of planning and executing the CCC, I’m glad we were able to push through with it, as it has now become a valuable learning experience for all groups involved. We realized our capacity, how we can do more than we thought we could, where we ought to hold back, when to take these challenges on, and who to take them with.
CONCLUSION HERE: But the more important thing for me is that we pushed through with CCC, and that it was not just another idea, another seed tossed blindly in the air, left to dry in the sun. Although I wasn’t certain what the outcome of it would be, the idea, incubated by the collaboration with MMM, came to fruition. It was no longer just an idea, but an idea we made happen. Sure, there were a lot kinks, a lot of stress, and it was far from perfect, we made mistakes, a ton, but having done it now, we are better equipped to make more EPIC events / activities in the future.
Economist and Financial Times columnist Tim Harford shares: “Few of our own failures are fatal,” and that “success comes through rapidly fixing our mistakes rather than getting things right first time.”
P.S. If you see any errors in this article or any of my previous or future posts, do let me know that I’ve made a mistake so I can correct it. :D
How To Stick To Your Weekly Schedule
09.11.2011 10:58 a.m.
This post is actually how I have NOT been able to follow my weekly schedule.
So this is really more of a confession of my failure to meet the above title.
Yes, I lied.
Last week, I was able to create a relatively jampacked (compared to my lifestyle before) schedule, filled with productivity and hopefulness for success in life. :P However, given the fatigue hangover from Anteroom Sessions, my Monday went down the drain as I spent the day recuperating. Then the rest of the week, I was busy with catching up on work, doing some preparations for the Community Creativity Camp that Punchdrunk Panda organized with My Masterpiece Movement and Yabang Pinoy, and I attended the Martin Lindstrom seminar at SMX (which I really promise to blog about very soon! I’m targeting to finish it either by this evening or tomorrow).
I think the lesson here is not so much as to compromise one’s schedule, but to create it such that it allows for such routine-disruptive though ultimately life-enhancing activities. The way I created my schedule at the moment seems quite rigid, and in the long-run may lead to burnout. :P So today’s learning really is about creating a truly sustainable weekly/monthly schedule.
I can already foresee that with the upcoming bazaars we’ll be having in November and December, there will be times when my initially drafted schedule won’t be followed. Add to that trips in both November and early next year.
So yeah. Weekly/monthly schedule, and consequently life plan, is pending reassessment. :)