Friday, February 10, 2012

Failure/Success - What's Your Definition?

Let's chat about the meaning of success. Everybody measures success in a different way, I measure it based on how I feel about something. However, I used to measure it on how other people felt about something. For example, some people might measure success by selling a certain amount of product; whereas I would feel successful just by knowing people liked my product enough to buy it in the first place.

The shift from focusing on other people to myself wasn't really a conscious one, to be honest, it was more of a defense mechanism. You see, for a while I fell into a rut where I wanted to win, win, win - and if I didn't win, it meant I sucked. You all know how much I loved Minted, and I absolutely do, but it's still super painful to submit designs to contests and not win. Often, after one of my designs wouldn't win, I would find myself saying things like "but that's soooo Minted's style! How could it not have gotten picked?!".

When considering new items to put for sale in my Etsy shop, I realized I had HUGE file of "reject" designs that I couldn't put for sale. Wait a second, why couldn't I put them for sale?? Well, because I didn't really like them. And then, the proverbial light bulb went off. I didn't like the designs because I wasn't designing them for myself - I was designing them to win. That's why I felt failure, because I felt like nobody liked my designs, not even myself.


So, from that point on I decided I would only create designs that I liked - that way, even if I didn't win, I would still love the designs enough to put them for sale in my own shop. Just the thought of designing for myself was empowering, I felt like I could try new things, take a few risks, and really use all of the skills I have learned over the past few years without the fear of failing. If I make sure that, first and foremost, I like a design, then a losing design does not mean a failed design, it means maybe I failed the competition, but I did not fail myself. 

My shift in how I perceive failure has proved to be a good business strategy too! 

I've applied my new perspective to my customers, I will only give them designs that I love first. Many designers struggle with the notion of do you design to make the customer happy, even if you don't like what they want, or do you design for yourself? Well, I've decided to refer customers to other designers if the customers style doesn't match mine. Since my decision, I've noticed that my customers are happier with their final products, and I enjoy working on their products much more. It's like...when you work on something that first and foremost you love, and then somebody else loves it too, it's total icing on the cake.

Anyway, I wanted to share this new revelation because I know how down some people get when they feel like they failed. But truly, I think you need to take a good hard look at what failure means to you. I am not immune to failure anymore, but having a different view of failing (and success) means that even when I "fail" I still don't feel like I have. Here's an example: I recently submitted several designs in the Save the Date challenge over at Minted. I was in love with my designs - they had hand drawn details, pretty colors and solid typography. The feedback on all of them was overwhelmingly positive and after the competition closed, I found myself checking the site hourly to see how many awards I won. Note: I didn't say if I won an award, I said how many I won - because I loved my own designs that damn much. Well, winners were announced and not a single one of my designs got an award.

Surprisingly, even though I technically lost, I still felt REALLY successful. Did the loss sting a little? Yes. But they were my highest scoring designs ever! Darling even made it into the top 40 of over 850 designs! I might have lost, but all I could feel was proud and excited. Excited to be able to sell the designs on my own in my Etsy shop. Excited to take the designs and turn them into full wedding suites. Excited that I didn't feel like a failure.

So for all of you out there that feel like you're in a rut, find a way to turn your luck around. Use every "failure" into an opportunity to improve and grow. Take feedback seriously, find your own unique style, and make sure that first and foremost you make yourself proud. It'll take some tinkering with, it'll take some confidence, but it'll be really, really worth it!

Here's one of my "losing" designs that I'm super proud of, go ahead and judge, but I don't care because I love it anyway!
"Pack Your Shades"

I want to take a moment to thank everybody for the massive amounts of love for my last post on feedback. That post alone got more hits than my blog has gotten in an entire month! Even Mariam, CEO of Minted, re-tweeted it - like, seriously, my mind is blown! You've all helped me realize that my blog calling is to merge my professional career with my design passion. Thank you again for the love, and I'm glad you all found it so helpful!

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