You’re not a failure until you give up.

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Some of the smallest things can appear monumental. Five sentences. FIVE STINKIN’ SENTENCES. All I had to do was recite them with feeling and heaven knows I’d done it a million times before – to the kids, to my poor husband, my students, the school secretary. I looked into the eyes of the mock agent and….CHOKED. I laughed, then belittled my self and started over three times. The second interview only went half as bad and by the time I got to the third and the fourth I was feeling a little better but when I got home from the dinner party I was nauseous. What if that had been the real thing? WILL I DO THAT AT THE REAL THING? The awful scene kept rolling over in my head, even the next morning, until my phone started dancing across my desk with an update from a blog I subscribe to. One quote stood out to me:

Mistakes can refine us or define us. –Kristen Lamb

Oh, by the way that is my  little puppy in the photo taking on the toy dinosaur  I KNOW! She’s adorable. Anywho back to failure. We’ve all heard it before but it is truly, truly all about perspective. Now, I am so glad I went in and bombed it with the sweet people that took an hour or two out of their busy schedules to come hear this dreamer pitch her book, because now that I’ve fallen flat on my face, I know what NOT to do.
Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently. -Henry Ford
 My thoughts are my worst enemy. I psych myself out. I psych myself out about psyching myself out! So, when I got home that night I started thinking things like, “What are you trying to accomplish anyway? Why are you putting yourself through this?  Just bury it and walk away.”
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But  failure only happens when we quit. As long as we are trying, there is the potential for success in our future. I’m encouraged by what I learned from biting the big one the other night. It opened the door for me to improve so I can walk into the room with those agents next week with a totally new perspective.

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These moments in our journeys are the growing times and it’s all in how we perceive them. We can walk away saying, “Oh! I see exactly what I did wrong. I’m so glad I caught that so I can change it.” Or we can walk away saying, “I can’t believe I blew it like that.” I have to say I might still be wallowing in the latter stinking thinking if it weren’t for my husband, who isn’t afraid to point out the things that need working on because he knows I’m capable of knocking it out of the park. I can’t always see that but for now I’m going to take his word for it.
So, here’s what I’d love from you: advice. How do you stay out of your head in the moment? What do you do when you can feel that you’re losing your grip during a presentation? How do you just relax and tell your story to a perfect stranger? I’d love to hear from you!
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19 thoughts on “You’re not a failure until you give up.

  1. The old cliche is picture them all naked (or, in the case of “The Muppets,” picture them all ‘kinda naked). But that never worked for me. I used to have to give presentations often in my last job. As soon as I felt myself beginning to “lose my grip” I’d think of something stabilizing in my life, i.e. my then-girlfriend, now wife, my writing, etc.. Doing that helped me to relax. The thing is, giving a presentation, no matter how many times you’ve done it, is always an unknown. You don’t know what kind of audience you’re going to have. Receptive? Indifferent? Thinking about something known always calmed me down. Give it a try. And good luck!

  2. Yeah, the picturing them naked thing doesn’t work for me either. The only thing that does is practice. That and getting my story pitch down to a sentence or two. And yes, I have flopped like a beached fish in those settings. I’ve seen people’s eyes beginning to glaze while I droned on and on, wrapped in an embarrassing web of words. (Like now.) It’s kinda like when you send out a query and that query is rejected. You then change the query, honing it to the essentials until it is finally accepted.

    • The naked thing has never worked for me. I’m in a band and I teach so I’m in front of people constantly. My daughter’s advice was to pretend like I was singing it to them or teaching my students. I just might do that!

  3. For me, I guess what works is preparing myself mentally beforehand to the fact that things can and do go wrong, and that doesn’t mean the whole thing (presentation, lesson, etc) has gone wrong. I’ve been impressed by people who can recover from mistakes — it gives them an aura of humility and resourcefulness. I only hope I can portray the same aura as I apologise for what has happened — without making too big a deal of it — and rebuild from there.

    Just think of Julia Child dropping the chicken on National TV.

    All the best in your future interviews!

    DT Richards.

  4. I think it’s awesome that you had this opportunity and you chose to put yourself out there. You also gave yourself the opportunity to do it again and do it better! I don’t have any advice but l have plenty of encouragement for you!!

    For my day job, I do presentations specific to my line of work. The good news is I LOVE what I do for my day job and I’m at the point where I know my content inside and out. In the beginning I faked it as much as I could and used the phrase, “I’ll get back to you on that.” Not so sure that would work for you 🙂 The most common advice I received at the beginning was ‘make sure you know what your talking about.’ I suspect that you not only know what you’re talking about but you love your story too. So here’s another common saying, “Practice makes perfect.” See, I know this isn’t too helpful, but I just wanted to say it’s great you’re putting yourself through this now. You will get better and when the time comes, you’ll nail it!

  5. I get all jittery and nervous when talking about my book in public too! I think as writers we’re used to crafting our words so carefully behind the scenes so when asked to ad lib, we lose it! I think the best thing…is to have confidence in your story and in your writing. No one can take that away from you no matter what happens. And some people won’t like what you do, that’s inevitable. But someone will like it too. Both are inevitable. I’ll tell ya…self pubbing has taught me so much and writing has taught me so much. I can do this. And I’m getting better at it, finding myself and my voice and it feels…amazing. No one can take that from me. That sense of accomplishment. So…knock it out of the park kiddo…you can do it!

  6. It’s totally good luck to bomb at your “dress rehearsal”! You’ve got this! You’ve been doing all the right things to prepare…and then some! Now it’s time to let go of the result and just talk to them like they’re a good friend. You’re going to do great! Best of luck!

  7. I have never understood how picturing the audience naked would do anything but distract me from the reason I was in front of them in the first place! This whole world of writing and submitting and pitching your work is a whole new experience for me, but it helps me to remember where I’ve come from. I’ve been successful in other things, other endeavors and so I remind myself that I can conquer this obstacle as well! Beyond that, the underlying thing that gives me confidence is faith – I have the Creator of the Universe on my side, so good things have to come – even if they don’t come when I think they should. I’m sure you have areas of your life where you succeed – remember those!

  8. I learned something in this educational program I was in which I think works: when you’re worried about something, focus on a bigger problem. Then it will relax you around the first thing.

    • That is one I’ve never heard before. I do it with physical pain (like when I’m working out and don’t thing I can take the burn in my muscles any more) but I’ve never done it with mental distractions! I’ll have to give that a try!

      • Yes. Choose a really big “other,” problem. 🙂

        (Interesting that you do that with working out, I may try that… :))

  9. “But failure only happens when we quit. As long as we are trying, there is the potential for success in our future.” THIS IS SO TRUE 🙂

    i just worked a post about it. And as I’ve said there and I quote “There are no guarantees in life, only possibilities. And it should be enough to keep you going. The world is not fair but it is most probably equally unfair to everyone. Don’t let the beautiful “could be’s” wind up being painful “could have been’s.” Take chances. Have faith.

    Though it might not be… it may be.” (http://imquotingquotations.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/that-precious-distant-thing-called-dream-2/)

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