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The Hidden Blessing and Stigma of Failing
Just today I realized that I have been using Photoshop for half of my life. I remember being 16 and unaware at how fortunate I would be to discover Photoshop! I was in high school during a class I took for computer animation. It was an elective and one that allowed me to come across Photoshop while fiddling around with the programs on the school computer. Notably, it wasn’t even part of the curriculum and I was cheating on another program just to go on dates with Photoshop.
Fast forward to today, this love affair with Photoshop has consumed me whole. Charles Bukowski wrote in part, “Find what you love and let it kill you. Let it drain you of your all…” The end message being the idea of being totally immersed in what you love, far outweighing partaking in what you’re not passionate about.
Being wildly immersed in the pursuits of your passion, there comes many a time where we have to face the ugly face of failure. My beginnings were the perfect backdrop for my message. It started in school, a place where failure isn’t really celebrated. It’s precisely why my level of growth happened away from school entirely. As we grow up, we’re taught that getting an A+ is sought after, and that failing is a terrible thing. Anytime you make a mistake, it’s looked down upon and the stigma of failing is one that needs a different light.
No one really celebrates you failing in school. They don’t exactly give you bonus points for expressing why you thought a certain way and congratulating you for thinking outside the box. But they should; creative ideas happen in that exact space! Grand ideas are not built on memorization, but creatively thinking outside of typical constructs that we’re so used to.
The Idea Of Failing
It seems as though it is ingrained in us that failing is an inherently bad thing. Even in school, we’re judged by our grades and not our intentions. Not by what we learned from it, but what we didn’t get right. Even in business, it applies. As creatives are already hard on themselves, I want them to know that failure is beautiful and becomes the canvas for igniting better ideas.
I was never the brightest student in school. I felt that I always needed to spend twice as long studying something to make a lesser grade than my counterparts. I tried so hard but barely made it into the top 30% of my class. In college, I always questioned every answer but many of them could have been the right one. Granted, you don’t really get any bonus points for critical thinking if the answer is A and not B.
I found out once it was all over that school itself wasn’t for me. Being a perfectionist, I didn’t feel proud of not succeeding to the best of my abilities. I was hard on myself and school didn’t make me feel better. It wore me down mentally and I didn’t feel like I fit anywhere in life, until I found retouching.
A Personal Connection
The problem with how we perceive failure is not being able to grow from it. My mental state truly changed the moment I grasped the idea that failure is actually great. As a retoucher, I’ve been fortunate to network with some outstanding photographers in the industry. What I learned from being around them was how they approached failed shoots or ventures. They truly brushed it off and expressed exactly what benefit they attained from it.
For me, the first huge failure came early. There was a major retouching agency that I wanted to work for. Within a short period of time and progress, they took note of my work and approached me to do a test. Excitedly, I took the opportunity and did my best. I spent the entire night and I felt so proud of what I had produced! My layers were filled with joy I tell you.
To my surprise, I was told that it wasn’t good enough. What? I was in denial to be honest.
At the time, I was extremely disheartened. I even contemplating giving up as a retoucher all together. I felt like it was my only long term goal and I failed miserably! I mean, I did my best couldn’t they see it? If top talent couldn’t see my talent, then what was the point? Maybe I’m really not that good then. I should quit!
I had just quit my job to pursue retouching as well, so in my mind, it was all gloom and doom. Yeah, I was being a drama queen, but for me that agency was one of the best.
What it did for me was motivate me in improving my own work and being better with my own business. A few years later, it turns out I was more applicable for certain opportunities that even they had failed at. Ha! I was so proud and thrilled that I stepped up in a situation that they weren’t suitable for. At that moment, I realized that failing to that degree was such a gift. It pushed me in achieving a greater height than simply being comfortable!
At the moment that you do not get something you’ve been aiming for, do not consider temporary failure to reflect on your future and your current worth! Take it from me, stay the course! Failure is truly a gift, one that will bring forth opportunities and growth that you wouldn’t have discovered if you hadn’t failed. You’ll soon learn to celebrate it.
The Stigma Needs To Change
The reason I write this message is because many creatives are extremely hard on themselves. Even when it comes to inquiries, if a potential client doesn’t accept their rate, they feel they aren’t good enough and deserving of that rate. So many of us are even closed off from being critiqued that we consider it personal attacks. I used to be one of them. If none of these apply to you, then consider yourself lucky. The best way I’ve learned is getting critiqued by my clients. Not being open to that would have put me behind. For many of us, it’s something we need to work through.
Failure is a beautiful thing. Know that it’s okay to not please every client at all times. Know that you won’t be suitable for every opportunity that comes your way. It’s okay to not succeed at creating your vision for every shoot you do. As long as you focus on what you did wrong, and acknowledge that there’s room for improvement, you should celebrate it.
True growth can only come from failure as an artist. It’s not defined by how many likes you get on Instagram either. There are layers and masks in Photoshop for a reason. Put a few layers on your career and know that it’s okay to delete some as you build the PSD of your life!