I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly which talks about living life from a place of whole-hearted engagement. The title, “Daring Greatly,” refers to the challenges and rewards of showing up as ourselves rather than showing up wearing the mask of “having it all together.”
The book’s content deeply resonates with me because of my own growing discontent with conventional marketing practices. It supports the practice of showing up fully without trying to impress as an effective way to attract business.
More importantly, it reinforces my belief that one of the keys to igniting our marketing mojo is the way we experience and learn from our failures.
Yet, there are good reasons people prefer marketing with their game face on.
One reason, the mask of having it all together is so popular, is because vulnerability is uncomfortable. Vulnerability means uncertainty and the risk of failure. And we live in a culture that teaches us failure is somewhere in the vicinity of cancer when it comes to desirability.
I learned all about dreading failure and how to avoid the appearance of failure when I was working for large companies.
The Culture of Failure-Avoidance in Big Business
Before I started my business I had worked for large Fortune 100 companies. Even when I was an independent contractor, I was working primarily for corporate clients.
While working for large companies, I was taught that my mistakes didn’t just affect me, my failure made my boss look bad and made his boss look bad. The message “failure is bad” was further reinforced in quarterly budget meetings during which I frequently heard how “shareholders hate bad news.” I also learned how to hide failures by blaming and by doing things to cover my ass (I sent you that memo outlining potential downsides).
One reason I left corporate life was I wanted to choose what I would work on and have full ownership of my successes and failures. I was tired of dealing with nervous bosses and the game-playing.
But I don’t think I was prepared for how many mistakes I would make as a solopreneur. And when I looked for help and support I learned something interesting.
The Culture of Failure-Avoidance in Small Business
In the Age of the Internet there are plenty of people, books, websites, and programs to help you avoid failure.
But this seeming wealth of answers has a dark side as well: it creates the perception that failure is optional. If the answers are readily available (albeit for a price) and you’re still not killing it …
a.) You need to keep looking for that magic system or strategy.
b.) You’re not trying hard enough.
c.) Maybe you’re just not cut out to be successful in business.
d.) All of the above.
This is not a recipe for feeling very good about yourself. But it is a recipe that works nicely in our consumer-based culture which works around the notion that “you are not good enough but if you buy this product or service you will be.”
Everyone Fails, Especially Successful People
The bigger issue that arises when we start to believe
#1. Failure is optional and therefore …
#2. Those who DO fail must in some way be defective …
is this: we’re buying into and perpetuating a lie.
First, I believe each of us is “enough” with enough talent, heart, and intelligence to be successful in whatever endeavor our heart desires. Yes, we can always have more experience, skills, and know-how but that’s a matter of refinement and individual taste.
Second, nobody out there is bullet-proof or failure-proof. If you’re human, you make mistakes.
The Gift of Failure
Speaking of failure and of being human, let me share a few of mine:
- I gave a presentation on guerrilla marketing to a large group of entrepreneurs. It was like speaking to the Easter Island statues: dead silence, no smiles, and no indications that my audience found my talk useful. Later I learned that in fact, several audience members complained saying they found me amateurish and would never consider working with me.
- I gave a series of live presentations on different marketing topics and each time I spoke, the number of people showing up decreased. At the first presentation there were 20 people and by the final presentation there were two. Because the series was a strategy designed to help me bring in new clients, I didn’t take my shrinking audience as a hopeful sign.
- Most of the new programs I’ve launched got no responses initially. I had to do a lot of tweaking and testing to begin generating sales.
- In several instances, people I thought were my allies have either ignored me or in some cases, taken offense telling me “don’t bother getting in touch again.”
This is failure. This is rejection and it hurts. It does not feel good.
I’m not sharing my failures for you to feel bad for me. I’m sharing them because I want you to know whatever you’ve experienced, you aren’t alone. The reality is, everyone with a six- or seven-figure practice has experienced a lot of failure and rejection. In fact, the more successful someone is, the more failure they’ve experienced.
I also want you to know that it’s good to feel bad when things don’t work out because it means you’re a human being and you care. In my book, caring is a good thing.
So how does this play into igniting marketing mojo?
How Failing Can Ignite Your Marketing Mojo
There is nothing more powerful and attractive than the combination of vulnerability and quiet confidence. In fact it is confidence tempered by humility that makes it possible for people to “know, like, and trust” us.
When we fail and learn from our failures, we have the opportunity to build our confidence and to develop compassion for ourselves and others.
The key here is confidence and compassion. In my experience, one of the challenges to igniting marketing mojo is developing that sense of grounded confidence and compassion. But once you have it, you have one of the foundational elements in place for powerful, authentic marketing.
If you’re interested in building your capacity for confidence and compassion, I encourage you to check out Daring Greatly. The author offers ideas for developing what she calls “shame resilience:” the ability to experience failure and use it as a way to grow as a human being.
To learn more about Daring Greatly, visit Brene Brown’s website: http://brenebrown.com/*
* I have no formal ties with Brene Brown or her work. I’m suggesting the book as a resource because I’m getting so much out of it.