Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: handling failure

Original image via Lucy Downey from Flickr Creative Commons
Original image via Lucy Downey from Flickr Creative Commons

The world around us is always pushing this notion of “perfection” and, I don’t know about you, but sometimes I wonder what “reality” looks like. All the models are tall and thin and young with poofy lips (and men have their own variety of the super model stereotype). They have fabulous clothes and new cars and go on expensive vacations.

Even our homes! When I look around my house that’s littered with toys, my sink full of dishes and two baskets full of laundry (even though I just DID laundry) I wonder what a real home is supposed to look like? Where do I fit? Sure NOT on Pinterest.

Granted, there are areas I KNOW I am slacking (*cough* Christmas tree is STILL standing) and let’s not talk about the state of my drawers and closets. But, I generally (when the washer ISN’T broken) wash the sheets 1-2 times a week. I make the beds. I clean the toilets all the time because Spawn is 4 and we are still working on AIM.

Pippa claims she is "helping" with laundry. Right.
Pippa claims she is “helping” with laundry. Right.

But I am nowhere near the homes in magazines or on TV, even though I live in an apron. I will never wear skinny jeans and I am unwilling to go into crushing debt to keep up with a world who portrays a “reality” that is geared to make me emotional, make me feel inferior and therefore buy stuff. Or work more, do more, more, more, more.

I live in my apron only usually no makeup and hair in a scrunch-ee
I live in my apron, but usually no makeup and hair in a scrunch-ee.

Why do I bring this up?

Because perfect is an illusion. There is no such thing. Our society has gotten into this GO BIG OR GO HOME attitude, and sure, that might be okay in one or two aspects of our lives…but ALL OF IT? I cannot look like a fitness model, write 4 novels a year, have perfect social media, make crafts with my kid, volunteer, drive a BMW and have a house that should be featured on HGTV.

Maybe you can. I can’t and won’t. Not worth it.

Thus, we need to list our priorities and it is okay to let the other stuff be less than perfect. But, in light of this argument, I also want to say this isn’t a pass to be lazy or mediocre. We should strive for that nice healthy balance. When we get out of balance, something or someone will suffer. I have to be careful I don’t get so focused on writing and business and cleaning that I forget to be a mom.

I have to take out time to run with Spawn through the house with NERF guns looking for zombies. The dishes will be there. I know. I’ve tested this hoping they’d disappear but they apparently mated and made more.

Writing

You want to be a writer? Great. Here’s the good news. If you’re writing, you’re already a writer so stop the angst. Just do it. This is one of the reasons I am such a huge fan of blogging. Writers write.

My mom can post on Facebook and The Spawn has been known to tweet, but neither of them blog….because they aren’t writers. Blogging is training for the professional pace.

Blogging is THE most stable form of social media and it trains us to be better writers. We can write leaner, meaner, faster and commit. No Writer Warden is going to show up and take us to jail if we don’t blog/write. To be professional, we have to be good at keeping and meeting self-imposed deadlines. Not only does blogging make us better writers and create a stable platform, it also trains those self-discipline muscles.

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.
Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.

Even if you don’t blog, commit to writing something daily. Write a 100 words, then work up to 200 then 500. When I started, 1000 words was SO HARD, so I started with 100, but it was a beginning and we all start somewhere. The trick is to START.

Give Grace

I’ve read writing books and inspirational/leadership books that I wanted to punch. The last leadership book I read, the author talked about the importance of taking time to think, how he goes to his office and just sits in the quiet and thinks for an hour by himself in his special thinking chair. How cute.

I can’t even go PEE alone. 99% of the time, I have two cats and a dog fighting for attention while The Spawn hits me with a sword or begs me to help him level up on Angry Birds.

Can I JUST go to the BATHROOM….ALONE?

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 11.51.25 AM

Whenever I hear of an author who recommends traveling to a location for a book and staying there a month or two to absorb the experience? I think, “Sure. Uh huh.” And this isn’t to be negative, because I do have that as a goal. But, for most of us, that won’t be reality for a long time, if ever. But we still have to get the words on the page. We might have to use Google Earth, Google Images, or tweet a friend in the UK to help be our eyes and help us with setting and dialogue.

And the point of all of this is the best time to do anything is NOW. Just something. Don’t wait to be perfect. Just start. Baby steps are steps and one of the reasons I feel so many of us fail is because we buy into the lie that those tiny steps don’t count. That if we can’t GO BIG, we aren’t trying hard enough. That’s ridiculous and wrong.

Learn to SHIP

Blogging trains perfection out of us. Ship. Too many blogs falter and countless books are never finished because we’re too focused on perfection. There’s no perfect book. I could win a Pulitzer and still have people who hate my book.

Finished books are far more valuable than perfect ones.

The house? Hey, if I can keep from making an episode of Hoarders? Score! Sure, my goal is to organize a drawer a day, weekok month. But I can make my bed. My finances? My goal is to be completely debt free. I can start by not making more debt. For instance, I’m going to the Laundromat until I can save for a new washer.

My body?

I already eat clean, because I have a zillion food allergies. But, I haven’t been working out like I used to. Why? Because I was an IDIOT. I was caught up in the GO BIG OR GO HOME and gave myself such bad tendonitis that I had to lay off all exercise, other than maybe walking or yoga, for over a YEAR to fully heal.

I decided this weekend to revisit the p90X workout. I’ve done it before but I pushed too hard and injured myself. This morning, even though The Spawn was up all night and I had no sleep, I got up to my alarm and started. Did I do the whole thing perfectly? Nope. Was kind of a flabby train wreck, but I did it.

The trick to all of this is to:

  • Contemplate what is TRULY important. Might have to sacrifice the immaculate house for a finished novel.
  • Make a plan and one that is BALANCED. Somewhere between mediocrity and insanity is a nice happy place.
  • Give permission for failure. Failure teaches far more than success ever has.
  • Learn to ship.
  • Be a finisher. My mantra is “The world rewards finishers not perfection.”
  • Finish small and eventually we’ll finish big.
  • Just start. If we have a hiccup? Life blows up? Just start again. Simple.

I want all of you to reach your dreams and still have sanity, friends and a happy relationship/marriage/family. No perfectly clean house, no amount of money, no number of best-selling books can take the place of what’s really important. But, beyond that? REACH.

Ignore a world that’s out to tell you you aren’t trying hard enough and you aren’t good enough. YOU ARE. One foot in front of the other and celebrate the little things, because all the universe is constructed of tiny things ;).

The largest, brightest star is still made up of tiny atoms of Hydrogen and Helium. Every book is made up of a combination of 26 letters. Every healthy body is the cumulation of small, sound choices. Baby steps. Relish them and celebrate them.

Anyway, what are your thoughts? Where do you struggle? Are you bad about All-or-Nothing Thinking, too? Do you tend to go to extremes, either overdoing or being a tool slacker (raises hand)? What ways do you keep yourself pushing on? How do you handle setbacks?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of February, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less)

WANACon Winners

Rafflecopter Winners who won a REFUNDED Conference Fee

FREE WANACon Registration:

  • Kathy Wagoner
  • MJ Pullen
  • Kelley Conrad

Working on refunds today. CONGRATULATIONS!

Here are the three winners for MY Contest:

  • Grand Prize of Book/Brand Combo: Gry Ranfelt
  • Book Prize: Jacquie Biggar
  • Branding Prize: Shan Jeniah Burton

Raise a glass to yet another BONK on the head.
Raise a glass to yet another BONK on the head.

It would be lovely if, when we decide to pursue our dream to become a writer, that friends, family and acquaintances would roll out the red carpet of support. Maybe some of you are fortunate enough to have had this happen, but I’d wager most of us could have joined a cult of UFO worshippers in New Mexico and received a better response.

New Level, New Devil (Thank You, Joyce Meyers)

Any time we seek to do something remarkable, something that deviates from “normal”… expect rejection. I was “fortunate” to experience a personal apocalypse so massive, that up was the only way to go. With a misdiagnosis of epilepsy, I’d lost my job, my home, my savings, my health, my identity, and my pride. I’d suffered such a sweeping personal extinction that I very literally had nothing left to lose.

Why not become a writer? I’d always wanted to, but was too busy trying to please those who would never be pleased.

Brief History of Kristen’s Failed People-Pleasing Attempts

I’d joined the military to make my father happy. He wasn’t. After being a high school drop-out TWICE, I worked my tail off and won a full medical scholarship to become a doctor and please my grandparents. My grandmother’s first words to me when I announced I’d won a $250,000 scholarship?

“They must have been short on their quota for women.”

I fractured my back in an ice storm in 1995. No more medical scholarship, so I majored in what interested me.

I earned a degree in International Relations, specifically Political Economy of the Middle East and North Africa. I was going to change the world! The day after graduation, I boarded a plane for Syria and lived with refugees and mingled among the Bedouin and tried to see how things could be “fixed.” They couldn’t. At least not by me.

Defeated, I returned home.

Lost as to what to do next, I went into sales to please my grandfather (the business brain of the family). I was terrible at it. And yet I kept trying to fit myself into worlds where my strengths and talents had no place. In trying to please others, my health deteriorated drastically from stress. I remember every day going to work and having to pull over and puke. I hated what I did THAT much.

After I lost everything due to that fateful misdiagnosis, I decided to become a writer. I’d been working on my tome for years. I was sure it would be a best-seller and shut up all my naysayers. It wasn’t. It was a train wreck. I realized this when I joined a critique group and they promptly filleted me and my manuscript.

Thus, in a new personal low, I reverted back to trying to please others and got another brilliant idea.

“I know. LAW SCHOOL.”

I bought an LSAT book but never studied. I guess I thought I’d learn through osmosis. Anyway, it would have been great if I’d tanked, but I didn’t. I scored a 168 without studying. Now I was truly in a panic. Until the day I received my scores, I hadn’t been honest with myself. I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I’d just thought maybe my family would let up on me for a while then I could write while I “studied” to do better.

But, no. I was accepted into one of the top law schools in the country.

CRAP.

Crisis Point

I’d always believed in service. I was a Rotarian and had done mission work and humanitarian work for most of my life. So, my mother (my sole advocate) and I went to talk to the church elder to get some advice about law school versus being a writer.

For some reason I expected him to support my writing dream, but was basically told I was a fool and most writers wash out and starve and that writing wasn’t a “real” job.”

*Makes mental note of how many BOOKS were lining his office*

When I left, I was in tears and ready to give up on writing. Had it not been for my mother, I would have. I’d have gone off to law school then later hurled myself in traffic because I would have been chained to yet another profession that wasn’t my calling.

How Could ONE PERSON FAIL So MUCH?

Faith is the belief in things ahead that won’t make sense until we look back. This is one of the reasons I blog so much to teach you guys more than craft, more than social media. I want to teach you that it isn’t over until we give up and that failure provides the necessary ingredients for success.

If I hadn’t been a high school dropout, would I have had the tenacity to never give up?

If you read my new book, it’s loaded with neuroscience, economics, epidemiology and humor. If I hadn’t majored in Neuroscience for three years, then earned a degree in Political Economy, would I have been able to tether all these concepts together in a book that could help artists?

The same analytical skills that helped me on the LSAT helped me pull apart what worked and didn’t work with selling books. Why don’t ads sell books when they sell plenty of mascara, diet plans and computers?

If my first novel had been perfect, would I have had to take on jobs editing and reverse-engineered every book I’d ever read to learn? Could I teach craft had I naturally been “brilliant” at it? If I hadn’t landed on my @$$ so many times, would I have developed the sense of humor that makes all these concepts FUN?

Failure as Fertilizer

When we first moved into our new home, our yard was essentially mowed field. The dirt was nothing but rocks and hard clay. When I planted my first flowers, they shriveled and died. So I planted different flowers and they died too.

So then I planted different flowers and they caught on fire and fell into the swamp died too. But, finally, after rounds and rounds of dead plants, the flowers started to thrive. All that had died had provided what was missing, the vital ingredients for life to THRIVE.

THEY LIVE! Only took FOUR YEARS to BLOOM.
THEY LIVE! Only took FOUR YEARS to BLOOM.

Your “failures” feel like bull$#!&, but bull$#!&  makes fabulous fertilizer :D. You just need time, work and patience to bloom.

Embrace the Apocalypse

Becoming a writer isn’t easy. We get called “aspiring” writers until we land a sweet three-book deal with Random-Penguin. No one calls a pre-med student an “aspiring doctor.” They don’t call a pre-law student “an aspiring lawyer.” So, as I’ve said before, screw aspiring. Aspiring is for pansies. You are NOT an aspiring writer, you are at the very least a “pre-published writer”.

Writers write, so if you are writing, you are a WRITER.

Ignore the naysayers. They’ll be your biggest fans one day when you prove them wrong. Raise a glass to your failures. They will provide the ingredients for magic in your future writing. Let the old fall away. A lot of an apocalypse is releasing the old, the out-dated and the junk that doesn’t work.

I had to let go of trying to please others. I had to let go of failing at destinies that weren’t mine. I had to let go of amateur thinking and take my job seriously, even if no one could walk into a bookstore and buy my book (yet). Know that you have stories only you can tell, subjects only you can teach or explore (for the NF authors). You were born to do this and ignore anyone who tells you any different.

If your friends and family don’t support you, the WANAs will. Join us on #MyWANA on Twitter or on WANATRIBE. When we try to hold onto the old and fail to embrace the apocalypse and embark on our true journey, we look a lot like this.

What are your thoughts? Did you have a personal apocalypse that prompted you to throw caution to the wind and become what you always wanted to be? Are you like me and struggle with people pleasing?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of July, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

NOTE: My prior two books are no longer for sale, but I am updating them and will re-release. My new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE.

LOVE Tard. Seemed appropriate.
LOVE Tard. Seemed appropriate.

Rejection sucks. There is no other way of saying it. Of course, the clincher is that rejection is not only part of life, but it is a necessary ingredient to the life well-lived. But, how do we handle rejection in a way that is constructive? A lot of how we handle rejection stems from how we view rejection.

I have a saying: If we aren’t failing, then we aren’t doing anything interesting. Of course, there are those individuals out there who will never suffer from rejection, but they never try. These people never dare and never step out of the comfort zone. Thus, I suppose all of us face a choice daily—pain of rejection or pain of mediocrity.

Either way, there will be pain.

A Closer Look at Rejection

How many of you applied for a dream job? Went on a first date with someone you were CRAZY about? Entered that dream contest? Queried that mega-agent?

…only to fall flat on your face?

Okay, but how many of you:

Applied for a job that was beneath your skill level? Went on a dreadful date as a favor? Queried an agent you really didn’t want, but you promised yourself that you’d query at least 10 agents a month?

…only to get rejected.

O-U-C-H, right?

All of us have been rejected when we’ve reached for the stars, but then there is the time where we totally were going to reject the other party…and they beat us to the punch.

What? He didn’t feel a spark with ME? He doesn’t want to go out with ME again? He can’t dump me, I was going to dump HIM.

It’s bad enough getting dumped, but getting dumped by the guy who lives in his mother’s basement and who’s never had an actual job stings just a wee bit…ok, a lot more. And I know that it is ego and a tad of narcissism on our part, but that just goes with being human. We all feel the sting in our pride.

Statistics show that 10% of people won’t like us, no matter what we do.

All of us want to be well-liked, loved, accepted, but 1 out of 10 people probably think you were dropped on your head. Don’t feel bad, 1 out of 10 think that about me, too…because they were dropped on THEIR heads, LOL.

Kidding.

I subscribe to the Underwear Too Tight Theorem. Wearing ill-fitting undies is probably responsible for most road rage, violent crimes and likely a couple wars. Hey, you ever buy the wrong size bra and try to be pleasant? Just saying that, if someone doesn’t see how awesome you are, the odds are they should have chosen boxers over briefs.

Don’t argue, it’s science :D.

My first meme. Seemed appropriate for today.
My first meme. Go Grumpy Cat!

We Really Are All Winners

Look, you are special, unique, precious YOU, and yeah, I can guarantee that, when you try to do something amazing, odds are you’re going to fall and skin your ego more than a few times. Happened with rollerskating, learning to ride a bike and with querying an agent. The trick is perspective. Learn to back up and look at the big picture.

Closed Doors Can Be Some of the Best Gifts

Sure, we all have failures and setbacks, but I promise that some of the best gifts in life are closed doors, missed opportunities, or rejection.

In 2008, I went through the nastiest, most hellish breakup. There is being dumped, and then there is BEING-DUMPED-AND-WHILE-I’M-HERE-I-WILL-CRUSH-EVERY-GOOD-THING-YOU BELIEVE-ABOUT-YOURSELF-AND-RIP-YOUR-BEATING-HEART-OUT-OF-YOUR-CHEST-AND-SHOW-IT-TO-YOU. I’d never been through anything so cruel. My ego was so bruised I was seriously open to the idea of living out the rest of my days in a convent. A month later, I met my husband who is the love of my life and the most perfect man for ME. Thank GOD that jerk dumped me!

If I’d had instant success as a novelist, I would never have become the Social Media Jedi who gets to help you guys shine your brightest, and I wouldn’t trade that joy for a hundred NYTBS novels. When I started as a writer, I had no idea that, though I was a strong fiction writer, my real gift was in teaching, shaping and nurturing others. If I hadn’t been rejected on one path, I would never have found my true path.

Some Cool Stuff About Rejection

Cool stuff? Kristen, have you been licking frogs? There is nothing awesome about being rejected.

Um, no, I gave up licking frogs last New Year’s Day, and YES, rejection can be awesome.

Rejection Shows Us Where We Need to Grow

When engineers design a new car, they create a prototype. That prototype is then built and…tested. The place to find out of the brakes don’t work is NOT on 1-95 when a family of six is inside counting on being able to stop in a rainstorm.

There are plenty of people with the talent to take them to the stars, but they lack the character to stay there. All of us have rough spots, bad habits, or areas where our character or work ethic could come up higher. It is best to sort this stuff before The Big Game, when the stakes are so high that failure is catastrophic.

Rejection Can Show Us That We Are Doing Something Right

I happen to be one of those people who dances to the beat of her own ukelele. It’s hard to be different, but “fitting in” often comes at the expense of greatness. When we pursue our dreams, often we will meet resistance. In fact, I guarantee you will meet resistance. A lot of times it is because when we step out and dare, we remind others that mediocrity is a choice, not fate.

Also, people are generally afraid of change, so anything we do that is different or challenges the status quo can be viewed as a threat. It isn’t personal. It’s just human to be afraid of change.

Rejection Can Be a Sign of a Pending Promotion

One of my favorite jokes goes like this:

Screen Shot 2012-12-10 at 3.44.17 PM
Image courtesy of Sarah Madison WANA Commons

Scientists wanted to understand more about pessimism versus optimism. Was it nature? Nurture? Or both? They scoured the country looking for a set of identical twins, but one needed to be a pessimist and the other an optimist. Once the scientists found their set of twins, they separated the two and put them each alone in a room where they were chest-deep in manure. Then, they sat back and watched through a one-way mirror to see what would happen.

The pessimistic young man wailed an cursed and pouted. He moaned, It figures. This kind of stuff always happens to me. My brother always has it so much easier.

The scientist looked in on the optimistic twin and the young man was grinning ear to ear as he dug through the piles of manure. He laughed with glee as he flung large handfuls of the stinky stuff in the air, and then he’d dive in for more.

Baffled, the scientists had to know what the heck was going on. They peeked in the room and asked, What on earth are you so happy about? You are up to your chest in manure!

To which the twin replied, I know! Isn’t it great? With all this horse#$%&, there has GOT to be a pony in here somewhere!

Often it gets the darkest when we are actually doing the right thing. In fact, before every promotion, I know I’ve suffered the worst setbacks. Hey, a new level a new devil. Just count on it. Life is all about choices and success comes from how we interpret failure. Is it a tombstone or a stepping stone?

So, the next time it feels like life is using you for a punching bag, the next time you fail or face rejection, just think: With all this horse#$%@, there has GOT to be a pony in here somewhere!

Remember, we are WANAs. We are not alone. And when you get hit, lean on us…and play this song a few hundred times until you remember how amazing you are.

What’s your story? Have you ever been through a rejection so devastating you thought you’d DIE? What did you do? Did it turn out to be a blessing in disguise? Have you ever been just about to dump someone and they dumped YOU first? Have you ever failed, but that failure led you to something even BETTER?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of December, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of December I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.