I do a lot of interviews and don’t often mention them here, since that’s awkward and plus it gets a little redundant. But I did a very different sort of interview last week, and I’m almost reluctant to post it here for different reasons (!) but it was my conversation with Elizabeth Duvivier of Squam for her new Morning on the Dock podcast. If you’ve ever met Elizabeth, you know what a sweet and open soul she is (or “woo woo,” as she would say), and when she started asking me questions that have hard answers, rather than tossing off simpler versions, I went there. I haven’t listened to it, but I don’t recall that we really talked about knitting at all. Elizabeth is interested in where creativity comes from and how it gets fed, so she asked me a lot about our new house and life in Nashville, and also about my background and how it led me to where I am right now. I wound up getting into the long, sad history of my failed former business, and did a little hyperventilating along the way because it’s not something I really talk about — especially not on the record, for public intake. But I’m bringing it up because I don’t think I ever actually made my point about why I chose to be open about at it with her at that moment. That intended point being: Failure is good.
I didn’t understand it when I had a failing venture on my hands (wildly successful as an entity; total failure at paying for itself) and wish I had, because it would have made things less painful, I think. What any successful business person will tell you is that, while it might feel embarrassing, trying things and failing at them is a perfectly common part of the process. It seems self-evident: babies don’t just stand up and start walking. The only way to get there is to give it a try, fall down, try again, wobble a little before falling down, try again. I guess I’d never heard that famous Beckett quote — “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” — or maybe I just didn’t realize it applied to this situation. It’s one thing when you’re trying out a new recipe or attempting to ski or whatever. But when you’ve said to the world “I’m starting a business,” and you’ve put money and time and ego into it in a very public way (and maybe even put other people’s money into it at some point), it’s totally brutal to have to admit defeat. Unless you get that it’s perfectly natural — that people way more brilliant than you have also failed, in much more epic ways. And then they failed better, and eventually they succeeded. There’s no disgrace in it, as long as you’re learning. I only wish I had come to understand that before sacrificing years of my life in trying not to accept that particular failure.
And I feel so strongly now about saying this publicly, in case it’s of use to anyone else, that I’m posting it on my knitting blog today! Whether it’s trying something new in knitting/sewing or attempting to start a business, please don’t let fear of failure hold you back. Failure is such an important part of life — I would even say it’s noble. If you aren’t failing at something, it means you’re not stretching yourself, not trying anything you haven’t already mastered. Life is hard, failure is hard, but there’s no substitute for the feeling of learning, and applying that learning on the next go, and getting better results. There’s no telling what you’re capable of, and only one way to find out.
So thanks to Elizabeth for the difficult conversation, and thanks to all of you who help make Fringe what it is — whether it’s an instance of me succeeding or just me failing better and not knowing it yet! Whatever it is, I’m thankful for it.
And there ends my motivational-speaker shtick for today!
IN SHOP NEWS: Lots of great stuff is back on the shelves this week: Twig & Horn Wool Soap, Little Seed Farm skin balms, wooden rulers, brass-and-steel scissors, Stowe Bag patterns, looms. AND the new issue of Taproot is in, with a great matching hat and mitts pattern by Bristol Ivy. Head on over to Fringe Supply Co. and have a poke around.
And please do something daring this weekend!
Photos are from my 2014 trip to Squam