3 Steps for Dealing With ANY Failure

I deal with failure on a daily basis. The way I deal with is one of the things I attribute most to any success I ever entertain… and last night, I failed. 

Photo 2: "Failure" (Shoot Every Day Project)

Kiara and I went out last night to get my suit for our wedding next month. We’re currently living near the mountains in Southern California, and for this rare week, there’s been a beautiful layer of rolling, colorful, deep and dark clouds trailing across the sky. I brought my camera along to the mall near the hills to shoot today’s photo for this project. 

It's not even December yet... 

The would-be shooting location (I'm going back this week!)

Watching the fog roll over the towering mountains as the sun quickly faded, I resolved for a field as a shooting location, and a backdrop of powerlines for my image - mimicry of my first image of the same sort, years ago:

The original image and inspiration for what I ......wanted.... to create. 

One quick way to not get caught by the cops parking in a location you’re not supposed to: hazard lights + open hood.

I parked the car, ran out to the powerline field to create the image, clicked the shutter…. and….

…my world came crashing down as I realized I had taken my memory card out earlier in the day so that Kiara could shoot a lifestyle set for a client. Her camera recently took a nice fall, and we’re sharing mine until she can send hers into the Canon service center.

I bumbled back to the car where Kiara was keeping watch on our car, and the look on my face said everything: I was upset with myself.

“Look, maybe this happened and now you’ll go home and create something even better!” 

I took her hopeful message and ran with it. We suited myself up in 20 minutes flat, went to 3 overcrowded stores packed with jostling Americans purchasing new soaps and iPads and home furniture, and swiftly remembered that Kiara and I don’t like shopping anywhere but the internet. 

As soon as I got home, I grabbed my lighting kit, tripod, timer, a flashlight, and a giant window that I pulled off a construction site a couple weeks ago. I instantly saw it as a potentially incredible prop - an old window from a bathroom... reflective coating on one side and stained water-run marks on the other. I set up in the driveway and, with Kiara’s help, snapped the image above. 

I wasn’t happy with the result, so I kept clicking and clicking and clicking. We tried different light variations, baby powder, pelting the window with the hose, using just a light… EVERYTHING. And I was still not happy. I create the image at the top of this post, and decided it was the best I was going to get for that night. In my eyes I had failed, but I learned an important lesson... here are my 3 steps for dealing with ANY failure... 

3 Steps for Dealing With ANY Failure:

If there is one theme that has been a consistent drum beat in my life in the last year, it’s that being sensitive to emotion is important, and acting positively on that emotion will take you from where you are to where you want to be. This is a theme just as true in my photography career as it is in my day-to-day life, my almost-marriage, my family relationships, the way I start my day, and so much more.

If you are not happy with where you are, if you have failed, here’s what you do: 

STEP 1: Be vulnerable and confront your failure

We are not a perfect people. We make consistent mistakes, time and time again. The problem with make mistakes comes when we don’t accept them, try to bury them, try to say that they are not there. Out of sight, out of mind is out of heart, out of mind. If we don’t accept our failures, then we don’t need to worry about them. If we don’t open up to others about our mistakes, then they never happened. 

It might sound crass, but I see this ALL THE TIME from SO many amazing people in my life. I even see it in myself!

“Nope, not a worry, not a problem, it didn’t happen, I don’t feel it, it’ll be okay, she will come around, it will fix itself, there’s no problem.” 

If you CAN’T accept your failures, then you WON’T grow. If you’ve dealt with failure recently like I have, I urge you to take a deep look inside yourself and build up the confidence to shut off that emotional part of yourself designed to keep you evolutionarily safe, and confront the issues in your life. Acknowledge them, even write them down. 

STEP 2: Take action to get where you want to be

If you woke up this morning and you weren’t happy with your life, recognize your failure, and create a plan of action to move forward from it. This is something I’ve been doing since I was 17 years old, and I promise that if you put this practice in to place, your life will center itself quickly and your failures will begin to correct themselves automatically. 

The idea here is to use all of that negative energy, that failure, that pain, as jet fuel for your passions, your future, your success. Emotions are simply motivators for the soul - a way of our hearts telling us “WAKE UP AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR RESTLESSNESS.” If you’ve failed and you sit in your failure without any positive action to move forward from it, you’re going against the evolutionary grain. You will be left out, your passions will be forgotten, and you will not achieve what you initially set out to do. 

Next to your list of failures, write down what you can do to fix them. Look at where you fell apart in those moments, what the thing was that you could or should do differently, and write it down. 

Step 3: Persist

This may go without saying, but this exercise doesn’t work unless you force yourself to do it again and again and again. In my opinion, one of the biggest secrets of success in life is persistence through positive action. That is, when you are taking one forward step in the right direction, you’ll only get to your goal by walking the whole way. 

So keep stepping.

Even if you step on glass. 

Even if you break your foot. 

Even if you don’t think you can walk. 

You can, so keep stepping even when it hurts, because eventually, you’ll get your motion again. You’ll be running through the failures, correcting them in real-time as you move closer and closer faster and faster towards your goals, dreams, and life. 

Keep on running. 

- David


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I'm on a mission to show that the light will always pierce through the darkness.