…and other useless questions I ask myself during the low points.
Being a creative soul means, by nature of the process, making a lot of mistakes. In fact, one of the most reliable ways to learn, in my opinion, is by making mistakes. Mistakes teach more than successful attempts do.
What does that have to do with running a creative business, you might ask – well, that’s a learn-as-you-go process, too. Even folks who take classes or get a degree in business only know the scholarly ideas of how businesses should work; it takes practical experience to move beyond the conceptual and find what actually works.
Mistakes teach us where we should focus.
They show us where our weak places are, and if our ideas are solid. Mistakes keep us aware of what is reality and what’s hope. Hope can manifest into reality, but it often takes a lot of erring to get it there!
I talk a lot about my experiences in business, because not only do I advocate complete transparency in my dealings, but I also find that I’m not alone when I share these stories. [I know I’m not, because I have had similar tales shared in exchange for my honesty!]
For me, I have found that my business missteps have taught me where best to focus my energy and creativity. I’ve also changed direction in careers many times. I wasn’t always a fiber artist, you know! Each of my various and wildly colorful previous jobs has given me skills that I use now.
My Quick’n’Dirty resume:
- Sales Associate – I learned the ropes for handling customers and managing inventory. Also worked on my dancing skills between racks of clothes.
- Manager of occult bookstore/botanica – this was my first encounter with handling daily accounting, ordering, and stock management, as well as the ups and downs of working with friends.
- Kitchen Cook -> Barista -> Kitchen Manager – everything I know about time management and organization, I learned at this job. I also learned how to manage a house staff and order perishable items effectively.
- Shipping dept -> Phone Customer Service -> Office Manager for publishing company – I could write a book on what I learned at this job. I worked my way up from part time in the shipping department to running a huge office space for a very specialized publishing outfit. I was so valued there that I was kept on until the end as they consolidated to a west coast office [then eventually went bankrupt]
- Counter Manager/Restaurant Manager – another job where making myself indispensable really paid off. I added payroll management to my skills and learned to navigate coworker jealousy. [that was a tough lesson]
- Manager/Promoter of weekly music event, DJ – booking and paying talent, hiring staff and managing them, promotions, negotiating with venues, handling drunk patrons. Making sure everyone had a good time even when things were blowing up behind the scenes.
- Radio DJ/Office Manager – learned to perform with a flawless exterior no matter what was happening in the studio. Managed part of the music library and did music reviews. Handled all the DJ logs for each broadcasting day, which required great attention to detail. Honestly, that whole job required attention to detail.
[missing are my very first job, some stupid summer jobs, and my last job where I worked for someone else, in a retail environment]
There were also so many side-gigs and fun extras. I have always tried to go where my interests have led me and tried to excel at whatever I’ve done, and challenged myself to move up in each company if possible. Combining my experience gained from trying to do well with all the things I’ve learned while making mistakes has made me VERY secure in what I know and don’t know, and keeps me from panicking when things don’t go as planned.
At the time, I would definitely have considered each change in employment as a mistake that I was making. But when I look over that resume, I see all the skills I have acquired! And Three Ravens has been that in a microcosm. Every time that I’ve tried something new, it was with the realization that it might fail, that I might have “wasted” money and time.
But that’s the wrong way to look at it.
All those new directions and ideas where carefully researched and investigated first. I looked at cost, skills needed, energy expended, and potential customer interest. A business must grow and explore new products and directions, or risk growing stagnant and eventually losing traction with buyers. And honestly, as an artist I need that, too. It’s why my resume is all over the place. I get bored. I need challenges.
What shows the true strength of a business, or an artist, or a creative direction, is the ability to leverage failures into successes.
So here’s what I’m asking you to consider: what happened to make you consider your attempt to be a failed one?
What did you learn from the mistakes that you made?
How can you take that knowledge and apply it to your next attempt?
You aren’t kidding yourself. You just haven’t figured out what you need to learn yet in order to find your success.
When I teach weaving classes, one of the things I talk about is just this philosophy. Sometimes you have to just try adding an element to the piece you’re working on, and see how it looks in action. You might have to unweave it, but now you know how it works or doesn’t. That gets put into your experience banks for later withdrawal when needed.
So… take the chance. Make the mistake. Keep your head high and remember that in work, art, and life, we’re all making mistakes constantly, and we’re all learning as we go.