A shocking title for a post on a blog entitled “Winning Williams”, but it’s true. I am failing, and I’ve learned to be OK with it. Together we are rocking at our financial and travel goals! We are well on our way to financial independence and we are building the life that we want to live. Our careers are on fire and we love our jobs. But, it isn’t all sunshine and roses. I, Mrs. Winning Williams, am failing.
As a hard-core type-A personality, it has taken me some time to accept this. But the journey has taught me a few key things. Perhaps, if you have experienced failure, you will find some comfort in the fact that you are not alone. In a sea of overwhelmingly successful stories of financial independence and world-traveling adventures, here is an honest appraisal of what it is like to fail:
A few months ago I posted that I had finally finished my latest novel. It was published and available for the masses to enjoy. After three years of crafting the story and painstaking edits, I was ready to take the leap and put it out there. I was nervous, but I had visualized the success that I wanted. I had thought out a marketing plan and was ready for the mountains of rave reviews to pour in. On October 26th the book went live and I watched as …nothing happened. To date I have sold fewer than 50 copies of my novel. I have continued to work on marketing, but it is still a sad, small number.
Ouch. That failure burns.
Maybe I’ll never be the next J.K. Rowling or Margaret Atwood
I’m sure some pessimists are skimming this article thinking, “uh, yeah, your book probably sucked!” Maybe it does. Maybe I’m not meant to be the next great novelist. But it is my dream. I happen to enjoy spending my free time creating something. Since I can’t paint, or draw, or do any kind of visual crafting, I stick with writing.
As my sales numbers have remained static, I have reminded myself that the absolute worst case scenario would have been 0 sales. I’m almost 50 ahead of that. Yay!
I also have reminded myself that I wrote my novel for the joy of writing. I enjoyed spending time with the characters and I told their story truthfully. I can sleep well knowing that they have been served through my hours of effort. I have had to readjust my definition of success and steer clear of the overly commercialized version of it that has been sold to me since childhood. Success is what I say it is for me. Success is living my dream, dollars and cents be damned.
Support from the most unexpected sources
You might think that all 50 copies were purchased by Mr. Winning Williams. But that’s not accurate. He only purchased 1 copy. I actually gifted most of my close friends a copy so that I wouldn’t have to feel weird about asking them to purchase my novel. Some bought it anyway to be supportive. Some didn’t. Most haven’t even read it.
When I started out on this process I didn’t have a strong mental image of who wouldn’t be reading my book. I didn’t think once that I would fail.
Even though not everyone has become a huge fan of my work, some friends have really surprised me with their enthusiasm and support. It isn’t that I expected no support from these particular friends, but they have been consistent in their praise of the book and have continually helped to promote it to their network. They also ask me about a potential sequel pretty often. 2 Dedicated Fans. Alright, maybe not a total failure.
Classmates from years ago have agreed to help me promote the book. Wonderful women that I hadn’t spoken to in years gave the book a shot and have been some of my biggest supporters, leveraging their social network to tell people to read it. Their efforts have been much appreciated, even though their audience was not into dystopian thrillers about alien invasions.
At least I tried
It seems more and more that the generation to which I belong, Millennials, is labeled as being selfish. We apparently expect everything we touch to turn to gold, and everything we say to be lauded. Maybe I expected too much from the world to think that everyone would stop to read what I had written. Maybe the market is flooded with self-published authors who should have just taken “no” for an answer and backed away from their dreams.
But again, that type-A personality of mine just wouldn’t quit. I’m glad that I tried. And I’m glad that I failed. Each day I have learned more and more about what success means to me and what is important in my life. While it is my dream to write books that will entertain people, and perhaps make them think about important social issues, it is more important that I spend time with my husband. It is more important that I stay healthy and live a long life. It is more important that I show gratitude and respect to others.
I plan on living a full life. Mr. Winning Williams and I wouldn’t be working to reach financial independence if we didn’t have some bigger goals in mind. We don’t want to spend the majority of our lives anchored or cooped up in an office. We know that the road ahead will most definitely have some challenges. We know that we will face more failures. If anything, having experienced this failure, has helped us to prepare for the next time we fail at something. The important thing is that we don’t give up. We don’t see the success of others and think, “uh, we could never do that.” That’s just not a phrase that we use. EVER.
So if you have been failing, fear not. I’m failing too. The next time you read a story about a successful 21 year old retiree who is traveling the world and visiting exclusive resorts every day, remember my failure. Remember to come back here for a dose of real and raw failure. Ingredients are equal parts “truth” and “get back out there and keep trying!” If we’re going to fail, let’s fail together and let’s define success by our terms.