My failures in 2020 and what they’ve taught me

I believe you learn more failure than success, and whilst (this year especially) it’s worth remembering the good, you should also remind yourself of what you’ve overcome and what you’ve learnt from your experiences.

Recently I finished Elizabeth Day‘s Failosophy a handbook on how to process failures in your life, and it reminded me that when things go wrong, you have an opportunity to learn and grow in a way that doesn’t happen when things go right. It also means you appreciate everything a bit more when things do work out.

Back in June, I shared 5 ways I’d failed already here and I’d actually forgotten half of these failures until I read this post again. So here are some additional failures to add to the list…

My failures in 2020 and what they’ve taught me

I’ve been rejected from countless jobs

From May until November, I was applying to jobs every week without fail. Sometimes I took a few days off, but no longer than four days as new jobs would appear and I’d be at square one again. 

I was faced with a handful of no’s and overwhelming silence. Hardly any of the applications I made actually got back to me, or months later I’d hear back from them. Last week I had a response to a job I applied for in September. Safe to say I’d forgotten about it and moved on by that point. 

I’ve written more about how to deal with rejection here, but I’m a big believer that things don’t work out for a reason. Failure leads you to where you should be. As a result of all those rejections, I’m freelancing and working for myself now, which has been my dream for years.

I’ve had a lot of pitches rejected  

I’ve been pitching to magazines as a freelance writer for a while now, which inevitably comes with a lot of rejections. After working as an Editor and having a few cool writing commissions, it’s disheartening and disappointing to feel as though you still can’t get an article commissioned. But it’s just part of working as a creative.

A good proportion of the time as a creative when you’re starting out there are rejections, whether you’re auditioning for parts, pitching your article or script, most of the time it’s met with a resounding no (and no feedback).

I think you learn from every piece of writing you do, you get better through the act of writing and pitching (and failing), so I’m hopeful that I’ll be better at it in 2021.

I couldn’t make London work in the pandemic  

This feels like a failure in lots of ways, but this year has also been about survival – getting through the pandemic and removing any additional challenges. My mental health wouldn’t have survived another lockdown (or two) in London, so I made the right decision, but it still felt like a failure. And from the outside I’m sure it looked pretty odd, hilarious or embarrassing, but it was right for me regardless. You can read more about why I left London here.

I moved back home (again) 

I’ve written about this a few times, but there’s a lot of stigma around moving back in with your family. It’s seen as failure or moving backwards for some reason.

When it is simply a privilege to be able to move home in your twenties, and I really enjoy being with my family, so for me it was a win win on all accounts. I don’t think moving home is ever something to be ashamed of and you can read more about that here.

I got a job and lost it in like 3 days 

This was a fun one, but it still felt like a failure. So as I mentioned, I applied to jobs for months and received rejection after rejection then got two job offers on the same day. I accepted one, declined the other and handed in my notice.

Then a day later, I got my contract through.

Yes I should have waited to read the small print before handing in my notice, but there also shouldn’t have been any issues. We’d gone over every aspect of the employment, role and terms beforehand. Yet the company had assumed I’d give up my social channels and blog to put my energy into their business alone. In the contract it stated that I couldn’t write about women’s issues, work on social media, branding, podcasts with anyone but them. They were aware of my side hustles, so this clause came as a huge shock to me.

So I told them what I’ve told everyone else, my side hustles (which are now my full-time work) have brought me more opportunities than any job ever could, so I would never give them up.

I haven’t finished my book

There have been two lockdowns, yet I still haven’t finished my book. In both of the lockdowns I was working full-time, but it still would have been a prime time to write it. Lots of people have written their book this year and that’s BRILLIANT. We need more of them, escapism is keeping us going after all right? This feels like a failure or a missed opportunity, but I’ve written a lot this year (especially on my blog) and so I don’t have any regrets. It’s just reminded me of what’s important and finishing my book is high up on the list!

I’ve read 24 books not the 52 I set out to read 

Perhaps one of my failures is that I set my goals to high eh? I will probably never read a book a week, though maybe I will in 2021 now I’m freelance, who knows. But typically I read in waves, I’ll get into reading and devour books like there’s no tomorrow. In the April bank holiday I read 8 books in four days. Then in May I could barely finish a book. I get into reading and then I get out of it, as I’m normally writing or watching a great TV series instead.

I’ve lost my fitness

I am quite sad about this particular failure in all honesty. Fitness takes a long time to build up and for the past five years or so I’ve been working out, getting stronger, faster and fitter. Last year I trained for a half marathon, would spin three times a week and lift weights. I LOVED every second of it. The buzz, the music, the atmosphere, the freedom. 

I have missed the gym a lot this year and despite having home equipment, it’s not quite the same. My routine went out the window in April and I didn’t work out as often. I’ve lost a lot of fitness in the past nine months, which is always disappointing as it takes so long to regain it. But, I’ve done it before, so I know I will do it again. 

I’ve found many gaps in my knowledge

I normally flit between two states of being online: I talk about subjects I’m passionate about, or I talk about subjects that I feel confident discussing. But everything worth discussing comes with layers of nuances. This has led to me being silent online when I should have been vocal, as I simply didn’t have the language or knowledge to articulate what I wanted to say, or because I didn’t know what I could add, so I listened and educated myself. Which is sometimes more important.

Education is never finished, it’s constant throughout your life. I think 2020 has taught us to continue to educate yourself, refine your views and knowledge, admit your mistakes and learn from them. It’s also about knowing when to pass the mic and redirect people to other people who are saying what you don’t have the words for or the knowledge of. 

A lot of vital knowledge about everything from racial bias to Brexit to anti-Semitism to social injustice is kept out of mainstream education. Then the information is either specialised to an extent that it’s difficult to understand (or you have to pay for it), which makes it difficult to know where to start your education. Or on the flip side it’s crammed into a few slides on Instagram, or a graphic that is accessible but doesn’t have the depth that you’re looking for.

I think we all need a good balance of both and we still need to decolonise the curriculum, shake up mainstream publishing and make education more accessible for everyone.

Overall, I have to say with all failures you learn something and gain a better understanding of who you are, what you’ve overcome, who you want to be and what to do next.

If you have failed this year, then you’re in good company. But that just means you’ve learnt, evolved and probably become more resilient as a result. I think we’re all going into 2021 prepared for whatever is going to be thrown at us, we got through this year, so I’m certain we can get through the next.

What are your failures from 2020?

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  • Hannah says:

    I think to think of myself as an avid reader but when I checked my Goodreads account on Christmas Day, I learnt that I have read 7 books this year… 7!?! That is just over one every two months!!! I know that this year has been incredibly busy for me seeing as I was working for the NHS in the middle of a pandemic but I still managed to read more than 7 books whilst studying full-time at University and have a part-time job alongside that!! For me, this means that I know I need to decide more time towards reading in 2021. Sometimes your failures just indicate where you need to dedicate more time in your life. Happy New Year Jess! xx

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