by Rachelle Gardner

As a professional in the publishing industry, I am overwhelmed at the enormity of failing. It has nothing to do with whether or not I am actually succeeding in what I set out to do, but everything to do with how I perceive things.

I don’t sell every project I take on. I get rejection letters from editors all the time. I can’t always meet everyone’s needs as quickly as I want to. I’ve taken on clients that weren’t a good fit and then lost those clients. I’ve made decisions I later realized were the wrong ones.

There are also daily successes, everything from selling a project, to helping a client solve a manuscript problem, to coming away from a contract negotiation feeling like everybody won. But human nature being what it is, I sometimes feel like the failures overshadow the successes.

Awhile back I had a period where I was feeling particularly worn down, so I went searching the Internet for help. Turns out, everyone and their brother has blogged about failure. And every successful person in history has a quote about it, too.

Hmm, wonder what that means? Clearly, everyone feels like they’re failing sometimes!

I found that most of the wisdom on dealing with failure advises we do things that most of us do instinctively. Things like:

1. Reframe the failure and look at it as simply part of the process.
2. Accept that any endeavor worth trying will involve some risk and experimentation, and hence, failure.
3. Use every failure as an opportunity to reassess what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Figure out how to do it better next time.
4. Realize that if you’re not failing sometimes, you may not be taking enough risks or pushing yourself hard enough.
5. Just keep getting back up, knowing you’re smarter now than you were before the failure.
Here are three quotes that have been helpful to me:

“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”
~Henry Ford

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
~Thomas Edison

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”
~Winston Churchill

They sound like platitudes until you’re in that place where you feel like an epic loser … and suddenly they make sense.

Get back up. That’s really all you can do. It’s the only thing that makes sense to me.

What about you? How have you failed? What kind of wisdom has helped you deal with it?


Rachelle Gardner is an agent with Books & Such Literary, looking for authors with long-term publishing potential. She represents Christian fiction and non-fiction, with a particular fondness for strong spiritual memoirs and books that address contemporary issues in Christianity.