The Courage to Succeed

People often measure someone's success by their relationship status, how much money they have in the bank, the car they drive, the house they live in, the number of children they’ve spawned, or how many followers they have on Instagram.

Whereas I’m single, overdrawn (with zero savings), renting a bungalow, driving a 13-year-old car with electrical problems… and even my dog has more Instagram followers than me.

So, in the eyes of the world, I'd probably be deemed more of a "failure" than a "success". I certainly can't imagine anyone standing around the water cooler saying; "That Dave's doing well for himself!"

On reflection, I can’t actually think of anyone I know who isn’t either a) A homeowner, b) Married or in a relationship, c) A parent to one or more children, or d) In a good financial position.

You only have to look at all the advertisements on TV these days. A vast majority are aimed at middle to upper class families doing exceptionally well for themselves, where money is no object. Embarrassed by your kitchen? Get a new one! Having twins? Get a bigger car! Worried about your fuel emissions? Get an electric car!

It's like looking through a window into an alien world. In fact, the last advert I saw on television that was aimed at someone like me was the launch of the new Eagle comic in 1982. "Take my 20p!" I exclaimed.

Advertising executives just aren’t interested in people like me. Unless I have money to spend on their products or services then I'm dead to them.

Even single women on Tinder are adding “homeowner” to their profile as they know it adds a touch of “I’ve got my s**t together!” – well, so I’m told… I mean, it’s not like I’m swiping through Tinder at 2am when I can’t sleep!

Yep, it’s true. I’ve failed. Yet haven’t we all at some point in our lives?

There’s a pivotal scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Luke Skywalker tries to retrieve his X-Wing Fighter from a swamp, after crash-landing on Dagobah (the planet where Yoda was in hiding).

It’s probably not too dissimilar to me trying to rescue a Staffordshire Bull Terrier X Akita from the marshes… but that’s a story for another time.

Unfortunately, Luke’s attempt at using the Force only made things worse – and his ship sinks even deeper into the murky depths.

Yoda sighs in frustration – like a driving instructor when their pupil fails to use the indicators – and Luke walks off in a huff, telling the Jedi Master that he’s asking for the impossible.

At this point I know someone who would say; “Luke was trying to manipulate Yoda into doing it for him!” but Luke seemed genuinely crestfallen that, without his X-Wing, he and R2-D2 were now stranded on the swamp planet.

Suddenly, the John Williams orchestra ramps up, R2 starts beeping excitedly, and we see Yoda retrieving Luke’s craft with relative ease – before plonking it down on hard ground.

Luke is so taken aback by this monumental achievement that he forgets to thank Yoda and gasps; “I don’t… I don’t believe it!”

Yoda, struggling to disguise his disappointment, gives Luke daggers and replies;

“That is why you fail.”

Look at Yoda’s face. That’s the look Luna gives me if I don’t offer her any of my toast.

I’m sure Yoda wasn’t over the moon about doing all the donkey work for Luke, but if he hadn’t stepped in to help then it would have had serious repercussions for the conclusion of the Skywalker saga.

I got the impression that Yoda didn’t really want to get involved. He just wanted to enjoy his retirement but got roped into doing another job – like a retired plumber whose friend keeps badgering him to plumb in their washing machine.

The point is, if you truly believe that you can achieve something, you stand a far better chance of achieving your goal than you would if you don’t believe you can do it at all.

Luke failed because his lack of faith resulted in a half-arsed attempt to rescue his ship – and even Darth Vader would have found that lack of faith disturbing.

Yes, I’ve failed many times in my life, but we all have to a certain extent. I think, as long as lessons are learned, failure can give birth to a greater success than you ever thought possible.

Yet I know, for sure, I have more faith in myself then anyone I can think of right now.

This became evident, when, two years ago, I tried to launch a photography venture by raising money on a popular crowdfunding website – and, in an attempt to garner some interest, I promoted my project on all the usual social media channels. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al.

Unfortunately, despite lots of promotion, the project piqued very little interest. Actually, I’d say it went down like Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers trying to flog their Christmas single at an Iron Maiden concert – in July.

Some of my younger readers may be wondering who Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers are - well, therein lies my point.

Okay, ONE friend contributed, but it was nowhere near enough for me to purchase my photography equipment and pursue my dream. Feeling rather crestfallen, I asked a bunch of freelancers how they went about setting themselves up in business – and most pointed me towards some kind of business loan. So, after finding a low interest lender, I put in an application for finance.

Everything seemed to be going fine and the bank were more than happy with the business plan... but, in the dying seconds, they pulled a devastating “Columbo” move on me.

“Just one more thing… “ said the guy on the phone – possibly ruffling his hair, with cigar in hand.

“As you’re not a homeowner we need to ask you for a guarantor.”

“A guarantor?” I exclaimed.

A guarantor is basically someone who trusts you without hesitation.

Columbo is actually a prime example of someone who is underestimated and unappreciated at first glance. His ruffled appearance, battered car, and ongoing cashflow problems give the impression that he's a bumbling fool who couldn't catch a cold. As a result people let their guard down, and he's way ahead of his chief suspect before he opens his mouth.

I'm sure he wouldn't be trusted to solve a murder investigation if it wasn't for his track record.

Now, someone trusting you is very different to someone liking you. For example; I love Luna to bits but I certainly wouldn’t trust her to look after my cheese and ham sandwich while I left the room for five minutes.

“That’s no problem at all” I said to Mr. Columbo – which is basically my way of saying “This poses a huge problem for me and I’m definitely screwed…”

Well, my heart sank quicker than Luke’s X-Wing Fighter.

I thought about how I would ask for help, and how I would word the Facebook status update in my head – and that’s probably where I should have left it.

“Hi everyone! Remember that business venture nobody had any faith in? Does one of you fancy sticking your name down as a guarantor on a £5k business loan? I’m good for it!”

Of course nobody offered and one person even suggested I just give up there and then.

To be honest I really wasn’t offended in the slightest. The comment actually made me LOL (laugh out loud) and painted quite a comical picture of them working in a bank, declining every entrepreneur seeking a small business loan – without even glancing at their plan.

“I haven’t actually read your business plan, but I know it’s doomed to failure and you’ll be left with a pile of debt. Sorry, it’s a no from us!”

It certainly wasn't the first time my business ideas were brushed aside. Another person once said; "I hope it's not a pyramid scheme!" when I discussed another venture.

Do people think I'm stupid? (rhetorical question)

In the end I knew help wasn’t forthcoming, so I took on a plethora of minimum wage jobs to try and raise enough cash to launch the thing off my own back. Take the long way round, so to speak. At one point I had two delivery jobs, a job at my local post office and some website work.

As I went away to lick my wounds I started to wonder why both the Kickstarter and the more traditional “loan” route both spawned such a disastrous outcome.

The Lunakita book fundraiser was a resounding success – but that was in another lifetime, back in the day when I was a respectable homeowner. Also, while several friends did contribute, it was largely funded by strangers (which is very common on fundraising platforms). I also read a fascinating blog about why Internet strangers are often more supportive than people you know – but I'll share that at a later date.

Perhaps it failed because I didn’t have enough faith in myself from the get go. The first thing I did was to ask my friends to help because I knew I couldn’t do it alone.

What if Luke Skywalker posted his own Facebook status asking his friends for their views on him using the Force to retrieve his ship?

Han Solo: I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

Admiral Akbar: It’s a trap!

The point is, I had a dream. Okay it wasn’t as grand as Martin Lurther King’s dream, but it was my dream – and instead of just putting faith in myself to crack on and do the job I tried to divert that faith to other people. In hindsight, I don’t feel that was fair.

The problem is I’ve been in debt, I’ve lost my home, I drive a 13-year-old VW Beetle with electrical problems… and those closest to me know all this... so how can I expect anyone to trust me to launch a successful business venture?

Well, obviously I can’t.

However, that doesn’t mean my ideas or abilities aren’t up to scratch. Heck, people often shoot my ideas down in flames before they’ve even glanced at them. I’m forever being told to give something up instead of persevering… whether it's the dog, the car, the design work, the blogs… it’s like I’m not good enough for anything.

Nobody could ever call me a big head – my head is small and round – but I know that I have more faith in my talents and abilities than anyone else.

Real life can get in the way of progress at times. Car repairs, vets bills, a global pandemic that halves your income for a year… do I fix my car windows or just live with them? Do I invest in an office chair or stick with the bar stool? I know it will be several years before I can launch my business venture… but I know, one day, I can raise my new digital camera aloft and say; “I did it, and I’m now doing pretty well for myself thank you very much."

Of course I might die before I’m in a position to expand my business - but even then, as I’m floating up to Heaven… I can say “Well, I gave it my best shot.”

Besides, I don't have anything to lose. If it fails it will be expected of me... if it succeeds I'll probably be accused of witchcraft. "You've made a profit? What sorcery is this?!"

I’ll leave you with this famous quote often attributed to Winston Churchill, that he never actually said… “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts".