I fell in love with volleyball in 10th grade. I realized back in 7th that I had a knack for it; but it was a few years later before that knack really turned into a passion. My mother was supportive, so she allowed me to participate in club ball; meaning she would spend hours and hours each week driving me to and from practice. She committed her weekends to attending my tournaments in Southern California. She often brought along a teammate whose mother wasn’t able to attend. She invested thousands of dollars into each season for the fees, the equipment, the hotels and food for travel. And it paid off. I began receiving recruitment letters my junior year of high school. By early senior year I had a box full of letters from college coaches around the country.
I was on fire my senior year. I felt like I was flying when I would leap to slam a ball down in a spike. I felt pure joy during those games. After a few recruitment tours I committed myself to play for a division 1 volleyball program in Arizona. I was excited. I would earn a college degree for $0 and continue to play the sport I loved so much. Life was good.
It didn’t take many weeks into that first year at NAU to see that my successes were over. I gained weight. I didn’t jump as high. My hits were not as powerful as the older players. I floundered into the net. I lost all my confidence completely from a coach who seemed to have no faith in me or my ability to play volleyball. She questioned my skills. She questioned my mental state. She sent me to a psychiatrist who told me that she did not need to continue to meet with me; she could see nothing wrong. My coach once told me she had a hard time appreciating that I was always happy. It was very unhappy, but had committed myself to the program, and would never give up a full-ride scholarship.
Two years later I felt a revival in my ability. It was preseason. I was a junior. I was ready for my time, and truly felt that I had earned my spot on the court. My coach didn’t feel the same. I played very few minutes that season as well. Some of the other girls and myself tried to make a joke of it; who could be the best ball shagger for the other girls. And at the end of the season my coach took me out for a sandwich and told me she no longer wanted me on the team. She planned to give my scholarship away the next year. I was crushed. I had completely failed for the first time in my life.
The next day I scheduled a meeting with the athletic director. I explained that I had been promised a scholarship for five years. I had done everything I could to be successful. I don’t remember every part of our conversation, but I do know this. I left his office with my scholarship in tact. Instead of playing volleyball for the next two years, I would work in the academic department of athletics. I would mentor freshman athletes, run study and tutoring groups, and I would graduate college with a Bachelor’s in Education.
It didn’t take long for me to recover from that failure. I was happy serving in the academic department. I didn’t miss the two-a-days, the early morning conditioning, or the knocks at my personality and playing ability. I did miss my team, but I still had my friends. It seems that my failure did not best me.
I have failed since. I am no stranger to failure, minor or significant. I have missed out on job opportunities, overreacted to disputes with my husband, made bad choices, blown up at my children, let down my family and friends. Each of those is a failure within itself, but I don’t allow those failures to define me, or decide what kind of future I will have, and I don’t allow myself to wallow too long. I have enough perspective to see that I have things pretty good.
I have failed in business multiple ways. I have always had a heart for the poor. A few years ago I was introduced to an amazing business opportunity with Noonday Collection. Noonday is a social entrepreneurship that supports artisans around the globe by providing them fair wages and ongoing employment in exchange for their products, which are sold in the homes of American women and online. I fell in love instantly. I saw an opportunity to do good, and earn extra income for my family. I invested. I bought samples. I networked to the best of my ability, and received initial support from family and friends, who opened their homes and purchased the products from me. Then it got difficult. I only know so many people. The people they knew often overlapped. Business leads from online went cold. Calls went unanswered. And I am just not a salesperson. I started to feel frustrated with the paltry income I was earning, which faltered in comparison to the money I was spending on samples and the time I was spending away from my kids to do trunk shows. (As a teacher I am already away from them five days a week, and scheduling shows for the weekend felt like too much.) I had to let it go. And I felt like a failure. I hadn’t turned my franchise into a booming business. My heart for the poor had not fulfilled a dream for a successful business.
I had to let the failure go and ask myself “What can I do as a solution to this problem?” The answer was simple. As a consumer I can be conscientious about the businesses I support. I can continue to support Noonday as a customer, and seek out other fair trade businesses from whom I could make purchases. I could research fast fashion, and reduce my shopping from those retailers. Things could be done.
With the birth of my second daughter came an awareness of a whole new world I hadn’t known existed… Instagram small shops. There are so many makers online who are creating fabulous unique products to sell. Shia’s wardrobe is so much fun. I have found so many treasures on Instagram, and a dream was born in my heart to have a shop of my own. It took me several years to solidify this plan for my business, but in June of this year I launched Little Disney Darling. This was so exciting for me- to design the site, to make and purchase the goods, to take the pictures of Shia in the darling little looks. To market the business and promote it online. I was so proud of myself.
But Little Disney Darling is completely failing. I have invested financially into goods, materials, the website; and I’ve invested in time: creating the site, ordering and creating the products, developing a social following. But my investments are not paying off. The sales are just not coming. It truly is not what I expected. I thought that with cute products, unique and original pieces, and adorable pictures of an adorable girl, the sales would flow. I support several small shops, and I thought success would just happen easily. So I am at a crossroads, asking myself, “What can I do?” I can give up and let this dream go, or I continue to promote my site and be patient. I feel a little different about the potential of my shop each day. I am still unsure of how much I am willing to lose without seeing any return.
When I finally worked up the courage to pursue this blog, this dream, I had to again confront my biggest fear. Failure. I am so afraid that my words won’t connect with you. I am afraid that my words will be misunderstood. That I will be judged. That I will run out of things to say. That my writing will be bland. That you will stop clicking the link. That people won’t share. That my blog won’t grow. That my blog won’t turn into a book. That I’ll never be the “real” writer that I think I am. That I’ll give up and let a dream go dormant again. But I don’t want to be that person.
Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. He went home, locked himself in his room and cried. But what he didn’t do was put down his basketball. Albert Einstein developed slowly, barely speaking before he was four years old. Oprah was demoted from a news anchor position because “she wasn’t fit for television.” Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for “having no original ideas.” Messi was cut from his soccer team when he was 11. Abe Lincoln lost 8 elections, but he ran again.
What these success stories show me is that failure is a part of life, but failure doesn’t have to be the end of the road. Living by taking risks is the type of person I want to be. I am a dreamer. I am a doer.
As a mother I think it is valuable that my children see me pursue my passions. When I fail I have the opportunity to be transparent; to have open conversations that inspire them to chase their dreams. My oldest wants to be a doctor, a scientist and a baker. Last week she exclaimed in the middle of traffic, “I figured it out! I can be a doctor or a scientist, and I can take special orders for cakes or cupcakes on my days off!” I love that she has a dream in her heart. My son dreams to be in the NBA. He has promised me a house with a pool, my own white jeep, and the puppy of my choice. I love seeing him work on his dribble or shoot baskets, knowing that he is picturing himself in a jersey alongside his favorite players. The baby is a tiny dancer. She sings and twirls constantly. I see those dreams in her eyes as they sparkle when she moves.
And guess what? They will fail too. Hopefully not in the dreams that matter most to them, but we all know that life is not a road paved with cotton candy and puppies. I will be there to cheer them on through each failure, as loudly as I am cheering for them when they succeed. Hopefully the example I am providing by pursuing my dreams will be enough to keep them moving forward. Hopefully their dreams will march on.