Successes and Failures (and everything in-between)

Success and failure aren't easy concepts to define. There's no black and white. What looks like success to me might look like failure to you (and vice-versa).

While the Olympics were going on I read something about how silver medalists are the least happy athletes. To you or me the idea of winning a silver medal in the Olympics (or even being good enough to compete in the Olympics at all) sounds pretty good, but to someone with a goal of gold, it's failure.

watercolor, gardening, spring, sketching, radishes, carrots, watering cans, hand tools, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Each of us needs our own definition of success. Maybe we have more than one. And probably our definition will change and evolve over time as we ourselves change and evolve.

We don't like to talk about failure and disappointment. We celebrate our successes and secretly mourn our failures, keeping them hidden as if they're something shameful.

To the outside world it might look like all we do is succeed, when that isn't the case at all.

Last month I talked about making mistakes. Mistakes and failure aren't the same thing, but they're interconnected. We can learn from our mistakes and we can learn from our failures, too. Sometimes that lesson is simply to never give up.

Artful Blogging Magazine, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

About a year and a half ago, I was featured in Artful Blogging Magazine. Definitely a success, no matter your definition. But that success followed a failure. I had submitted my blog a few years before, but my submission was rejected. I was disappointed, but I didn't let disappointment erase my dream of being published in the magazine. If I had stopped after the first attempt, that would have truly been a failure.

I could give you lists of my failures, rejections, disappointments. We all have them.

Yesterday the results of Spoonflower's Monochrome Design Contest were announced. I was feeling confident about my design. I had worked very hard on it and I love the way it turned out. I had gotten so many compliments and "likes". (Thank you!!). I was hopeful that I would realize my dream of winning a Spoonflower contest.*

dreams, goals, manifesting, dream jar, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

All morning and into the afternoon I anxiously awaited the announcement. I worked on a couple projects and then I painted, distracting myself by listening to podcasts, checking my email while pretending I wasn't checking my email to look for the announcement.

And when it finally came?

My design came in 20th. I made the top 25 (and now my design is available for sale).

It makes me uncomfortable to admit this, but my reaction was utter disappointment. I felt like a failure.

It's silly, really. I didn't win the contest, but I created a beautiful design and now I (and anyone else who wants to) can purchase it as fabric (or wallpaper or gift wrap).

fabric design, blue roses, rose fabric, prussian blue, Spoonflower, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Sometimes we need to reframe our failures and realize that with a change of perspective they might not be failures at all.

Nothing we ever do or try or create is ever wasted. And I don't think that any failure is ever a true failure unless it causes us to give up and stop creating, or if we allow it to overshadow our successes, taking away the joys that we should be celebrating.

(Yesterday, I also finished a project I'd been working on for a while. A logo design for Maya's beautiful blog Spice and Sprout. It was such a fun project and I'll share more about it soon. For now I'll say that Maya was delighted with the finished logo and although that made me happy, I'm embarrassed to say my happiness was temporarily overshadowed by my disappointment about the Spoonflower contest).

pen drawing, ink drawing, herbs, botanical drawing, thyme, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I know I've said it before (and I'll probably keep saying it again and again):

never give up. 

Be stubborn. Be determined.

We all have disappointments and failures. I was so crabby yesterday after my disappointment, but today the disappointment is making me even more determined to keep working towards my dreams and goals.

My hope for you is that the next time you are faced with disappointment or failure, it will fan the flames of your determination. Keep going. Keep trying. Keep creating. (Or as Mary Engelbreit recently said, open that door back up!).

*In my most recent newsletter I shared the concept of the Dream Jar, an idea started by Carrie Green and trickled down to me through a couple other people.


  1. Anne to me you are a success story. You have no idea how much I aspire to be more like you. Not a copycat - but to dive into new challenges and embrace them with so much enthusiasm. Congratulations on reaching No.20 in the Spoonflower contest. It must be such a wonderful feeling to see your design available in fabric. Your logo design for Maya's blog is so detailed and delicate too. I am not surprised that Maya was delighted with the result. Happy weekend! :)

    1. Thanks so much, Simone. It's lovely to hear. And I don't see you as a copycat at all. I think you definitely have your own style and your own interests and that shines through in your blog. Keep diving in my friend. May your enthusiasm never wane.

      I so appreciate your encouragement and support. It's wonderful to have had you cheering me on for so long.

      Enjoy your weekend! :)

  2. I’m sorry that your pretty design didn’t score as high as you would of liked Anne. I do think that where you placed is awesome! Congratulations! You’re right. If you quit you automatically lose.

    1. Thank you, Dana. There were a LOT of participants and you're right, placing 20th out of 755 is very good.

      On my desk I have a fortune cookie fortune that reads "There is always another higher mountain." I hadn't really thought much about it before, but now I think that it's good to have another higher goal or dream. It helps me to keep striving.

      Thanks for being here cheering me on. I hope you have a wonderful week!


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