Day 37: Why failure and success are kind of the same.

Do you have a fear of failure? How about a fear of success? Ted talk  “Success, failure and the drive to keep creating” is all about the parallels between being wildly successful and a struggling artist.

Elizabeth Gilbert of being a writer post Eat,Pray,Love

This is not Elizabeth’s first Ted talk.   On day 25  I wrote a blog post about  Elizabeth’s first Ted talk.  In this Ted talk Elizabeth was on the tail-end of the huge promotional blitz  surrounding the Hollywood movie that was based on her popular novel Eat, Pray, Love. In that talk Elizabeth candidly shared her fears and realisations that everyone was expecting all her future work to fail. She knew that she probably would never replicate the success of Eat,Pray, Love, and that put her in a very vulnerable position – should she even continue writing.

Elizabeth found a way to make peace with her situation and it mainly had to do with how she defines creativity as not being a part of us but separate from us. If you haven’t watched that Ted talk I recommend you doing so here.

Success and failure are kind of the same

In her latest Ted talk it seems that Elizabeth is still going through the journey of being a writer post massive success.  An interesting perspective that Elizabeth talks about is that massive success and failure are very much the same from an emotional level.   When Elizabeth was a struggling writer she spent six years getting daily rejection letters  from publishers. Each letter chipped away at her dream and she had to ask herself; “if I should  just quit while I was behind and give up and spare myself this pain.” She went against that instinct and instead decided to keep writing.

During the huge ride that was the success of Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth found herself identifying with her twenty-something self.  This confused Elizabeth. Here she was in the spotlight being praised with accolades for her novel, her passion and yet she felt a connection to the struggling writer of her past. How was this eve possible?

Do you know where your home is?

Elizabeth uses the analogy that for most of our lives we kind of live in this central place.  For Elizabeth this central place was writing.  This was her metaphorical home.  Then we hit a failure speed bump and we are swung into a disorientating  mess of failure and disappointment. We are far away from our ‘home.’ It’s a place full of anxiety and we become scared lost.

When we are not being flung into disappointment we might be thrown into fame and  success. This too is disorienting. Elizabeth says that the fame, recognition and praise can be become glaringly blinding.

In both these cases  what helped Elizabeth find her peace and break away from the disorientating landscape and become whole again was returning to the home she truly loves.  Home for Elizabeth wasn’t a family house or a building – it was writing. Writing has been her one true passion for her entire life.   Elizabeth says that  we all need to work out what ‘home’ is for us.   She defines home as  ” whatever in this world you love more than you love yourself ”  It could be our family, it could be our passions whatever it may be, identifying it will help us find peace.



Vanessa Rose