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Failure is shaped like a fork

Failure has been on my mind a lot lately because I am launching my own business. I feel optimistic and excited, but I have no idea what I'm getting myself into. I vacillate between "How could I fail?" and "How will I pay my mortgage?"

My business is called Rain Content Solutions, and I am helping professional services clients develop content marketing strategies. It was a very difficult decision to start the business, and it took me a while to figure out why. For all of the talk among entrepreneurs about failure being a net positive, it scares me to death. I've conveniently forgotten that I've already failed in a fairly spectacular fashion in my professional life. For some reason I had never seen my failure in such stark terms. Thanks to the forgetting that comes with age, many sleepless nights and tears, I now see my failure as a fork in the road. I want to share it because I think it's so important for us all to remember that failure is inevitable, and we could all use a bit of empathy, encouragement and reframing what failure actually means. So here is my failure story.

As I sit backstage at the Orlando Opera in 1998, I think about this moment and the many directions it could take me. I am in the finals of the Orlando Opera Young Singers Competition. First prize will land me a paid singing job with the Orlando Opera for one year. This would be a perfect next step for me in my journey toward being a full-time opera singer. Building a singing career is like building a massive pyramid one brick at a time. Every brick is essential to the whole. The base of the wall is much easier to put in place, and as the wall gets higher, fewer bricks are needed and they are harder to reach. This job's brick is getting close to the top of the pyramid.

I love singing because I never feel more connected to the world or more free than when I am performing. In Orlando, I would perform small roles with the company, do community outreach and occasionally sing in the chorus. The drawback: I would have to move to Orlando, and I live in New York City. To some, this might seem like a fun diversion. To me, it represents my mixed feelings about my chosen career. Living for an entire year in a place that doesn’t feel at all like home is enough of a deterrent, but I hesitate for other reasons. After so much wandering, dating and loneliness, I have finally found a life partner, and he does not live in Orlando. He lives in New York.

I am 28 years old and so far, my entire life has been moving toward this moment. From the discipline and musical skills I learned as a preteen in the San Francisco Girls Chorus, to the roles in the high school musical, to my two degrees in music, this is why I’ve trained so hard. I have sacrificed the stability of my hometown in California and moved across the country to New York City for moments like this.