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Career: 'Failure Is Not An Option'
... Really? Learn And Move On
By Bob Souer
Voice Actor
There’s a phrase that’s become quite popular in the last several years …
Failure is not an option.
Really? Are you a human being like I am? Then failure isn’t just an option, it’s a slam-dunk certainty.
Now, let me be clear.
I don’t mean that you will always fail at everything you attempt. Of course not.
People are capable of amazing achievements, but only when they put failure into the right perspective. Failure will happen.
And the more successful you are, the more frequently you will fail.
You see, the reason I don’t like “failure is not an option” is because of something I heard from Zig Ziglar years ago.
Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly … until you learn to do it well.
Now that’s the point of view that makes the most sense to me.
You have to learn to fail in order to learn to succeed. Otherwise, the first time you fail you think it’s all over. It’s not.
It’s how you react to failure that makes the difference between never reaching your goal and eventually reaching it.
Why am I talking about failure so much? Because our lives in voice over are filled with failure.
Filled with failure? Prove it.
  • Do you book everything you audition for?
  • Do you get work from everyone you contact about doing voice over work?
  • Do I really need to ask any more questions?
So put your failures into perspective. Your voice over business doesn’t rise or fall on any single failure. Nor any single success.
This is not a sprint. We’re in this for the long run.
Learn from each failure, then put it behind you and move on.
Stay with it. Keep moving. Make some kind of progress every day.
You’ll get there.
Bob Souer has been a voice actor for over 25 years, helping an array of faithful clients tell their “stories” through commercials, narrations, podcasts, e-learning, promos, imaging - you name it. He also posts a highly informative daily blog about voice acting, The VoiceOver Boblog.
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Comments (9)
6/19/2011 at 8:41 AM
Really glad I clicked on the link to read this, Bob! Love your direct, matter-of-fact way of putting things. I intend to 'fail' at something every day of my life. To quote Michelangelo, Ancora Imparo. "Still I am learning."
6/16/2011 at 6:41 PM
Ok Bob, I beg to differ.

I consider Failure to be when one does not get up and move on and try again, or when one does not recognize that there are different ways that one can succeed and to keep on trying by thinking outside the box, etc. So in my opinion, "Failure is not an option." It is all in the way we define what success and failure really are.

There have been many times in my life where I have not achieved precisely what I was working for, but have chosen to listen, learn, observe and work through the disappointment to better myself, rearrange my goals and move on, simply because my definition of failure is NOT an option.

It is so important to be as objective as possible in this profession, especially when we tap into our subjective emotional selves on a daily basis. Maintain a balance and constantly juggle to do so, is the best option IMHO. Well, I just spouted off and then read Paul's comments. Right on!' Nuff said
Johnny George
6/16/2011 at 5:33 PM
Nicely put, Bob. If you don't fail, you're not pushing yourself hard enough. If you're not failing, you're playing it TOO safe.

Failure breeds character, determination, insight, perspective and proves you are alive & kickin'!

Just don't give up. If at first you don't succeed - don't try and try again - seems you need a different approach to seek out that success. Re-analyze your situation. Don't keep banging your head against the same wall.

Thanks, Bob, for the inspiration.

Rick Lance
6/16/2011 at 3:37 PM
Inspiring words, Bob! That "Failure is not an option" phrase has always bothered me as well. That's just a bunch of macho bs. Everyone who has achieved success has come from failure. Dwelling on it can become a big problem.

As I was busy trying to be a music star, I saw many people become completely devastated, even suicidal or become drug/substance addicted brought on by of failure. Many had success and just couldn't find it again and they allowed it to ruin their lives. Me ... I achieved a certain level of success, got burned out and knew the healthiest thing for me to do was to get out of it or die. That "failure" helped me to discover acting and voice acting. I know I made the right choice ... I'm still standing!

Paul, you make a very convincing point, as well, and as usual!
jill goldman
6/16/2011 at 3:33 PM
Bob, yes! And Paul, yes! I like the idea of "feedback" rather than "failure." And Debbie, I like your idea, too. We all can learn from our mistakes and missteps, and if we are open to learning, we can progress. It's all in the attitude about the so-called "failures," whether or not we end up "succeeding" afterward. Of course, the idea of "success" is a whole other story, isn't it?
Debbie Irwin
6/16/2011 at 8:10 AM

Somewhere along the way I realized the importance of intentionally doing something wrong, so I could feel/hear/see how different it is to do it right!

Paul Strikwerda
6/16/2011 at 7:37 AM
Even after reading Bob's eloquent article, I still don't like the word "failure." I come from a school of thought that advocates the following principle:

There is no failure. Only feedback.

No matter what we do, it always leads to a result. Sometimes we get the result we want. Sometimes we get a different result. That does not mean that we have failed.

When I do not get the desired result, I ask myself:

- Did it bring me closer to my goal?
- Did it lead me further away from my goal?
- What can I learn from this?
- What adjustments do I need to make that would take me closer to my goal?
- Can I make these adjustments myself or do I need help?

I see life as a series of learning experiences. The fact is that we often learn more from the things that don't go so well, as opposed to the things we're already good at.

As long as there's a positive take-away, it's never a failure because we've learned something useful.

Motivational literature is packed with examples of things that were considered to be a failure, but turned out to be a success.

- Glue that didn't stick became the basis for post-its.
- Edison "failed" many times before he had his lightbulb moment.
- Countless bestselling authors have been rejected hundreds of times, before someone was willing to publish their manuscript.
- My last audition was a "failure" because I didn't get the part. However, the producer contacted me and said I was perfect for another part.

As long as we learn and grow from the feedback we receive, it's impossible to fail.
JIm McNicholas
6/16/2011 at 1:00 AM
As always you hit the nail on the head.
David Sigmon
6/16/2011 at 12:33 AM
If they gave out Oscars and Emmys for failures I would have a mantle full; not counting all those in the attic.
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