What Jackie Weaver, Andrew Lloyd and Emma Tindall taught us about failure and success

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Have you listened to Simply the Worst, the podcast from the team behind Flounder? Over the last few months we’ve had the privilege of speaking to some incredibly wise and articulate guests, who have offered us some wonderful insights into failure and success. Read on for some of our favourite nuggets of wisdom or to listen to the podcast in full, just head over to our Soundcloud.

Take it as it comes 

When Jackie Weaver became an instant social media celebrity overnight, it understandably came as a bit of a surprise. 

“The next morning I had filming vans outside, and reporters knocking on my door,” she told us, with characteristic understatement. “You think, ‘well, something’s happened!’”

“I can’t even put it as strongly as shock. For shock, something has to resonate, or really hit you. It was like, I’m just not believing that this is happening. It was like sailing through it.”

Try something new – and see where it takes you 

In the last few years, so-called Insta-poets have proliferated across social media, to great success. To its fans, this poetry is minimalistic and direct; to its critics it’s simplistic and shallow. Among those critics was Andrew Lloyd, a freelance journalist, who came up with a novel response. 

Andrew challenged himself to become a lauded Instagram poet with the worst possible work he could muster. Seeing this kind of poetry all over his social media feed, he noticed poems were often posted without an author, making anonymity easier. 

“I certainly wouldn’t have described myself as a poet until I started writing this kind of stuff myself and realised how easy it was,” he said. 

“It was very surreal, [I was] quite detached in a way. As I deliberately did this under a dramatic synonym of Raven, I was almost watching as a bystander myself. It was very surreal, almost like I had an insight into someone else’s account.” 

If success doesn’t come straight away, don’t fret

“There’s an interesting relationship between what people try to do and what people succeed in doing,” Andrew said. “I got a lot of messages from people who were writing authentic poetry, asking me as Raven how I got so many likes. These were people who were trying to succeed as a bad poet and were failing, and I was trying to fail as a bad poet but was succeeding.” 

You can’t control how people will respond to you

“You can’t really control the failure or success of the outcome, you can only control the effort you put into it. You might even have delayed success… It depends what your own definition of failure or success is, but as long as you define failure or success by what you put into it, not what the outcome will be, I think that’s OK. As soon as you start determining the value of what you do based on the reaction then you’re in trouble, because you can’t control the reaction.” 

When success does come, seize the moment

Faced with intense media attention, some would choose to shy away from the spotlight; others would let it go to their heads. But for Jackie it was simply an opportunity to talk about the work she has been doing for the last two decades. 

She said, “Colleagues said to me, ‘Why did you say yes?’ And my attitude was, ‘Why would you say no?’ If you spend 25 years trying to raise the profile of town and parish councils, and you’re offered this kind of attention, why would you say no?” 

“We are seeing town and parish council websites getting more hits.…The longer we can keep the attention going, hopefully the more people we will involve.” 

Cliché it may be, but failure can work out for the best 

Working in television, Emma Tindall knew that it would be competitive. But when she got to the last 12 people for a popular grad scheme – out of 700 applicants – and fell at the last hurdle, she was devastated. Then it happened again a week later. And then again, a month later. 

She told us, “I just thought to myself, ‘how is this fair?’ I had done everything, I’d worked so hard at uni and gotten a good grade. That took me a really long time to get over, a year on I was still bitter.

“Now I look back I think, ‘oh my god, I didn’t even want to do that stuff I was applying for’. I know it’s such a cliche but you do learn so much from your failures, if I hadn’t of failed at that I’d probably be doing something now that I don’t even enjoy.” 

Failure and success aren’t opposites – they’re almost the same 

Growing up, Emma said she was terrified of failure, having been taught to see life as black and white – you either succeed or fail, with no room for shades of grey. 

“I hated the way it made me feel,” she said. “In school there is a huge dichotomy between success and failure, we are taught to believe they are the complete opposite of one another.” 

She cited a famous quote: “The path to success and the path to failure are exactly the same; they just fork off at the ends.” 

She explained, “When you think of it like that it makes the whole process of dealing with it a lot easier. It doesn’t mean the whole thing is a failure, it means that one cog in that particular journey didn’t work.”

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