Keep Telling Yourself It's All Relative
Part 2: Don't lose sight of your baseline
In Part 1 of this little duopoly, Ignore Objects in the Rear View Mirror, I briefly explored doubt as a gateway to fear—and what we might do about that. Here’s Part 2.
I experienced two failures this week. (Yay!) Now I’m working to put them in perspective—to cut them down to size.
Mistake No. 1:
I blew an in-person pitch to a literary agent at a writer’s conference. I knew what to say, and how to say it—and then I proceeded to blather and not make much sense. I wasn’t nervous, but I hadn’t properly prepared, despite typing out a new version of my book’s synopsis the day before, to cement the story in my head.
I thought, somewhat arrogantly, that I could pitch without any notes. I knew the story better than anyone, right? Never again. Next time (if there is a next time), I will not be too proud to read a written summary.
This failure was especially silly because I often tell others to memorize their elevator pitches. And there I was…without a ready-made pitch.
Mistake No. 2:
I missed a deadline to be a guest on a live podcast. And that was after rescheduling the original time for the recording. I blew it—for the first and hopefully only time in this context. I’ve been on dozens of podcasts and up until this week, I’d never missed a single scheduled appointment. And now I’ve burned a bridge.
What an idiot!
Here comes the work
While I regret both mistakes, and long for do-overs that will never come, they are not especially egregious when I consider the baseline: the point at which I began all of this creative writing and marketing and outreach business.
If I set my baseline, say, five years ago, I see that I’ve accomplished a remarkable amount and have racked up some successes—getting novels published, launching a book coaching business, learning to navigate social media (even TikTok!), handling promotion, leading workshops, and all that jazz.
I’m light years from where I started. If the ‘me’ of five years ago could meet the ‘me’ of today, I think she’d be reasonably impressed.
Setting a baseline for yourself is a great way to put present doubts, anxieties, and yes, mistakes, in context—to view them in relation to so much else that’s happened.
Consider this: Tom Cruise’s latest installment of the Mission Impossible franchise, Dead Reckoning, has grossed about $567 million worldwide. Over half a billion dollars! Doesn’t that seem like success?
Well, not really. The film has been labeled a box-office failure because Barbie, released around the same time, has grossed roughly $1.4 billion—almost three times more. On top of that, Cruise’s Top Gun Maverick was the second-highest grossing film of 2022, with a nearly $1.5 billion haul.
So, yeah, that makes Dead Reckoning look like kind of a dud.
How ridiculous is that? It’s a high-budget, innovative, well-reviewed, major motion picture that was seen by thousands upon thousands of people in countries around the world.
How is that not a success?
It’s all about that baseline.
So the next time you screw up, instead of beating yourself up and waiting for the sky to fall, consider your baseline. When and how did you start on your present course, pursuing your current goals?
Chances are, you’ve come a long way and have had many successes on the journey. Failures happen, but they’re nothing in light of where you started.