The Benefits of Failure

When I first started Project MIRRO, the no 1. most common feedback I got from my circle was "You are so brave" This was a comment I did not anticipate. I do not consider myself "brave" at all, and I was surprised that so many people said that about me. That is when I realized, how different everyone's definition is of the word "brave". Of course, starting a business is risky, so I understand why they thought this was considered a "brave" act. I dug a little deeper and asked why, and 90% of time, most of these people will tell me the same answer : they have things they want to achieve in their life, dreams they want to chase, but they are afraid of failure, which is why they consider me "brave". The fear of failure is so paralyzing that they don't even entertain the idea of going for what they want, even though they REALLY wanna do it. When I started Project MIRRO, and people heard the story behind why I started it (you can read about it here) they come up to me and talk to me about their own dreams.


Since then, i've been thinking about "fear of failure" often.

Fear of failure was never in my lists of fears (and believe me, I have a lot of fears. Fear of heights being no. 1) My main question was : Why am I unafraid of failure, as much as these people are? Why wasn't I thinking of this when I was developing the business? These people are all successful in their own professional path, why am I considered the brave one? In fact I consider all these people high achievers, so smart and so competent - compared to me - i'm just doing what I love, somewhat badly, but that's OK to me. See, I'm an "artist" but I failed fashion drawing in school 3 times! I was never the best in my creative classes!

That's when it hit me - I am so USED to failure that I am not afraid of it.


Growing up, I was never the smartest girl, the prettiest girl, nor the coolest girl. In fact, at school I was a nobody. A rebellious nobody. I hated school, I hated my teachers, I skipped school all the time because I thought it was boring, I was busy having boyfriends and other long list of immature things I was doing. Nobody expected much of me. Even I didn't expect much of me. My grades were just OK... I never ever got straight A's in my life, I consider my grades mid to high level (although I must add, I was the best at linguistics in my batch for a couple of years straight. But that's because not many students spoke fluent English in my school, and I love the Malay language and I just lurveeeee COMMUNICATION. lol)


That was high school. I definitely did better in college, but I still FAILED. I failed at Fashion Drawing - which is, the most important subject if you want a career in arts and design. I had no patience for it. I didn't like to follow the rules of how to draw fashion illustration. I was also very much occupied with partying it up at Heritage Row and Changkat (priorities) Safe to say, all the things I achieved in college were all a surprise to me because I wasn't used to "achieving" in general. When I started to put in a little effort in school - I got good results! I thought WOW, with enough effort and energy, I saw good results - I found a formula!


I think that was the key to my "bravery" in starting the business. My "bravery" in going for what I want. I have failed so many times in my life, that I am so used to it. It doesn't deter me. I know, deep down inside, that if I put in effort and energy into working on my craft, i'll get better at it, and i'll see good results, with time and patience. You always get better at what you work at! To me, that is a guarantee. That is my mindset for all things in life. I didn't realize how valuable this mindset was until recently.


Project MIRRO could fail - that could definitely happen. I could either be considered "brave" or "stupid" for doing it. I believe that I am both. I am both brave and stupid - I just don't consider "stupid" being something permanent. I can be stupid in the beginning, but i'm sure i'll get better at it. I am sure i'll figure it out somehow.


To me, I have a vision of what I want to achieve. And I don't believe that I would get it right the first time. Nor the 100th time. Building a business takes years of patience. All the successful entrepreneurs i've read about failed waaaay more times than me to get to where they wanna get. Many of them, started their business waaayyy late in their life after many other occupations. I consider myself "still OK". I enjoy my work, and I enjoy this process, and if I make mistakes, I'll do better the next time. I don't claim to know everything. I don't even know if i'm doing the right thing (wooot woot!) but the keyword here is that : I am DOING, SOMETHING, and I am happy that I am doing instead of moping at a job or a career path I don't like.


Fear of failure can translate into a lot of things in your life. It can stop you from trying out new activities or hobbies. It can stop you from exploring your abilities and talents. You're scared to get out of your comfort zone, to even try, you don't want to look stupid. You have a lot of PRIDE.


Pride is one more annoying thing you need to get over. I have pride, obviously, but by the end of the day, even if I look stupid doing something, or I fail at something - THEN SO F*CKING BE IT. It happens! It's my life anyway, and I find judgmental people, inherently unhappy people. They are so unhappy with themselves (and so hard on themselves too) that they can't help but judge others to feel better about themselves. See, if you're happy and content with your life and where it's going, you don't care about judging others, you're busy being happy and doing your own thing.


Positive and happy people, have no time or energy to be negative - it's THAT simple. When people judge you, it's more about them than it is about you. I feel sorry for them. They are probably struggling with a lot of things internally that we don't know about, for them to be that way.


Since I started MIRRO, i'm not gonna lie, many people have given me backhanded comments, criticism, and some even told me to my face that they don't like my designs or that they think that my art is not worth the money. To me, they are entitled to their opinion, and that they are just not my target market, and I won't sell to them. I don't expect EVERYONE to like what I produce. But I do believe the people who like it, will like it. And i'll just continue doing what I do, and hopefully i'll get better at it. That's it. End of story.


I guess growing up in a school where I was outcasted, made me fearless about judgement. I was judged all my life growing up, bullied and abused. I never realized how resilient and thick skinned it made me. People are always going to judge, and I will fail many times before I get right - these two things to me, are a guarantee - but that is not going to stop me from doing it. I enjoy what I do, why should I live my life according to what other people might think of me? So what if they laugh at me when I fail? Are those people even worthy of my time to begin with? What kind of people laugh at other peoples failure? What does that say about a person? Are you going to live your life on other peoples terms forever?


Then there are those who are afraid of failure because it makes them feel bad about themselves. Feeling down or bad about yourself when things don't go right is inevitable. But is it permanent? When bad things happen, you feel it, you deal with it, and then you get over it. You look at all your options, and find another way. And if that fails, change your plan. Instead of feeling bad about yourself, celebrate the lesson. What did you learn out of it? You will always learn something new after every failure. You need to do enough analysis and reflections after every decision. Meditation has helped me figure out a lot of things faster. I highly recommend it, especially if you're running a business and have a lot of big decisions to make all the time.


It's not about the failure, it's about getting up and going AFTER you have failed. I've been down in the dumps before many times. I've had a very troubled, colorful, childhood that many can't relate to. Emotional, physical abuse from ex-boyfriends, sexual assault, PTSD, substance abuse problems, gangsterism, neglect, violence.....What a wonderful life i've had. Difficult, but it made me who I am today, so i'm cool with it (after many years of therapy and self reflection though) My point is, you can survive it - with enough help and guidance from professionals, books, google and friends.


There's one more reason why I have the ability to be "brave" and it should be highlighted. I am not going to deny that I am able to take risks and go for what I want because I don't have a long list of responsibilities. I am unmarried, no babies, no boyfriend, and I don't need to support my family. In that sense, I am very much privileged. I also have parents who are (somewhat) supportive, and I managed to get capital (RM7,000) from my dad to start the business. I moved back to my parents house so I could save money. And for that, I am forever grateful, and I am very lucky. ***"Somewhat supportive" meaning they could be better at it but they are indeed Baby Boomers and Asian so I don't have much expectations from them.


And then there are many people, who have dreams, but aren't able to fulfil them. They have responsibilities, unsupportive parents, or no capital etc. It is definitely harder to take risks if you are in that position. Perhaps you NEED your current "safe" job to pay for your student loans, or to support your parents, or to pay for medical expenses....I mean, the list goes on. I'm not going to say you should be doing this and that, and you will get to where you wanna go. It's not one size fits all. Not everyone has the same opportunities as me. I was born into a comfortable family. I want to make that clear. I understand and I am grateful for all my privileges (and to be honest, I started the #MIRROBookDrive initiative to help me feel less guilty about it. What did I do to deserve this family and not a family living in poverty in India? I have no idea how the universe works)


But one thing you can do is, is to have the right attitude about it, and start a plan anyway. You can always strategize your way and start small.


Before I quit my 9-5, I planned my exit for 5 years, and Project MIRRO was 10 years in the making. I saved money, I worked on the brand and my skills at night and on weekends (juggling my full time job) and did a lot of research. I read so many books. I spent all my money on books! I changed my entire lifestyle to accommodate my dream. Anything and everything that was detrimental to my vision, I eliminated. Friends, boyfriends, habits, even family members who were unsupportive - bye bitches. It was a very slow process from ideation to materialisation. I never stopped believing and working on myself, and my plans. I'm not even close to where I want to be now, but i'm on that journey, and it's not always been sunshine and daisies - but that's life! While I was working my ass off 8 years ago, I figured, i'm not that into my job, I hate my 9-5, but at least I have this plan of mine that i'm working on to alleviate my suffering while I gathered experiences and money. It's a necessary evil. Delayed gratification - best lesson i've learnt.


I believe your dreams are worth a try. Even if you put one hour a week to working on your goal, that's better than nothing at all. Even if you fail, there's always another way. It's not the end of the world. How many times has something bad happen to you, and you feel like crap, but weeks or months later, you look back at that time and think "wow, that bad thing led me here to this good thing?"


Even if people laugh at you, or don't support you, you have the ability to ignore them and eliminate them from your life. Surround yourself with the people you admire and inspire you. I always hear people complain about toxic friends and families, but continue to spend time with them. I don't understand why they do so. This is a whole other post I won't get into. If people aren't supportive or happy for you, limit your time with them or say goodbye forever.


Remember, Jack Ma, Alibaba's founder, failed 10 times to get into Harvard, he got rejected dozens of times while looking for a job. He even got rejected by KFC as a cashier. I'm sure none of you reading my blog now have tried and failed 10 times to get into a school (but if you have, wow, drop me a message let's have a chat) I read so many books on entrepreneurs that I believe it's a rite of passage to fail many times before you start seeing results. Lady Gaga was bullied harshly in school, they even carried her and put her in the dumpster! Now look at her!!!


If you've never failed in life, perhaps it's because you have never taken risks. Perhaps it's time to practice failing. It's time to get out of your comfort zone. If you're always the most competent smart one in your group - are you even in the right group? When I went back to school to study at Chelsea, I was 29 years old, everyone else was 19 years old! And they did soooo much better than me in some subjects. Whatever man, I was just glad to be able to learn from them and get inspired by these Gen Z's. They're so amazing and hardworking in my opinion. I really don't have any shame in being the dumbest in school. I like people underestimating me anyway, there is less pressure. I can just do whatever I want.


Be brave! Do what you want - by the end of the day - it's your life, and no one else is responsible for it other than you. Live your best life! Just do it! So many quotes! Haha. I'm not done yet - I will leave you guys with a quote that I love (a little harsh, but it resonated with me)


“If you end up with a boring miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do your shit, then you deserve it.”

Frank Zappa












Hi! I'm Miriam, I'm an Artist, Designer, Lecturer & Entrepreneur based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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