I ran for class vice president four years in a row in high school. I never once won.
Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results is one definition of insanity.
So, was I insane to gather those signatures and make those posters and put my precious vulnerable teenage heart out there time and again?
I don’t think so.
I think something was stirring up in me, a character trait that would serve me very well throughout my adult life: persevering in the face of repeated failure and/or hardship.
This theme came bubbling to the surface in my early career when I had the idea of wanting to write a book because why the heck not?
Why the heck not?? Well, Beth, you don’t know anything about writing books and you don’t know anyone in the publishing world and you have no foot in any door and you’re young and you have a toddler and a baby and…
Screw the why nots! I did it.
Well, I tried to do it.
Fifty-two rejections came and went through my mail box and my email inbox over the course of about a year. Fifty-freaking-two, people.
But then, one January day in 2000, an email arrived that changed my ever-lovin’ little life:
“Thank you for your submission of Calm in My Chaos. We would like to pursue publication of this work with you if it is still available for consideration.”
I thought I would die from excitement. I shrieked. I cried. I thought the person on the other end was just yanking my chain. But I responded like NBD:
“I would be honored to pursue a working relationship with your company. My manuscript is available. Let me know our next step. Thank you, Elisabeth”
Had I told myself, I’ll give this thing ten rejections and then I’m done…I’m considering it a closed door. Heck, had I told myself, I’ll give this thing FIFTY rejections! Well, I wouldn’t be sitting here today writing this to you.
Please don’t think that the following twenty years my career trajectory was solely up and to the right. Um no.
I still quote-unquote fail all the time.
Out of the seventeen or whatever books I’ve written, only my first and my eighth were traditionally published. The rest, I had to/chose to indie publish. (A choice I’d make again, by the way.)
One time not all that long ago, I had to eat humble pie by cancelling an out-of-state retreat because – and there is no other way to put it – I am not a big-enough draw for an event like that. The registration numbers were so pathetically low, I had to cancel. Like, so so low.
Or the time I had what I thought was a brilliant idea: I’m going to offer the 12 steps as an e-course! Won’t that be grand? I can help so many women be set free and get a fresh start relationally and spiritually! It’ll be amazing!
On the last day of registration, one measly (but precious!) registration came crawling in. I had to cancel that course.
And every time I launch another e-course session…promoting and praying and hoping for 20, 30, 40…I sometimes dare to even dream of 50 women signing up. It’s always going to be awesome. I’m always going to do some real life-changing work.
And then the numbers come in. And they’re usually pretty low. After months and months of work and prayer and creativity and my heart splayed out.
And I still sometimes cry. And tell my husband and text my friends. And mope for a little while.
(Do not get me wrong for one hot minute…each and every woman who signs up for anything is such a blessing and I am HONORED to pour into their lives for whatever season we have together. But, that’s not really my point…)
Now, I could have stopped running for vice president after my freshman year. (Or after my sophomore or junior year for that matter.)
And I could have put my unpublished first manuscript in my hope chest after five or ten or fifty rejection letters.
Or I could have said NO MORE RETREATS after having to cancel the out-of-state one.
Or I could have said NO MORE COURSES…NO MORE LAUNCHES.
I could have said after each of those apparent failures, “This is too exhausting. I’m done working this hard for such meager results. PLUS, it’s so humiliating! I’m the girl who no one comes to her parties…real or figurative. Still after all these years, I’m the unpopular one, the one who isn’t a draw, the one who isn’t whatever enough…”
But I didn’t say that (for more than a minute). And I chose not to believe it.
I kept running for vice president. I’m not sure why, tbh. I think after year two or three, it was more about making a point to myself. I think it was about leaning into what some deemed failure and pressing on.
I kept trying to publish my first manuscript. I know why I did this. Because I believed in what I wrote. And I wanted to be a writer. And I felt the sweet nudge of God. And what did I have to lose?
And I’ll keep having retreats. Just maybe not out of state when I’m the only one planning it. (See, not a failure…instead a lesson learned.)
And I’ll keep creating and holding courses. Because I want to help as many women as I can and this remains the best way for me to connect the deepest with more than one woman at a time. I’ll keep tweaking and praying and launching and hoping.
And, as I tell God more frequently these days, I’ll do the work and I’ll trust You with the results.
So, what does this have to do with you?
Well, let me ask you this: what do you want to try that you’re afraid to? What’s the worst that can happen, really? Maybe some embarrassment, maybe some time used up, but really, if you’re following after God, nothing is truly wasted.
I can tell you right now as God as my witness, some of my BEST dreams have come true because I tried something that I was pretty sure I would fail at but made myself try anyway.
“What if I fail…oh but my darling, what if you fly?” -Erin Hanson
Within your heart you can make plans for your future,
but the Lord chooses the steps you take to get there. -Proverbs 16:9 (TPT)
If this post resonated with you, and you have a dream you want to chase but you don’t know where to start, let’s work together to get you moving forward! I’m an expert in perseverance and trying new things!
Oh, my. Now that is a Post. Thank you so much for your frank honesty. I needed this and I bet many women (who can’t always participate in a course!) needed to hear this too. And you made me smile-real and genuine makes me do that! Please don’t stop persevering. You definitely are reaching people. I know it. “Thank you, God, for Elisabeth!”
Thank you for these kind words, Shari.
Wow, exa fly what I ended today! Tha k hou!
You’re welcome, Alora.
Thank you. I long for perseverance for my dreams…and clarity on what those dreams are. During this divorce, I pray for a re-awakening of my dreams that I tucked away and told myself were just empty musings of a young girl who had no concept of reality. Keep writing…keep encouraging me to hope and to awaken and to try.
Keep dreaming and keep trying, Karen. Really. God withholds no good thing… Psalm 84:11