This morning I was reading an article from one of my favourite authors on Medium, Jessica Wildfire, and she reminded me of something that I am slightly ashamed to admit I had mostly forgotten. Whilst failing and learning from failure adds tremendous value to a person’s life, the lower your income, the higher the stakes are.
In a lot of cases, failure either costs us money or costs us time that we could have been earning money,. For some people, including myself several years ago, the potential payoff just isn’t enough to offset the risk of loss. Pouring money or very limited and therefore far more valuable time into a risky venture is something that not everyone can let themselves consider.
I didn’t really struggle as much in life as I could have done.
I was raised on government benefits by a single parent and we lived in a flat that was one of several hundred on a council estate in South East London. Queueing for hours and hours to apply for an emergency loan, just to cover costs for one more week, was an almost monthly occurrence. Life was tough, but it could have been worse. We had food, shelter and safety.
The fear of failure wasn’t just about losing face or being wrong, it was also the fear of being even poorer than we already were.
I forgot this recently, because as the article pointed out, when you are comfortable and have fewer concerns in life, it is very easy to overlook the fact that your own situation isn’t representative of everybody elses.
The Solution To Failing When It’s So Risky To Fail?
Work your socks off, really. Although my situation isn’t going to be representative of everyone elses, I have worked several different jobs and different types of jobs before I got something stable where I could just go in and do my hours without too many fears of losing my job.
- as a glass collector in a bar
- with a team of builders refitting kitchens
- in a coffee shop
- in a tapas restaurant
- as a leaflet distributor
- as a shop assistant in a clothing store
- as a door-to-door charity fundraiser
- part-time newspaper delivery
- as an admin assistant
And my final not really very enjoyable role was warehouse assistant.
So I worked to the best of my abilities in only about a couple of those roles, the last two mainly, and that’s pretty much when I started seeing my life situation improving. Not through taking risks or betting on my future, but by showing up every day and working hard, quite often without a shred of recognition for the effort I put in. Sometimes it was horrible, but you get by day by day and then the weekends come along and you get to relax.
After doing the warehouse job for a couple of years, I started getting bored of the grind and branched out to different roles there. It wasn’t easy to begin with, but the downsides of failure in most cases were very low, maybe people wouldn’t think quite as highly of me, but I wouldn’t be risking my income.
Several other people around me took this route too, expanding in what they did in the warehouse increase their experience and skills. It’s the safe option really, and for many people on lower incomes, understandably one of the only options really open to them.
When big risks aren’t an option, take small ones instead that can only bruise your ego and not your wallet, it’ll pay off eventually!