The Audacity to Fail
The Audacity to Fail newsletter gives context, transcripts, and recommendations based on upcoming and previous episodes. Sign up below to stay informed and updated.
We’ve all been conditioned to think that failure is the worst thing that can happen to us. But failure is not the issue, the problem is not knowing how to recover when we do fail.
If we don’t take big risks, how will we truly know what our limits are? If we don’t try to fail, how can we ever succeed? The Audacity to Fail is a podcast built to inspire others to take more audacious actions in their personal and professional lives and make their dreams happen despite their fear and the possibility of failure.
In this episode, I'm going to share a lesson that took me nearly 30 years to learn that is finally helping me get out of my own way.
This episode has been the hardest to record because it's the most vulnerable I must be. After the last podcast episode with DeVon Franklin, I started to get a ton of feature requests from individuals who wanted to be on this Podcast solely to promote their product or service and frame it around being open and vulnerable. While I'm entirely for sharing, supporting, and promoting a product or service by a guest, especially if it helps you, the listener, and allows me to give back to them for being a guest, it's not why I have them as guests. It's them and who they are as human beings. Their product or service is merely a relevant byproduct or sub-point.
This Podcast is not as some form of hustle, money grab, or fame grab. In many ways, it's the total opposite. I currently don't have any paid sponsors, and I'm not looking for them. Nor do I have a weekly or monthly schedule of releasing episodes to avoid this Podcast feeling like another job vs. this being an audio space to learn, share and grow.
I created this Podcast as a form of public therapy and public accountability after being hit with extreme self-doubt, burnout, depression, anxiety, and hopelessness in 2020. To many, I'm seen as the most confident and ambitious trailblazer they know — that I knew. But by the end of 2020, all of that inner magic vanished. My near-unrealistic optimism and "keep moving forward" idealism were nearly gone.
The truth is, the mask I've been wearing for so long didn't just fall off; it was irreparably shattered. And all of the fear, doubt, anger, and self-sabotaging avoidance I tucked away revealed its ugly head. I was forced to confront and take accountability for the blocks and limitations I've allowed my subconscious mind to carry for years. Instead of facing it and taking it head-on, I chose the wrong response, and it nearly tore me apart.
Maybe it was the global shut down due to Covid 19.
Maybe it was the back-to-back deaths of black people due to police brutality.
Maybe it was listening to the audio of Elijah McClain politely ask the cops not to kill him.
Maybe it was the fear of one day having the talk with my now 2-year-old black son.
Maybe it was the pressure of being a CEO of a tech startup, seeking funding while trying to look past the fac that less than 1% of black-owned startups get venture funding.
It was likely all of it and then some.
It's ironic that it took the year 2020 to make many of us finally see ourselves with a 20/20 vision.
Either way, I was in an emotional place of questioning my own happiness and purpose and feeling like there was no point to it all. I felt like a dog chasing its tail to hustle non-stop, regardless of its effects on my mental and physical health.
In the last episode with DeVon Franklin, he said that "When you don't feel enough, you can never do enough to be enough. It's like you're eating and eating and never getting full." That's the revelation I had toward the end of 2020 that made my mask fall off. Looking at my inner mirror, I saw my reflection and ego as not what I wanted them to be but how they we’re. If I fake complete confidence and fake feeling full, it will inevitably drown out and delete my fears and insecurities.
What did my true reflection reveal specifically? It revealed that I was wasting my time, working hard toward a goal that I didn't truly believe I could reach. I had and am still working through changing an "I want to" mindset into an "I'm going to" mindset. There is a huge path-changing difference between the two. To "want" is both a declaration of desire and defeat. "I want to lose weight." "I want to get out of debt." "I want to travel." It doesn't empower action, just longing, which is why "but" is commonly the first word of the next sentence or clause. "I want to lose weight, but" or "I want to get out of debt, but…" We either say it out loud consciously or say it inside subconsciously. When the word "want" is said or thought, the word "but" is close by.
An "I'm going to" mindset is pre-declaring the success of a desire before or while going for it. "I'm going to lose weight." "I'm going to get out of debt." "I'm going to travel." You can almost feel the difference. Imagine yourself truly believing that vs. just saying it? Think about a goal or desire you have, and right now, say it out loud. Say it. “I’m going to ________ .” One more time. “I’m going to ________ .” Imagine all of the excuses or potential reasons why you feel you can't reach that desire disappear in the air, and replace those reasons with visuals of you already having what you desire. Make those visuals so vivid that whichever senses are involved in that desire start to respond to it.
Unfortunately, I didn’t do that. I had an "I want to" mindset on my more significant desires and goals, with an "I'm going to" mindset on plans that wouldn't hurt if they didn't work out.
Ever since I was a child, my goal has been to be the CEO of a company that would give me the creative freedom to experiment, create and invent new ways of bringing families together—through imagination. It started with my obsession with Willy Wonka. I remember the first time I saw the movie Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. I was about 5 or 6 years old. The children in the film annoyed me, but I was mesmerized by the idea that this man had so much freedom to create whatever he wanted and lived inside a world he created within a factory. He had a limitless creative ability unaffected by the words "can't" or "Impossible." While other kids wanted to be doctors, lawyers, firefighters, and veterinarians, I wanted to be Willy Wonka. I still do.
In that story, each child was with an adult, and both the child and adult bonded when experiencing Wonka's creation. It impacted me so much that I've spent all my life with the ultimate goal of creating something that had the same effect on adults and children while giving me the creative freedom to be like Wonka. As a 90s child, the closest real-life representation of Willy Wonka was Walt Disney and Jim Henson, both Wonka-like figures who created empires with fantasy and storytelling as their "chocolate." So I started drawing and telling stories. Walt Disney got his start in Kansas City, where I grew up, so it felt it was kismet to follow in his steps. As I got older, more Wonka-like CEOs emerged like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, who I also look up to immensely.
Being inspired by them led me to where I am today with the broad creative skillset and education I have in reaching that goal. But there was one trait about Walt, Jim, Steve, and Elon that I don't share. They are all white. There has yet to be a black CEO who has reached the same Willy Wonka-like success that Walt, Steve, Jim, and Elon have. With all the inspiration I got from these men and their work, that one detail manifested in my mind like a virus, and I let it sit in my subconscious and cripple me in secret. But that wasn't the only thing.
When I searched for imaginative stories that featured fictional or magical worlds with kids just being kids away from adult issues, I couldn't find one that featured non-white or non-animal protagonists. 'Where The Wild Things Are,' 'Peter Pan,' 'Wizard of Oz,' 'Alice in Wonderland,' 'Charlie and The Chocolate Factory,' 'Toy Story,' and 'Harry Potter' are led by white characters. Everything that I found with people who looked like me was about or had some subtext of slavery, the civil rights movement, or historical stories about "the first black this or that," which still called back to oppression in many underlining ways. Even with the recent release of the Black Panther and Falcon and The Winter Soldier, Racial Injustice and civil rights themes were still prominent.
Don't get me wrong, I think that those stories are essential and must be told. They have to be told. But black kids also need imaginative, nonsensical stories where their otherness or history of oppression isn't the plot, subplot, or theme. Stories where they aren't just the single black friend in the group who dances and says black catchphrases to make the story cool, the comedic or servant-like sidekick. No one looked like me in the man I wanted to become, and no character looked like me in the type of stories I loved the most. Children aspire to become what they realistically see themselves as, and while I had the goal of becoming Willy Wonka-like, it became harder to see myself as that. I allowed the virus of doubt to spread faster.
In the spirit of being the change you want to see, I've spent the last 10 years creating the stories I wanted as a child. However, when I sought agents and publishers to represent and publish those stories, I was told that my work didn't capture the black experience enough. They only publish books with historical black figures or that my stories should be more urban. Through my anger and refusal to give up, I spent a year learning how publishing companies operate and how the best books are made and created my own publishing company to produce books with a quality that was indistinguishable or better than the publisher's who rejected …. no… who redirected me.
There is no such thing as rejection in life, only redirection. When you feel rejected, you are simply being redirected to better energy. I was so blinded by my anger and subconscious doubt that I couldn't see God redirecting me toward my childhood goal. The feelings of rejection are our ego attaching itself to one person, one experience, or one route in life's GPS. Through constant redirections, I gained the skills and education needed for my goal, but I kept wasting my time working harder for outside validation to tell me I was good enough.
I am a table maker who was more concerned about getting a seat at other tables than making my own. Even though I said what I just said and know this, I still battle that self-doubt.
In a previous episode, I said that happiness and success are not destinations. They are found through contentment and gratitude in seeing where you are right now and how far you've come to be where you are — right now. Yet because of mental blocks, we hold happiness and success hostage and for ransom. It's like saying, "I refuse to feel success until the future pays my ransom!" You hear how silly that sounds?
I came to that revelation of happiness and success in January of this year from fighting depression and burnout. While I'm not entirely where I want to be, I became who I set out to become. I make a living creating imaginative stories featuring children who look like me that bring adults and children together — produced and published from a company I own. While I still face opposition in the form of racism, envy, and bigotry from peers and gatekeepers, I also blocked and self-sabotaged my own growth from a lack of gratitude and contentment.
I was doubtful of God's redirections and very entitled for not being where I thought I should be instead of trusting the process. When you start believing that what's for you is for you, you'll stop rushing the process because you'll stop fearing its loss. I was so angry about not having a Willy Wonka example that looks like me; I became unaware that I've become that Willy Wonka example for the 5 and 6-year-olds with the same goal. I'm nowhere close to the size and success of Disney, Apple, Pixar, or Space X, and I will get there. I'm going to get there. But there are thousands of families with kids, including my two-year-old son, who believe that I'm good enough.
What are your goals, and are you wasting your own time? Are you working insanely hard in the wrong direction because you doubt actually reaching your goal? Do you need someone to tell you you are good enough to feel good enough? Are you self-sabotaging from entitlement and fears of rejection?
Let's stop for a second and think about breathing. Our conscious and subconscious mind completely believes that we will breathe our next breath. We're not holding our breath and saying, "I want to breathe, but…" or posting on social media, "hey hey hey, I'm about to breathe. Like this post if you think I should take my next breath!" Or spending thousands of dollars on a never-ending list of how to breathe books before actually taking a breath. We just - breathe. Without thought, without a doubt, We just breathe. Even when something is blocking your airway, you almost involuntarily do whatever it takes to breathe.
Think of your goals like breathing. Just as your brain involuntarily commands your body to inhale and exhale, so does your path make its way for you to walk it. If you don't think you can, you'll do everything subconsciously to prove it's impossible. But when you know, you can…
You got this. So keep going. You've been good enough, and you never needed anyone to tell you that.
I pray that this episode was helpful for you, because it surely was for me in finally getting it off my chest.
I’ll catch you in the next episode.
The Audacity to Fail newsletter gives context, transcripts, and recommendations based on upcoming and previous episodes. Sign up below to get companion write-ups on the same day an episode premieres.