Congratulations– You Get to Fail

Failure. A pure blessing when I can see the beauty and heavy baggage when I can’t.

It’s the thing I learn from most.

Failure: the times I’ve been lost in the woods– when I was supposed to be the leader. When it was supposed to be just a simple trail.

The times I fucked up big orders or missed the mark. The times I said the wrong thing.

I failed my way through entire summers. There were conversations with disappointed parents. It wasn’t always my fault fully. But I own it. Because even when it’s hard, it’s teaching me.

Failure was the thinking I’d be happy, if only I moved here or there– if only I changed, in this way or that.

It’s overspending on trivial things and prioritizing badly and getting stuck in circles where I judge myself over and over again. It’s the spilled coffee on my white shirt. Maybe none of it is failure objectively, but to me, it couldn’t have been anything else.

So congratulations to me– I mean that truly and I mean it fully. I got to fail. I got to fail so many times. We have the opportunity every day.

You get to wake up every day and try. You get to try and fall flat on your face. You get to fall 100 times and get up 101.

You get to experiment. You get to finger paint on the walls and get in trouble for it. You get to have a rough night out and embarrass yourself. You get to sit in disappointment, pick through it and find the secret gold within it.

Mess up hard, learn hard.

Say the wrong thing? Learn to apologize.

Get rejected? Make “no” an opportunity.

Don’t like who you have become? Re-invent.

Not fulfilled by your past? Invest in the excitement of your future.

Feel like you’ve done nothing? Choose something instead.

Get hurt? Choose how much you harden because of it– hopefully, you choose softness instead.

Choose today. Choose to know that everyone is living out their stories the best way they know how to. Choose yours, choose your impossible fight, built specifically for you and presented to at your feet. Pick it up and wave it like a banner: this is my impossible fight, I will fail in 100 ways today and it might hurt. This is who I will be today, even though I am tired, even though I fought yesterday and I lost. Even though it feels redundant and messy.

You get to hurt so you can love.

You get to struggle so you can learn.

You get to wake up every day in the nervousness and fear of being mid-leap, and you get to fight for it.

You get to sit with your fears at a candlelit dinner and tell them that it’s all going to be OK, even when your voice trembles and you don’t believe it.

This is all for you. It’s all available. It’s yours, so take it and make something with it. Something that scares you, something bigger than you know how to define.

Because failure is a wise teacher– one that helps you start a new chapter as often as you want to risk for it. Congratulations.

You get to fail.



Feature photo by BC Serna.

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  • Reply
    Sydney Everett
    April 26, 2017 at 8:12 am

    I appreciate this blog post so much. I appreciate your words, your honesty and courage to keep going. When you posted on instagram yesterday about anxiety, I realized there were so many more reasons to follow you, on social media, throughout your journey, more reasons than the pretty pictures. Thank you, and I hope the best for you and your struggles as I am taking the huge “getting fired from my job” step into the photography world.


    • Erin Sullivan
      Erin Sullivan
      May 1, 2017 at 11:07 am

      Thank you Sydney! Really appreciate your support, and congratulations on taking the leap. All the best learning from the challenges of this journey!

  • Reply
    Lindy Callahan
    April 26, 2017 at 9:48 am

    I needed this today. You and your words are awesome, Erin! Thank you.

  • Reply
    April 26, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    Gosh almighty – didn’t know that I needed this today, but I did. Thank you. Thank you a million times over for your words and presence here! Inspired by you daily.

    • Erin Sullivan
      Erin Sullivan
      May 1, 2017 at 11:08 am

      Thank you so much, Chloe! Honored to be a lighthouse whenever you need it.

  • Reply
    April 26, 2017 at 5:08 pm

    We’ve all been there, some more than most. These words of yours will inspire and uplift some folks to get back on the horse and try. To be packin around so much wisdom at your age is amazing. I have a feeling your life is going to be a great ride. ” You make mistakes, mistakes don’t make you.” That was said by Maxwell Maltz. You have a lot in common with him.

    • Erin Sullivan
      Erin Sullivan
      May 1, 2017 at 11:08 am

      Thank you Michael! You have the best phrases – always makes me smile!

  • Reply
    April 27, 2017 at 6:19 am

    Heck yes. In the publishing industry, there is so much failure, but it always looks like an overnight success. One of my friends was interviewed, and the reporter called her “the new name to know.” And she was like, how can she be new, when this was her fifth book? The others sold okay (not great), but success was absolutely not overnight. So many failures go into making a success.

    • Erin Sullivan
      Erin Sullivan
      May 1, 2017 at 11:09 am

      Thank you Lynn! Totally feel that about overnight success– success is made up of so many failures, we just don’t see all of them.

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