Failure and not giving a f*ck!

How to Overcome Artistic failure

I learnt something really important the other day. Life isn’t about how much happiness you want. It’s about how much suffering you’ll take to acquire that happiness. And success – in all our myriad of definitions of it – depends on that.

“Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for.”
― Mark Manson

The reason I failed as a musician is not that I didn’t try. I simply quit to soon. I’d spent years dragging four no-hopers around the country hanging onto my grammy nominated coat-tails. Doing all the work and living the life of a starving musician in order to get something moving while they went of to day jobs.
They weren’t prepared to suffer that part of a musicians life and because I was, my bandmates allowed me to do it on their behalf. This led to me resenting them and feeling like I was being used. And I was. Because I was prepared to suffer more than they were. So I quit music when I should have just got a better band!
It wasn’t looking like another record deal was ever going to happen and like so many people I’d been conditioned to give up. To avoid failure. Because I was taught that failure isn’t an important part of any story. Just the success bit. That’s all that matters right?

Success is all that matters, right?

Well, no. Think about it for a second. The best rock and roll stories all involve conflict, some kind of struggle, some hero with incredible odds stacked against him, right? Someone who keeps getting knocked down but keeps getting up.

No good story — No good hero — has it easy.

If we never have faced the stacked odds, or gotten back up, or worked through crushing failures How can we become the heroes we want to be? I’d quit before I reached the climax of my story. Through fear. Tattooing on the other hand is a different story. I’m a solo artist, I’m in love with the process and I’ll suffer the required amount to achieve what I want but not one bit more. I won’t ‘chase the game’ because it doesn’t interest me. But, I dont look down on others who do because I realise that they will have to suffer in some way that I’m not prepared to, to achieve it.

“We suffer for the simple reason that suffering is biologically useful. It is nature’s preferred agent for inspiring change.”
― Mark Manson.

To Overcome Artistic failure right now you simply have to understand and accept that failure is inevitable and that your Successes can be a direct result of your failures.

While were filming our little documentary-series about the shop things went wrong all the time. But instead of dwelling on not plugging in the mic, forgeting to press record  or totally losing the thread of we we’re saying. Instead of letting it get us down we just turned it into and out-takes episode. Lemons to Lemonade. We accepted that failure was a part of the process of getting better. That’s the type of thinking I’m going to share with you here.


Of course, what people do with that fear is very different. Some use it to push themselves forward while Others feel the fear and never try. For many artists, the fear of failure really ‘kicks in’ when they ‘go pro’.
Just doing art as a hobby is much easier. You don’t have to share if you don’t have any of that annoying commercial pressure. Trying to be a professional artist not only raises the stakes, it brings with it visiblity. Once people are watching you, you suddenly feel like the world is critiquing your every move. Suddenly you CAN fail.
But who says we have to be afraid of failing? And if we are afraid, how can we use that fear as motivation rather than intimidate?

Failure is here to stay

You might as well come to grips with it now, but failure is here to stay. It’ll happen, that’s a fact but how you respond to it is up to you. If failure didn’t exist, we’d be great at everything and life would be boring. Nothing in life is worthwhile without skinning your knees a bit.  What makes us an expert in our field is the fact that we’ve failed countless amounts of times but are still standing and have gained wisdom as a by-product.  So the more we fail and endure, the more people will look to us as an authority in our industry.
Instead of feeling sorry for yourself and getting dragged into the downward spiral, make note of all the things that happened that led to your failure and promise yourself to take action toward a better outcome next time.

“What you resist, persists.” ~Carl Jung

If we’re so afraid of failing that we don’t even try then we’ve forgotten something very integral to the basic human condition. That we MUST fail in order to learn.
As children we fail all the time. We get up, dust ourselves off and try again and we learn. Eventually we master the task at at hand and move on to the next. At some point from from childhood to adulthood we forget a simple truth. Failure is not an endpoint, it’s the mid-point.

It’s life’s educational tool, and we need it.

Its not all fun & games

Contrary to what a lot of people believe art isn’t all fun and games. Its challenging but Overcoming your failure and challenges can actually be very good for you.
Underneath the pretty colours and intricate details are struggles that can only be understood by those within the artistic community. My biggest tip for overcoming feeling of failure is to share them with artists around you. You’d be amazed at how much better you’ll feel just knowing that all the amazing artists you know suffer from the same problems you do. And they sometimes have incredible advice and insights that could really help you overcome your anxiety about failure.

Here are my top three tips:

1. Risk the little things first.

You need to get used to the fear and accept it’s presence so start with some little things. The sooner you can get comfortable with the idea that fear is a constant presence in your life the sooner you’ll be on the road to welcoming it like an old friend.
Start with something that has nothing to do with your art. Never bungee jumped? Give it a try! Never eaten Lychee? Try them!

2. Remember and record your success

Creative people tend to daydream. Its how we problem solve. But we rarely achieve the level of success we dream about. However, it’s possible that you’ll find yourself more successful than you thought you’d be. At that point you’ll probably be looking back and wondering ‘how did I do that?’ When you start to feel the fear of failure creeping back in you can look back at the list and remind yourself of your previous success. It’s a very handy way to get your courage back.

3. Fail and write down why.

Often failure has very little to do with our own abilities and skills. You need to remember that certain circumstances are out of your control.
Write down your failure and identify the cause. If the cause was you, then you can plan to succeed next time. If the failure was outside of your control, then it’s just one of those things.
We can still learn from those failures, of course. . . we just learn something different.

Overcome Artistic Failure

Don't just Ignore the Negative Voices, Ignore them all!

The 21st century life of an artist is easier said than drawn.

voices of negativity
Don’t expect people outside your industry to understand. You won’t be able to properly express the complex conflicts between mind and body, frustrating and disappointing results to outsiders who just don’t understand what being an artist really means.
From the moment we ‘go pro’ in the 21st century our art is on public display for the world to see and comment on. And of course, with all the positivity and awesome feedback, comes the negative stuff.  Mean, insensitive comments from negative people that very easy to get wrapped up in. This is poison to creatives, making them feel that their art is worthless.
The very simple truth is that you have to learn to ignore these negative voices. To do that you have to ignore the positive voices too. I know that may seem like an odd idea so I’ll explain.

Understand that compliments

Compliments – nice as they are – very often come from a place of no knowledge of the subject at all. Why should they? You don’t have to be a professional art critic to enjoy art, right? And that is exactly the same place that all that criticism is coming from. A place of NO expertise and NO understanding of art.
So if you recognise that the good stuff – however nice – is realistically worthless then you can ignore the bad stuff for exactly the same reason. Just put no value in either side and you’re free to move on and create.

Imposter Syndrome

Don’t let imposter syndrome or those pesky trolls prevent you from doing the very thing that makes you happy. Whether that be drawing, singing, dancing, or whatever. Just go and live your best life.


A psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”, no matter how much success they achieve. – Merriam-Webster Dictionary
The greatest minds, talents and artists of this world, like Albert Einstein, Maya Angelou, David Bowie, and Serena Williams have had their own bouts of imposterism – all of whom combated feelings of not being good enough, of being called a fraud, a nobody playing dress up.


  • Success is not cheap.
  • Failure is not the end of the world or a sign to give up. 
  • Make dynamic decisions based past failings. Learn from failure.