The Fear Of What Ifs (On Learning to Accept Failure)

The Fear Of What Ifs (On Learning to Accept Failure)

Posted by Joseph Linscott on

I ended last year by talking about the exhaustion that Amy and I experienced from always asking ourselves What’s next? So it’s fitting that this year we started off by telling you about all of the things that we added to our plates — and to talk about the flip side of What’s next?

What if?

The most daily occurrence of this question that we experienced in our short time of operating an in-person shop (spoiler: we are NOT people-person people) were those days when we didn’t want to go into the shop and we knew, within a few hours of being there, that no one was going to be coming in. “But,” we’d say to each other, “what if someone shows up? And then we’d spend the remainder of our workday grumpy that we have to be at work and we’d be wholly unproductive.

Then there are the more high-level (and the scariest) what ifs that we’d run into: what if our plan for the business fails? What if this product we make doesn’t sell? What if everybody actually hates us and they only bought our stuff because they felt bad and now they aren’t going to buy anything ever again? Figuring out these what ifs involves a lot of scrupulous guesswork focused on what products to focus on, what money to spend, and how to allocate more money for Raffy and his sweaters. 

(Speaking of Raffy, there are also the personal what ifs. What if moving across the country was the wrong thing to do? What if trying to buy a house is more than we can manage right now? What if Raffy actually doesn’t love us and just uses us to get his blankets over his head?

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A lot of these what ifs that I’ve talked about sound ridiculous as soon as I write them out, but they’re ultimately some of the most stress-inducing things that Amy and I think about. And sure, we can pretty solidly confirm that people aren’t just spending their money on our products because they feel bad for us. But. What if?

You live with all of these what ifs, and they follow you around every day, and they color your every decision, your every move, your every discussion, and you start to realize that you aren’t breathing regularly because the anxiety is growing. And those what ifs keep staring at you, just like Raffy stares at us when we’re in bed and he wants us to take him out, or give him a Greenie, or to play, or he’s just being plain weird — and, unfortunately, there’s not really a lot that you can do to avoid those. At least, there isn’t a lot that Amy or I can do about them (nor is there anything we can do about the fact that Raffy is the physical embodiment of these what ifs). 

There’s nothing you can do about them. That’d be a hell of an ending for this blog post, huh?

Well… Ultimately, what ifs are always going to exist. Failures are going to happen. What if the business fails? By real-world standards, it didn’t — we’re still here, we’re still making products, we’re still working with so many amazing customers and retail partners. But what if we’d made “better” choices? What if those choices had led to a more successful year? It’s easy to fall into the negative side of what ifs. To dwell on perceived failures or what we could have done differently with the gift of hindsight. But if we remember to focus on the positive, what ifs (and failures) offer a wonderful gift — the opportunity to reflect on and learn from and grow because of the what ifs that came to fruition.

So, yes. This could all come crumbling down. (And speaking of crumbling, have you checked out our “Let’s Get Ready to [Cranberry] Crumble” recipe?). Anyways, the what ifs are just something we have to live with. But if one thing fails, other things will fall into place. We’ll find a new direction, we’ll keep on keeping on.

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