This is what failure looks like

Nov 14, 2017 | Sparkly Love

jenna-blog nov 13 copy

Don’t let the big smile fool you – this is what burnout looks like! Ok, I’ll back up a little bit and explain the whole story. I wanted to open with a catchy opening because I feel like this might be one of the most honest, and hopefully important posts I’ve ever written. Oh no, now the pressure is on! I knew I wanted to write this piece for a while, but I was also pretty nervous because I’m about to reveal some pretty personal information.

Ready?! I feel compelled to disclose a more authentic and genuine version of my story, because I feel like with social media we are often fed a bunch of bullshit. Glossy versions of how effortless and easy life is, when the reality is usually far from the perfectly staged, posed, and edited photos. This is especially true for entrepreneurs. From glamourous “boss babes,” to perfectly coiffed “mompreneurs” there are so many images and messages out there that make running a business look easy. I’m not sure why this has become the new norm of how we’ve decided to portray ourselves.

I’m not trying to criticize anyone here. The reason I bring up this point is because I feel like we could do each other a big service and be more transparent in sharing our stories. I for one believe when people are authentic in the good, and more importantly in the challenging times, we all gain as a result. I’m not saying I think it’s bad to post things that are positive, but I do feel there’s value to being upfront about the truth. There’s so much beauty in realness.

Back to my story! Things have been FAR from effortless or smooth in the past few months. If you’ve been following me, you probably know that over the summer I wrote my first book, and launched a new business called Conscious Lab. I’ve posted a few photos of my gorgeous event space in Gastown, and you might have seen some posts about events we’ve hosted. What you probably don’t know is that the whole thing didn’t work out the way at all the way I thought.

My intention with the space was to hold regular events for the creative business community so they could learn, connect, and grow. When I moved in I didn’t have a plan, but I had a clear vision of what I thought this looked like. I thought I would bring in my fellow conscious entrepreneur friends to teach courses and share their wisdom. It only took a couple months of unsuccessfully trying to promote these type that I realized that I didn’t enjoy promoting or hosting other people’s events. I know this kinda makes me sound like an asshole (and I LOVE all the people I’ve met with for potential events), but because my main business is running Make It, I just don’t have any bandwidth to promote anything else. Also, the learning curve of Conscious Lab was way steeper than I expected and I was humbled almost instantly.

Once I realized things were working, I promptly cleared the calendar and cancelled any event that was on the books. It felt really uncomfortable because I felt like I was admitted failure after originally being so public about my brilliant idea for Conscious Lab. But I knew I couldn’t keep trying so hard to sell tickets anymore. It’s like all my supply of excitement and enthusiasm had been depleted, and I just couldn’t push anything else out.

My book Make It Happen also feel short. The plan was to write the whole thing super quickly so I could publish in time to launch at Make It Calgary in November. I sat in my condo sweating over my keyboard for days at a time during the hot summer months. Even though it was a extremely ambitious, I had in my mind I was going to do it so I pushed as hard as I could. Because I was writing a book called Make It Happen, I felt an obligation to get it done as quickly as possible no matter what!

In the end I wasn’t able to make the publishing deadline due to some discrepancies with the edits. It felt painful to miss out on the lucrative holiday season, but I just knew I couldn’t release my first book unless I was 100% in love with the end result. I also realized that I wasn’t making it happen, I was forcing it to happen. There was so much I compromised and sacrificed because in my head I wanted to prove I could do something that a lot of people told me was completely unrealistic. Having to postpone the book was a huge bash to my ego, but I knew it was the only choice I had.

Once I pressed pause on Conscious Lab and Make It Happen, magical things started happening. While taking a bath on night, I had a perfect download of how I can use Conscious Lab to serve even more people in a way that my time and talents are best used. Instead of hosting small events with 30-50 people in the space, I’m going to transform it into a film studio and shoot videos on how creative entrepreneurs can take their businesses to the next level. This will become Make It School (formally Make It University) and has the potential to impact and serve thousands. Plus, I feel a lot more comfortable talking to a camera than I do a real audience. The truth is I’m pretty shy and introverted naturally. I can be extroverted for short periods of time, but it takes a lot out of me.

For the book, I almost immediately recognized how needed the decisions to delay publishing really was. Not only do I now have time to go back to Bali and get centred and re-magnetized again, but I can also take the time to come up with a way more effective launch instead of just rushing it through like I was originally trying to do. Already from my latest experience, I have even more insight and awareness of what’s really required to make it happen in a way that feels closer to the truth.

A couple weekends ago I was in Calgary for Make It. It was one of the most challenging experiences I’ve had this year…and that’s saying a lot because this year has been one for the books! This is because despite putting Conscious Lab and my book on hold, I have been taxing my body and health for many months. Launching two big projects along with Make It Calgary put me under a lot of stress and uncertainty. I think I was like the frog boiling in water, because I actually didn’t realize how much pressure I was under until I started to crash and burn.

The Calgary show was extra difficult because it’s only the second event we’ve had since we took a 6 year break. Back then Make It was a fraction of the size, so it was an entirely different beast back then too. It also is tough because it’s very early in the year for a holiday show, but those were the only dates the venue had available so we didn’t have much of a choice.

I was able to book an awesome Airbnb for Team Make It that was right across the street from the venue. This was great because it meant I didn’t have to worry about driving and we could come and go at different times. I’m a Taurus and we really value nice spaces…especially when times are busy and stressful!

When I arrived in Calgary, I planned to immediately go to the grocery store because I wanted to stock up the house with yummy treats, and buy food to make Brigitte and Rachel dinner. Whenever we are travelling I go into “mom mode” and try my best to cook meals for the ladies! It makes me happy when they are happy, plus it’s way more fun to cook for other people. As I was walking around the grocery store, I realized how tired I felt. There were a couple moments where I felt like I might pass out if I moved too quickly.

The thing with exhaustion, is you don’t always feel it until you allow yourself to slow down. During the intense 3 months of launching Conscious Lab, my book, and Make It Calgary I think I was running on adrenaline because I didn’t actually feel tired. I knew I wasn’t sleeping much and working most of the time, but it didn’t feel at all like I was sleepy. In fact I felt alert and awake, but I knew what was fueling it was anxiety and panic.

During Make It set the next way I just didn’t feel like myself. I also didn’t look like myself, and several people commented on how ill I looked. When I tried to take a selfie with Mr Makie to post on my Instagram I looked at the image in disbelief because all of the blood had drained from my face and I had black circles under my eyes. When Brigitte and Rachel saw how haggard I looked they insisted I go back to the Airbnb and rest.

The next morning I could barely get out of bed. It was the weirdest feeling because my hands started to shake and I felt like I couldn’t take a deep enough breath. I felt panic because I knew if I felt like this there was no way I would be able to be at Make It all day. So I did something I’ve never done in 10 years of organizing craft fairs, and I missed a full day of the show.

I can’t describe to you how hard, weird, strange, horrible, but at the same time oddly liberating missing the opening day of Make It Calgary was. Laying in bed, thinking about the show happening without me was something I never thought I would experience. Although I knew I needed to rest and relax, I spent most of the day on Instagram watching the show unfold one story at a time. I also must have texted Brigitte a hundred times checking in to make sure everything was ok. It was probably similar to how a new parent feels leaving their kid with a babysitter for the first time.

Unfortunately Mother Nature wasn’t helping with my stress levels, because there was a massive snowfall during opening day too! I grew up in Edmonton so I know how paranoid people can get to drive during after the first major snowfall. Only a fraction of customers expected came out to the show. It’s not good for the Makies, and because I organize the show, I can’t help but feel guilty for their lack of success. It’s painful when the attendance is low, especially when I know it’s because of something outside of my control.

The photo at the top was snapped on the second day. I was able to get a bit of rest, and spend a chunk of the day walking around the show and connecting with Makies. Since I was back to looking human again I decided it would be a good idea to do an energetic looking photo with the Make It sign. Despite the big smile, I was still fighting major burnout and fatigue. I wanted so badly to feel like my old self, but I just wasn’t and it was very challenging to pretend.

Luckily the weather improved slightly for the weekend and usual Make It crowds made their way to the show. Unfortunately it didn’t make up for the traffic lost on the first two days but at least the snow stopped at all. I know a lot of Makies are probably upset, and I don’t blame them! I was also upset too because my revenue is also affected, but more importantly I feel personally responsible for letting the Makies down. It’s the WORST feeling in the world because once upon a time I was selling my Booty Beltz at craft shows and know exactly how frustrated it can be being at a show that isn’t busy.

What I can say with absolute certainty is Team Make It worked their asses off to promote the Calgary show. We tried new and creative ideas that were very well received and reflected through online ticket sales and social media engagement. We hustled hard, and I spent a ton of energy doing everything in my power to promote the show. But at the end of the day, we don’t control the weather, and if roads are bad people are scared to drive.

Despite the lower than expected attendance, some beautiful and inspiring moments came out of Make It Calgary. I had some amazing chats with Makies who were so excited to share with me how much they loved talking to their neighbour. Because it was slow, there was more time than usual for them to connect in a meaningful way. When I was stuck in bed, it was heartwarming to see all the cute selfies Makies were taking with their new friends.

Also, the customers who did bundle up and brave the elements were hardcore and ready to shop. Even though there were fewer people than anticipated on the first 2 days, the ones that came spent a ton of time and money at the show. You don’t go out in a snow storm unless you plan on making it worth it!

As much as I would have loved to say that Make It Calgary was an overwhelming success, the truth is it wasn’t what I expected. What I’ve learned is there are things outside by control (like the weather) that I have zero control over. Since starting Make It over 9 years ago, our only dip in attendance was last year when “snowmaggedon” hit Vancouver. I always knew this freakish growth would eventually slow down, but seeing it happen again at the Calgary show wasn’t easy. I’m used to working really hard and seeing the results I expect and feel I deserve, but the truth is in business it doesn’t alway work like this. There are situations where you can work your ass off and things just don’t happen they way you expect.

This has turned out to be another one of my looooong posts! If you’re still reading, I’m impressed and appreciate your interest in my point of view. Hopefully you have a little insight into what the world of organizing craft fairs is really like. At the end of the day it all comes down to attitude. I get a choice in how I respond to every situation in my life. I can choose to dwell, fixate, and complain, or I can choose to see the lesson and move on.

You can probably see for yourself, the last few months haven’t exactly been a cake walk. There were moments where I felt everything I was doing was wrong. I was constantly uncomfortable and to top it all off my condo flooded and my floors had to be ripped up. This week I will have to move out for at least a month so they can be replaced. I guess the Universe isn’t done testing me yet! What I’ve learned, is when things don’t go they way you planned, you get to learn the most valuable and unpredictable life lessons. These are the ones that allow for the most growth and development so I try to welcome them with open arms.  

All you can do is surrender and trust in the moment no matter what. I know this isn’t easy and I struggle with this on a daily basis. I want things to turn out the same way they look in my head, and what the last few months have taught me is I have way less control than I thought. This only opens me up to a more exciting and wondrous way of looking at life. If we have so little control, it means we can lighten up a little and have more fun dancing with each crazy, unpredictable moment. It might look unedited, sloppy, or strange but it’s in this space where the true magical moments happen. We can only smile and hold on for the ride!

If you live in Edmonton make sure you grab yourself some early bird tickets the show Nov 23-26, and Vancouver Dec 7-10. I’m visualizing pleasant, clear, sunny weather for both cities! Both shows are going to be outstanding so make sure you come by and support our fabulous Makies!

Thank you so much for reading and please share my post with anyone who might find it valuable. I hope you enjoyed getting a glimpse into my sometimes un-sparkly world, and if you have any comments or feedback I would love to hear it.


Meet Jenna

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