Failure, Success, Profit & the Pursuit of Happiness

"my worth will not be dictated by a number" print by FreshWordsMarket{inspirational print by Fresh Words Market-$5 from each sale goes to PEACE Mexico}

“I do it for the joy it brings because I am a joyful girl.

Because the world owes me nothing and we owe each other the world.”

~Ani Difranco

Failure. Feeling like a failure and fearing failure are the two things I think cause people to cut their dreams off at the knees. So before we finish off our month of back to business awesomeness I want to talk about how failure is completely subjective and entirely up to you.

I have failed more then I have succeeded according to most people’s definitions of success. If failing means lack of profit then my bank account is solid proof of my failure to care enough about making money. In the interest of transparency, if I factor in all the hours spent on Oh My! Handmade and all the money I have put out it looks a bit like $.016 cents an hour. But its not just Oh My if I look back and consider how much extra time, love and effort I put into every single job I have had and subtract it from my wage or profit-I’ve never made more then minimum wage. If a job is 40 hours a week I work 60-I am hardwired that way.

Money it turns out, is not my bottom line. Joy is. 

Do I feel overworked and underpaid, resentful and frustrated? NO!  It has been my choice every time. Because profit alone does not equal success for me. Success is loving what I do, making things better, and doing my absolute best with all of my heart no matter what the job is (dishes don’t count). Success is making enough to continue doing what I love but being willing to go without to get to where I want to be. I have been given opportunities to make a lot of money in my life and have walked away from all of them to do things for less pay because doing the job would not have taught me anything or contributed to my happiness.

My aunt committed suicide when I was 12. I received my inheritance at 19 when I was living and working with children and youth in East Vancouver. I worked a union job, made great money, was single and had a cheap apartment. When I got a big chunk of money from my aunt did I save for a rainy day? Or invest wisely? No. I took the money and paid my rent for a year, went on a leave of absence from my job and created Camp Experience Your Dreams a non-profit summer camp for inner city children. Every penny was worth it-I took 120 children into the forest and to the ocean, many of whom had never left the city before. We spent 4 days together eating organic food and offering workshops on everything from coastal biology to Dr. Suess hip-hop. It was the best year of my life.

My family told me I had failed to properly use the money since I did not use it to make more money (which isn’t technically true I raised over $20,000 for the camp but didn’t personally see any of it). But the children who came to camp that year didn’t think so and neither did I. I learned that year I could do anything if I cared enough and that what looks like failure to some can actually be success of the best kind. It also taught me that I could work my ass off for very little financial return and love every second of it. Releasing any fear of failure if I didn’t make money opened the doors to take risks and opportunities that resulted in incredible relationships, learning and yes, even some cash. I also learned that often success and failure go hand in hand.

Making money and profit as creatives seems to be a hot topic in the handmade community right now. You know I think your talent and time are valuable and should never be undersold and that you should build a business that will bring you financial and personal success.  But I think profit looks different to each of us and we can only define what it looks like for ourselves. My profit might be very different from someone who thinks they are only succeeding if they make 6 figures or more. My profit could even look an awful lot like failure to them.

If I wanted to make more profit from Oh My! and leverage my time for money I could. There have been more big advertising offers then I could count since I started. Do you want to see an ad for tires above our banner? Me neither. I could make you pay for things we offer for free. I could create a book or course that would tell you how to imitate my success here and try to convince you to buy it. I could spend less time caring about you and your stories or pursuing my own art and more time selling things. I could take more of the spotlight and spend less time promoting the work of contributors. Lots of people have told me this. But I already knew it, the thing is that profit matters less then building this right.

I am willing to put out more then I receive financially because I receive more in other ways. And I know the value in slowly creating a business instead of rushing to bring in the cash. My plan is a long term one and profit has a place in it but is not on the top of my list.

I’m not independently wealthy, my partner and I are both under 30 with two kids and a big mortgage, making these choices means that we have to live carefully. All told we make about $40, 000 a year. But we have enough. Enough that my children have local food to eat and beautiful places to sleep and play. Enough that I can follow the meanderings of my heart. I could easily feel like we were struggling but I choose to feel like we have all we need. I am defining success on my own terms.

So the long and the short of it is-don’t let anyone tell you your business is not successful unless you make a profit and don’t fall prey to products that promise the key to success.

Make up your own rules, follow your own path, find the enough that is just right for you.

When success is no longer based on your profits but the lessons you learn and the people you meet along the way you are freed from expectations and the sky is the limit. Failures become successes and sometimes even financial success becomes failure (as illustrated by the people leaving their comfy jobs in droves for the insecurity of entrepreneurship).

So imagine you were not afraid to fail-what would you do? 

  • http://www.etsy.com/shop/saltcityspice Katrina

    Jessika… wow. I am truly humbled by this post – what you’ve explained here so eloquently is the very reason why I was drawn to your spirit in the first place. You demonstrate love and support in the things that you do, and while I wish that was directly tied to financial success, it makes me happy to know that you do this because you want to and are building toward a greater goal. Great things will continue to come your way, I have never had any doubts about that.

    Thank you for sharing this – you’re completely one of a kind and I’m a better person for having met you.

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      @Katrina-Thank you so much for your comment, I’m redder then a lobster! Its not that I don’t make any money-but I put in so much more time then I “need” to-for the joy of it.
      Since beginning here on OMHG my life has been flooded with love, support and new friendships like yours-best profit ever! And no one has told me to toughen up my big bleeding heart yet; )

  • http://meaganvisser.com/blog Meagan

    I’m speechless! This was beautiful, so inspiring, & so dead on. Thank you Jessika!

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      @Meagan Thank you Meagan, so glad to hear I’m not way off in left field…or maybe I am but I have good company: )

  • http://Thecozyprojectblog.blogspot.com Jenny P

    Excellent use of an Ani quote!! And thanks for sharing your experiences and definitions of failure and success! Life is about finding joy and we each need to find our own ideas of success and happiness and be true to them. And it’s hard, but we have to measure ourselves by that vs the ideas of others. Thank you for putting this down in words!

  • http://www.seekingself.com Kathy Austin

    I can not begin to explain how much this post moved me. For many years, I have search for the “job” that would bring me happiness, excitement, and love of the work. I finally have given up on the “job” that would give me this and instead I have started to dabble in things that I think are interesting to see what may come of it for a business. I have put profit making and all the business organization aside. I am searching for what makes me happy and I think everything else will fall into place. For these reasons, I just LOVE your quote of “Make up your own rules, follow your own path, find the enough that is just right for you.” Nothing could be truer for me right now! Thank you for this post!

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      Sorry for the ridiculous long response comment! Need to find a snazzier comment plug in: )

      @Kathy: Good for you! I love to hear that you are pursuing happiness and finding what makes your heart sing & that my post came at the right time for you: ) Best wishes & hugs on your journey!
      @Erin: You made me all weepy too Erin, thank you for sharing so honestly here: ) I have found that financial issues are there regardless of how much money people make-it’s all in the perspective. When making money is no longer such a huge focus it seems to open the doors to finding what you need in other ways too!
      @Kat: Oh thank you Kat! ” I want to make our lives something special with what we do not what we have” YES YES YES. Beautifully said!
      @Tania:Love your comment Tania (& connecting with you too!) sometimes it is hard to find the balance between pushing for growth and allowing yourself to set the pace. I think that balance ebbs and flows depending on where we are in our lives. Cheers to the adventure!
      @Denise:Thank you Denise: )
      @Chara: I love your comment, yes! It is so easy to get caught up in the noise-those bills & expectations are loud and they can drown out the voice of what we really want/need. Reducing your goals down to one thing like love makes everything else come into focus. “love is my compass, my guidepost and love will dictate what and how I do it all.”I adore it.
      @Julie: I am so glad to hear from you Julie! I remember when I first heard of your biz via your interview w/ Tara Gentile & thinking how sanely and creatively you were approaching your business growth. I loved the concept of spreading the work around your community and the business model you were creating. I think this is an extension of how thoughtfully you have approached your growth, scaling back is not failure-neither is raising prices or setting a limit on how much you produce each month. As a mother of two small children myself I think mama’s especially need to consider how much they can grow or develop their business while still being present as parents. That will also look different for each of us & there is no right way to be a successful mother/entrepreneur. Your kiddos are going to be out in the world soon enough and you can step up your business then…or slow it down while you travel the world; ) Best of luck & blessings on the adventure!
      @Kathleen: Thank you Kathleen, I agree-instead of money being a by-product of being happy/fulfilled in our work we can often look to the money to provide the meaning.

  • http://www.erinmgiles.com Erin Giles

    Oh this is why I love you to pieces Jessika. This post is such perfect timing for me. At several points during the week I feel like I have made a mistake, although its just the negative thoughts in my head. Because I look around and see that not all of our bills are being paid, and we are getting assistance. But each week something happens and God shows me that we are right where we need to be. We are provided for , and not forgotten. And as for what I am doing everyday, I have never been happier. I for one refuse to let some financial issues take that away. Thank you for this:)

    xo

  • http://withachanceof.blogspot.com kat

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me! What an amazing story! My husband and I are by no means wealthy. We have two wonderful children and lost of love. I want to make our lives something special with what we do not what we have. You’re a success in my book. Thank you!

  • http://www.manusmade.com Tania

    Oh Jessika, you have such a way with words. Thank you for sharing this, and for helping us take a step back to think about why we do the things we do.
    I’ve been thinking about similar things, as my little business is getting rolling. As I have a day job as well as an inde-biz, do I keep pushing and pushing just to make a profit? Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in that.
    But what I really know is that I do it because I love it and am having the adventure of my life meeting amazing people like you.

    Thank you, thank you.

    Tania xoxo

  • http://www.niecynotes.com Denise

    Wow! Great post all the way through. I don’t even know what to say it’s so dead-on to where I’m at now. Thanks for that one sentence that brung it home: “Don’t let anyone tell you your business is not successful unless you make a profit and don’t fall prey to products that promise the key to success.” 🙂

  • http://www.lovemeboutique.ca Chara / Love, Me Boutique

    Great post Jessika. It is timely in so many ways – in a worldly sense and in a personal way for me. (Because we are mind twins) I was thinking along parallel lines this morning. It is so easy to get lost in the noise, not just what is success & failure but the how-tos of success. Everywhere you look are tips, tricks, e-books, about how to make your life successful. And it easy to get caught up in it all. But it gets so freakin’ noisey. This morning while thinking about business and success, I decided I needed a guidepost to help me recalibrate. I found it all getting noisey again. So I asked myself..why do I do want to do anything? What is my mandate? And my answer was love. Everytime. Love. And I decided if it wasn’t for love, it is gonna get excluded. From what I make for dinner, to what I buy, to what I focus on here at the shop, to what we do for Heartweed, to whom I spend my time with. Love. That I love and share love is my compass. I have always thought, felt and known this but it just became so clear (and easy) to me this morning.

    In University, I remember getting a letter from my dad in response to a letter I had written him about struggling with classes and wanting to really “get into them” without the pressure of grades. His response was something to the effect of when you get out into the real world people will want to know your scores, your grades. No one is gonna ask you how you felt about doing it/how you feel about the work?

    But I do care. I care how I feel. I care how others feel. This morning I promised myself that love is my compass, my guidepost and love will dictate what and how I do it all.

    Love is my success. Everything else will follow.

    (I told you Jess that my response was winded:)

  • http://jjboyles.com julie boyles

    You know, there’s been this little niggling thought in the back of my brain the last few weeks. Every time I thought about exploring it, it made me very uncomfortable so I kept pushing it back.

    You just blew the lid off, and brought it right out into the open. I’m so thankful I read your post tonight. I’ve been caught in a trap of growth, and profit. Months ago started to become uptight and resentful…. with everyone-especially my kids and husband.

    Although my sales have been slow recently, and although I would like them to pick up a little, I’ve found myself enjoying this slower pace so much. It feels great to work on each piece and really make it special. I’m enjoying talking and relating to my customers so much more too.

    So thank you for your post. For giving me the gift of permission to do the things the way “I” want to. For re-affirming that I won’t be a failure if I decide to grow my business very, very slowly so that it fits right now and grows at the pace that is sustainable.

    After all, my kids are in high school and middle school. I’ve only got a small amount of time left with them. Bigger business can wait if it’s meant to be.

    Thank you Jessica!

  • Stephanie Douglas

    Excellent! Everyone has already said it better than could. But, amazing piece of writing.

  • Kathaleen

    Hi Jessica, First thank you for your post, there is so much pressure to make money and I see that in the end result, we use money to make us happy. I also see that you took a tragedy of loosing your Aunt and put that inheritance toward something that made a difference for children, you replaced a negative with a positive. Everyone’s life has worth and happiness.

  • http://www.perfectbalancemarketing.com Lucy Thornton

    Oh Jessika – the more you share about your life here on OMHG the more I love you.

    You have made a difference to so many people. Not just here on OMHG but the summer camp – those kids will still remember you and what you did for them. You really are an inspiration.

    I’m going to bookmark this for the next time I start giving myself a hard time about not securing a new contract.

    It’s not all about the money – it’s about the people and the relationships – thank you again for a super post, Lucy xxx

    PS And thank you so much for not subjecting us to tyre ads! Staying true to the brand – another reason for me to quote you in training sessions ;o) x

  • Dondrea

    Oh how I needed to hear this! Thanks for sharing this perspective of success with our community. It’s so necessary! And thank you for all of the information you share with us on how to be successful. This whole site feels so genuine. When I visit, I don’t feel like I’m “sipping the kool-aid” if that makes sense. 🙂

  • http://www.allisajacobs.etsy.com Allisa

    Jess, the more I get to know you & the more you share, the more I love you!

    This post really hit home for me and you articulate it all so beautifully. Many people have questioned my choices in life – from being a special education teacher in the inner city and now to creating a small business. It’s always hurt…but given me a bit more fire to keep doing what I love! I think I’ll need to whip out this post next time it comes up 🙂

    You are truly an inspiration and have shaped OMHG into a thriving, lovely, and nourishing space! xoxo

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      @Allisa-thank you sweet friend! I got the same reaction when I worked with inner city kids. “but you are SO smart”, “but you could do so much more with your life”…but when a young person who had been hostile & incapable of trust would open up enough to hug me I knew there was nothing in the world I would rather do with my time…I feel the same way about OMHG. I know profit & compassion can go hand in hand but I think it is a slower more organic process. I’m willing to be patient!

  • http://ahousefullofmoxie.com Moxie Lisa

    Great article Jessika. I have a bit of a different take on my business and what success means to me. In my eyes, the more money I am able to make the more I am able to gift to charity and other things that help people. I would never judge anyone’s success based on my ideas…as everyone business model is completely different. Much like beauty, success is in the eye of the beholder. 🙂

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      @Lisa, I totally understand! Likewise I have no judgement on people who focus on making money-I think there is room for all of us and our different perspectives. I think we each need to find the “balance” or the enough that feels right for us: )

  • http://www.karenlewisdesignz.com Karen Lewis

    What a great post. It is so true that we often get caught up in equating profit to success. I used to doubt my abilities when I didn’t seem to be as “popular” or successful as other fellow designers but what you say is so true and I’ve finally learnt that as long you are doing something you truly love and that gives you joy that’s all that matters and anything I earn is just a bonus. The truth is when you take away the pressure it shows in what you do and I have been lucky to see reward because of it. All it took was a mind change…..thanks for reminding me and sharing this wise advice.

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      @Karen, thanks for your comment! I think profit is one of the reasons people often consider their businesses failures-our current idea of what a business is makes it easy to judge and compare our successes against others. We each follow our own trajectory though-good for you to make that shift & find joy in what you are doing, yay!

  • http://pikaland.com Amy@Pikaland

    Beautifully written Jessika! I find myself nodding as I read along. What people think are failures may mean very different things to others. And if we know what we’re doing, then that’s all we need.

    It’s our life, so it’s time we stop living up to other people’s expectations.

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      @Amy Thank you! I am so thrilled that you visited us to leave a comment, I adore your site and the perspectives you share on Pikaland. Cheers to living our dreams whatever they may be and defining success on our own terms!

  • http://www.etsy.com/shop/chicagofinethreads NIcole

    Hi Jessika!
    How is it that you always know the right thing to say at the right time? Its like you have a direct portal to my overwhelmed brain. Thanks for always coming thru.

  • alston

    well said! so much of running a business can be focused on the bottom line, which in itself can suck out all the joy of what you’re doing in the first place. it’s a great freedom to do something not because it’s a giant cash cow, but because you love it. and can’t imagine doing anything else. here’s to finding success on our own terms!

  • http://karuski-blog.blogspot.com karuski

    What a beautiful post and resonates so well with my thoughts. Thank you being so honest and sharing your thoughts with your readers. OhMyHandmade is now on my reading list and I’ll check back frequently for sure. Have a lovely day!

  • http://www.baahar.net baa

    This is a wonderful post and close to many people’s hearts.
    I don’t know how many more times I have to answer the question “but do you make money?”. OK, one cannot live without money, but to act as if we were born to make money is so totally wrong

  • http://www.mielmakes.co.uk Yvonne

    Thank you so much for this post – it captures so much of what I feel and what I am unable to convey to others. Since choosing to pursue a crafty career and life, things have changed so much and the direction and fulfilment that I’ve found is worth so much more to me than a fat paycheck. Others don’t seem to get it but I don’t get their life choices neither so that’s fine.

    Thanks again! Yx

  • http://www.jennalou.com jenna lou

    Hi Jessika.
    I’m a new reader (just found you yesterday), but am so inspired by your blog. This post just speaks directly to my heart. For years I have struggled with figuring out what success is, and still learning. Thank you for sharing so many details. Looking forward to reading through all the archives.
    – Jenna

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      Hi Jenna! Thank you so much for your comment, I am glad you found us and that this post connected. Good luck on the road to deciding what your success looks like for you: )

  • http://muffinsnmore.blogspot.com Ms Muffin

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS!!!!

    I loved reading it – and you have no idea how much this means to me! I can not even try to put it into words … it would probably end up a long long long comment. *laugh*
    So I am just saying THANK YOU! I love what you said and the way you said it! And it made me realize so many things …

    Love reading here!!!

  • http://melissahager.etsy.com Melissa

    Love it! This is so true, I think being an artist/crafty person is part of being yourself and being true to who you are. Many of us don’t care about becoming millionaires, it’s the joy of the art and the smiles on other peoples faces that make the difference. Knowing that we can make a difference in someone else’s life is all that we need to feel rich!

  • http://www.d-un-bout-du-monde-a-l-autre.com Tiphaine

    Wow, Jessika…I have been following this blog/community for a year now, reading from far. Thinking that one of this day I would be able to start my own little things. The mean girl inside me still is quite powerful..and I am fighting hard to believe that I can make it…
    And that’s the reason that your post touched me so deeply. You believed you could do it and you did, no matter what you heard. You changed those kids’life, you gave them the possibility to dream or even being able to go beyond their dreams because you believed in them at the same time.
    I have to learn from that. I mean to be nice to me, to believe in me. That I am worth it.
    It is very much a struggle but thank you. Without even knowing me, you are giving me a chance, to believe in me too.

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      This melted my heart Tiphaine! I wanted to send you a big hug across the internet and thank you for your beautiful comment. You are enough and your dreams are so worth it, it is hard to believe in ourselves but it is the best battle we will ever fight. To love ourselves is a gift for the world and it shines out in all we do. You deserve to know your own fabulousness! I hope to hear from you again and follow along your journey to loving you:)