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The Creative Columnist. Failure Mindset: Starting from experience NOT scratch!

Pete Clayton is Made in Plymouth’s Creative Columnist; an illustrator, animator and graphic designer based in Plymouth. Not a born native to the city and region, but a fully bred Plymouthian who’s lived here most of his 41 years… man and boy! In work, Pete’s purpose as a multidisciplinary creative and writer is to share his love of what he does and in turn give people an inspiring creative lift. Outside of work, Pete is a father of two to Jack and Mia who love a family outing to The Box or a trip to the Barbican for pasties and iced fingers. Today he discusses learning from mistakes

Something I always try to practise every time things don’t go my way or I apparently fail at something is to flip a negative into a positive. By that I mean realising that if I “fail”, it doesn’t mean that I’ve met a dead end. Instead it’s a qualification from the school of life and work that I have gained to move onwards with.

There have been many lessons learned over my 20+ years as a creative and a very valuable one this year over the summer. I do forget this mindset from time to time as it’s hard to see the wood through the trees when the dark clouds of defeat are looming. However I look at it in the end, a positive mental attitude helps you get your head above the clouds.

Indeed, October 2023 saw my 2nd year anniversary of my business as a one-man-band creative studio here in Plymouth. Oh boy, this Summer was a tough one. Work dried up a bit to the point where I felt that I might have to close doors. Yes, it was really that bad. They were very worrying times and I began to feel like I’d failed. But had I failed or had I learned a lesson and gained valuable experience?

Reflecting optimistically back now in Autumn, I really feel the latter is more of an important mindset to carry forward and hold onto. Whilst it was a hard 3-4 months, I learned that the business of self employment isn’t always a smooth sailing one and when the times are tough, it’s important to keep going and try every avenue available to get more of the work I love to do.

The Summer of 2023 was an experience I would never forget and carry with me. But the point is to learn from experience and to remember that one bad chapter in your work / life doesn’t define your whole story.

Over the course of my 20+ year career I have had many occasions where I have learned valuable lessons. The most important of these was that many years ago I used to be a stroppy design diva. In short, I used to get really aggy when colleagues and clients wanted to change my designs. Over time, I’m pleased to say, I grew out of this after learning that myself, clients and colleagues are all on the same creative journey to produce a wonderful piece of work. Furthermore, no one wants to work with an awkward and grumpy creative. So whilst I “failed” with my attitude in the past, I learned to change my mindset to something more positive and forward thinking.

It’s alway important to look at the bigger picture as mindset is so important. But to learn from your mistakes and hopefully not fall back into old habits is also paramount! Failure or learning rather, is all part of the process of continual development. Whether that’s in work or in life, the experience of “failure” and being stopped in your tracks doesn’t ever mean that you are starting again or from scratch. You are in fact taking that very valuable knowledge with you on your next journey forward.


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