Monday, January 24, 2011

Obstacle into Opportunity

I've always said that there is no such thing as failure and that every obstacle is an opportunity. I teach this in all my classes as well. Every stumbling block you encounter can teach you something and tells you as much about what you should do as what you shouldn't.
I've had to learn this the hard way so many times now over the years that I now have a rule. When I hit a wall, a glitch, a tough time, or when I see something isn't working, I allow myself to indulge in three days of panic and worry and stress. But that's it. Then I stop, take out a piece of paper and make myself write answers to these four questions:
Is there something I did to cause this that I now know to avoid?
Is there something I can learn from this?
What gift or opportunity can I find here?
And what do I do now?
Great things come from this exercise. When I first created my clocks (which, if you've never seen them, are prints of my artwork laminated onto foam board) I loved them. But many of the people who picked them up were confused and disappointed because they thought they were tiles. They'd pause, and say "Oh...I thought it was a tile," then put it back down and walk away. I was surprised by this and frankly it upset me. After all my work and excitement about this new idea, I felt like I had to start over.

I stewed a while but then, I realized I could actually turn this into a selling point if I took a positive spin on it. When people walked up to my booth I started addressing the issue before they had a chance to notice it. I'd say "Go ahead, pick one up! It's actually not ceramic, it just looks like it." Out of curiosity they would pick one up and they'd always gasp "WOW! I thought it was a tile!" And that gave me the opportunity to say "I know! Isn't it great? They look like a tile, but they'll never crack or break and you can hang them on a push pin." My sales skyrocketed. And to this day, 15 years later this is still how I approach every single customer. In fact, this is now what I'm known for and what people love about my clocks.

Last year when many people were cutting art out of their budget and buying only necessities, I started to get really scared. But then I made myself stop and ask myself the questions. I realized people still want to shop and people still love art. So my job was to create a tiny little affordable gift that was also functional. I played with lots of ideas and really had fun with it and finally created a line of magnetic bookmarks, a little piece of art that anyone could afford that had a function and purpose. They are now being sold in stores all over the country and even won Museum & More's Gifty Award for Best Gift in the Paper & Stationery category.

I truly believe that every obstacle holds a gift inside of it whether a lesson, a new venture or a new idea. Sometimes it's easier to find it than others, but if you can stop and breath and look for it, it actually becomes fun and exciting to try and turn things around.