Ioana Cristina Casapu is the author of two books that capture the intricate ways in which social media have transformed the Millennial Generation. Her career brings together 12 years of collective and individual expertise in digital marketing, editorial management, teaching and entrepreneurship. Ioana lives and works in Berlin.
Below we talk about how failure and fear of failure are seen from the variety of different perspectives of the roles she has assumed over time. Our topic is not random, is part of a a series of interviews about it on this blog. You can read the Romanian version of the interview here.
The purpose of these conversations about how failure integrates into the lives of people I admire from a distance is to identify if they too are going through difficult times, whether they also have challenges, or are they just part of my life. Moreover, I was curious to find out how they interpret failure and how they approach situations in order to continue doing what they do.
What is failure?
Failure is this complex-looking cake we bake ourselves, sometimes with the help of others. It usually contains a few ingredients: expectations, love, uncertainty, passion, and risk. Since we add risk, we’d rather feed it to our guests than eat a spoonful ourselves, because it’s the type of dish we don’t really enjoy, but (usually) think others will, and thus they will praise our efforts too. It is only when we eat the cake ourselves that we can accept failure as an essential dish in our life menu.
Tell me the story of a personal failure. What happened? How did you feel? What did you learn?
I moved to a different country that I loved to be with someone I loved. The relationship didn’t work out, and I felt trapped between opposing, equally challenging options. I learned about the importance of self-reliance in situations that are out of our control.
Did fear of failure ever stopped you from starting something? What happened eventually?
No, but I used to think it stopped me from ending some things at the right moments. Eventually, I reasoned there are no right or wrong moments, just moments, and every moment counts.
Most of the projects you worked on are in creative industries. Is trial and error part of the story? In what way?
I would say it is, in the sense that everything we do, whether creative or analytical, is an experiment. Trial and error are critical to learning, learning is critical to developing the way we think, feel, act and work, and development (emotional, rational, professional) is critical to the quality of our lives.
You also do lots of freelance work. What is the biggest challenge you have to face? Are insecurities part of the story? In what way? If not, why?
The biggest challenge freelancers have to face in general is the uncertainty of their future. One must act as many different people and professionals in the same time, to make work profitable, to secure a quality living, to always have leads, to be satisfied with their own life/work balance, to keep learning new skills, to figure out and manage their own taxes, to save some cash, sometimes simply to make ends meet. Insecurity is different from uncertainty, but it’s definitely a part of the package, especially on a dry spell. It’s important to remain self-reliant, to understand your risks, and to keep close a family of supportive friends and professionals who can help you regroup and change your perspective in difficult moments.
You had many management jobs and worked on different types of projects where you coordinated teams. Can you give some insight into how you managed others’ mistakes?
I inquired why they proceeded in a certain way, what were their process and the rationale behind those decisions. An error can mean many different things – e.g. lacking knowledge, acting in a rush, forgetfulness, fear to admit you don’t know – and finding the practical reason reveals most of the time finding the solution to a problem.
Someone said that we need to normalize failure in our personal lives and professional ones. What do you think?
I think the difficulty to normalize failure stems from the baggage of negative interpretations the word carries. In referring to a person who has failed, we often add in spite of their best efforts, which can signal shame, blame and the feeling that someone was not good enough not to fail. The reality is that to have failed, one must have at least attempted to succeed, with the resources they had at the respective moment, the mindset they had at the time, and the risks of the unknown or the uncontrollable. We can only normalize failure if we come to the understanding that success is made up of many, many attempts, harsh lessons, trials, errors, pains and victories, and not an immediate destination that once reached, stays the same.
Most creative work means working on a project for a long time without knowing how the public will react (a book, a painting, a fashion collection). What does an artist think during this process?
It entirely depends on the artist and whether they work with the mindset of creating for others, with the mindset of creating solely for themselves, or a blend of the two. It has to do with putting at stake the whole spectrum of emotions, one’s analytical thinking, and one’s variety of creative and non-creative personas, which will usually have a lot to say to each other during the drafting process. Sometimes, one will not think, but only feel there is a demanding need to express, to cast out something, to produce. The reason will come second, and self-judgment comes next, but not necessarily in that order. The critical stage is when you’re done and you know you need to start selling or putting your work in touch with the audience or the consumer. This is usually the stage when most artists will start having negative feelings towards their previous work because it conflicts with their growth and with new work they need to create. It’s never easy, and it’s very human.
You recently published a new book. How did you come up with the idea? Can you describe the process of working on it? Was doubt part of it and how did you overcome it?
My new book is the English translation of a novel I wrote 10 years ago, which was initially published in Romania, in 2016. I followed the lead of my international readers and translated it to make it available to more audiences. The process took 3 years from the publishing of the Romanian edition, mainly because I was producing new work, and because I had a conflicting relationship with the old manuscript. Working on the translation alone was very therapeutic because it unearthed many insecurities related to my writing and my personal life that I had to eventually confront.
If you had to choose one piece of advice from your own experience that you think will help others face their fears, what would it be?
Fear is a natural reaction of the human body in the face of real or perceived adversity. There will be fears that will help you grow and fears that will limit your growth. You won’t be always able to tell the difference, because fear will sometimes paralyze you. But you can choose to hear what that fear wants to tell you, and respond to it in your own best interest. You can choose which of your fears are worth pursuing, how many months/years do you want to spend with them, what comfort or benefit they bring in your life…so choose wisely.
Ioana’s new book is called “Heart Beats – A Memoir of the Millennial Generation on Social Media” and was published in September, 2019. It is an x-ray of how Social Media has radically changed the way we think, feel, love, act and connect in our relationships, but also in the workplace. You can order it from here.
Cover photo: Joe Dilworth, 2018