Many years ago, I found myself having dinner with a friend at what I would call the ‘toddler hour’ – 5.30pm. She wanted to meet but she also now had to prepare for a huge meeting very early the next morning. Rather than cancel our plans – as I probably would have – we met and she left at 7pm to finesse a presentation she was giving to some investors who would be making a life-or-death decision about the future of her fashion business.
Of course, she nailed it and her business has thrived. Her name is Tabitha Webb and her amazing designs are now in constant demand from a raft of A-list celebrities – even the Duchess of Cambridge is a huge fan. But her career trajectory has not been without its challenges and hair-raising pitfalls. I find her approach to success, which she writes about in this issue, so inspiring. I’ll be honest, it also terrifies me a bit. I still think about that dinner all those years ago because I probably lost more sleep that night thinking about her meeting the next morning than she did.
Tabitha is simply someone who is unafraid to fail. And that is the secret of her success. I feel my failures like a physical body blow and will retreat and nurse my wounds in embarrassed privacy. Not Tabitha. When something goes wrong, she tends to get excited that it gives her the opportunity to try something new. It’s a lesson I try to instil in high-school students when I speak at various career days, but it’s amazing how often we, as grown adults, can forget how important it is to fail from time to time. It brings experience and the wisdom to do better the next time. It’s a lesson our own Elizabeth Day explores in fascinating detail on her, ironically, wildly successful podcast How To Fail. Everyone from Dame Kelly Holmes to Normal People actress Daisy Edgar-Jones has detailed how their lowest moments have been the making of them. Yet we still feel terrified – even ashamed – of failing. I love that strong women like Tabitha and Elizabeth are trying to reframe that experience. A marriage that ends in divorce after 25 years doesn’t have to be defined as a failure if it produced a rich life of great memories, or a beloved family. I ‘failed’ to keep a job in 2017, but it’s a job I had succeeded at for 17 years.
I’m proud of my friend for sharing the highs and lows of her story because I think her honesty will help many people to have the courage to mine the best from their lives. We can’t avoid setbacks, but we can control how we handle them and move on with strength.
In the words of Tabitha: ‘Yes, you can ask what if it goes wrong… but what if it goes right?’
I hope you enjoy the issue.
A few things I’m coveting this week
I can’t get enough of summery tropical prints. Blouse, £39.99, shop.mango.com
One of the best for full-looking lashes. Mascara, £9.99, Maybelline, boots.co.uk
Gingham’s back with a vengeance and I am not complaining. Trousers, £34.99, reserved.com