Summarizing Giant Steps 2013: Redefining Success and Failure

Giant Steps


Giant Steps is a  conference founded by Susan Campion of Camponovo Consulting, and M.anifest. This annual event hosted in Minneapolis (an now connected globally) brings together a wide range of people including business entrepreneurs, rappers, bloggers, life coaches, artists, singers, construction men, chefs, actors and more. The 2013 Giant Steps conference was as inspiring as it always is! There were a few new aspects to this years conference: a new venue space at the Minneapolis Convention Center, Giant Steps WiFi for live tweeting and the exciting & experimental global panel. During the past three years of attending the conference, I have noticed there tends to be a golden thread or theme that forms organically during the conference and is carried through the entire day. This year, we discussed the ideas and meanings behind success and failure.

Changing our Perception of Success and Failure

We began our first morning panel talking about resilience…how to defy odds stacked against you and how to push forward. Panelist James Faghmous, owner of MuslimBuddy and Mode-sty, began by saying that we need to just jump in and do it (and by doing it this means following our passion, our project, our creative endeavor or business). Essentially we cannot begin to reach our idea of success if we don’t allow ourselves to even start. One thing he mentioned that stuck with me was how we are comfortable with the status quo, the daily 9-5 safe job with benefits. When we break away from the status quo to follow our passion, we can always return to that option but we also open the doors to achieving our true goals. This resonated with me because I am in this position as a creative. I have left my job to seek a new creative endeavor. Is returning to this status quo job a form of failure or is leaving it to follow your true passion success? This first idea was important to me because it began to shift my ideas of what success and failure actually mean.

suc·cess  (noun) sək-ˈses\

1.  the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame

2. the correct or desired result of an attempt

The first definition of success listed above was my idea of success: wealth, respect or fame. But Giant Steps has allowed me to shed that distorted perspective of what success means and focuses more on the second definition…”desired result of an attempt.” I love the word attempt in that definition. This means I can still be successful by trying; trying to reach my goal and putting effort and energy towards my true passion.

The word failure has changed for me also. At first glance, failure can seem like a let down or a disaster, however what you perceive as a failure can be a blessing in disguise. It can merely be a stepping stone or a shift in a journey. Looking back on projects, the failure could be the best thing to happen to assist in completing your goal. Failure is subjective and creative people tend to be hard on themselves. At Giant Steps, many of the panelists opened up and talked about their struggles, challenges and failures they have encountered. Its interesting how people and businesses are quick to talk about their success but don’t talk about the failures they had along the way. Giant Steps is such an open and honest day where attendees and panelists get to talk about these issues.

Fear, Sacrifice & Success

We also discussed fears related to successes. We need to be courageous to be successful. Admits all of the “failures” we continually encounter during our journey, we are resilient and courageous to continue to press forward. Its far more scary to be successful then it is to admit failure or defeat. So what does this mean? Be comfortable with your shortcomings and continue forward. Ask for help when you need it and seek support during difficult times.

Sameh Wadi, owner of Saffron Restaurant & Lounge and World Street Kitchen, also mentioned the sacrifices associated with the idea of success. He said that when you are successful in one area, you fail in another. While I don’t completely agree with this phrase, I understand the concept behind this idea. When you focus your time and attention into a project, business or aspect of your life, other areas will suffer due to lack of attention. The sacrifice of success may mean you don’t go out with friends as much or you sleep less or you let someone take over an aspect of your business while you develop another area. While these are not exactly failures, its more of a prioritization of your passions.

Finding Support 

Sometimes we are projected with ideas of other people’s idea of success. One of the panelists, Bao Phi, spoken word artist and poet, recalled how his parents asked when he was going to get a real job. The conference room laughed as many of us have probably been asked this same question, as have I. While cutting these people out of your life was one tactic mentioned at the conference, this cannot always be the resolution. Build your confidence in what you do and persevere. Surround yourself with good support people, get a mentor who supports your success and share your story.

The most unique aspect of this conference is that you will find support everywhere. Starting a new project, beginning a business, desiring to connect with others in the community? Giant steps is a great place for all types of support. I have been seeking an accountability buddy from the Giant Steps conference. Someone to grab coffee once a month, to share ideas & projects, to help support each other and to, of course, keep each other accountable. Interested? Email me at katerenee(at)

Interested in Giant Steps or want to attend? Next fall is the 2014 Giant Steps Conference. Follow along with Giant Steps on Facebook or on the website to learn more information.

*This is article is a short synopsis of what I experienced during the conference and includes many of the ideas and discussion tips shared during the panels from the speakers. I do not claim these ideas as my own, but am using my blog as a platform to share this experience with others.

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