Fear is a 4 letter word

Updated: May 27

There is an elephant in the room. No worries, though. I’m wearing my DRAMA QUEEN scent today. I’m not afraid to confront it head-on! That elephant’s name is Fear.

We have all had to deal with fear at one time or another. One of the frequent comments I hear during my perfume workshops is, “What if I don’t like the perfume that I created? What if I make a mistake?

I have learned so much from you, Melanie Jane. I have put all of your lessons into practice: your hints and tricks and ways to succeed. What if I put too much of one oil and not enough of another? What if I just don’t like my final product? HELP!”


This, my friends, is fear. Terror. Anxiety. Stress. Trepidation. Call it whatever you want, it all boils down to the same result.



This is the fear factor. Face it, we are all human beings. We all have, and will, make mistakes (sorry!). But we need to realize that even the most popular and significant people have made mistakes. Take Abraham Lincoln, for example. He didn’t become one of the most influential presidents of the United States overnight. He started numerous failed businesses, went bankrupt twice, and was defeated in 26 campaigns before he made it into public office.


Or how about J. K. Rowling?


Several publishers turned her down before published Harry Potter was published. She was a penniless single mother, severely depressed, and trying to raise a child on her own while attending school and writing a novel.



Did she let fear stop her? Just ask her banker.


Mistakes made us stronger and wiser (yeah, yeah, we know that cliché), but sometimes these errors become an innovative success.

Of course, maybe you don’t appreciate chocolate chip cookies, post-it notes, x-rays, potato chips or Chanel No. 5. But the reality is that all of these came about due to errors.


Let’s examine the case of Chanel No. 5. When the perfumer added ten times the amount of aldehyde required, we got the most iconic perfume ever!

Let’s go back to my panicked student who is afraid to not have the perfect creation as the first drops come out of the pipette. So what? We do not know what we have created until we have made the attempt.

How about we make a deal? Let’s eliminate that “M” word (mistake) from our vocabulary. Why not call it a “process”? A “process of elimination”? An “obstacle”? A “challenge”? A “point of reference for further enquiry in order to avoid an unsavoury result”? Ok, that last one might be a bit much, but you get the idea.


The point is this: you didn’t fail, rather you found a way it doesn't work and a process to avoid in the future. Therefore, it is time to try another means to achieve the result you were seeking.

If you cannot learn to live with fear, if you cannot embrace trepidation as part of your daily (sometimes hourly!) hurdles, then you are not going to go very far in the perfume industry. Let’s not tiptoe around the truth. Simply put, fear of failure is (forever) going to be part of the process.


Rather than think negatively, look at the same situation from the opposite perspective. There is a plethora of possible combinations with all the raw materials, proportions, intensity, etc.


You have endless options to experiment, create new fragrances, and yes, fail. That is a part of the process and a part of the job description of a good perfumer.

Guess how many half finished drafts of ‘never to be made’ formulas are tossed by the wayside by MASTER PERFUMERS?


Too many to mention, yes even the masters don’t get it right every time.



Live with fear! Invite it to the table! Figure out what this fear is trying to communicate to you. And then embrace it. It is part of the process.

We have been discussing you. But what if others do not like it what you create?

Easy. Repeat after me: “I am not going to please everybody!”

You cannot be everything to everyone and still remain true to yourself

Need proof? Why do restaurants have so many options to choose from? I don’t like liver, but it is my best friend’s favourite meal. Who is right? No one. It all comes down to taste. And there is a market for everything. If you try to please everyone, you will lose sight of your own goals and vision. Look for your tribe, your niche, your people.


Lesson du jour: Tell fear to F off. Learn from mistakes. Stop trying to please everyone. And remember you might create something iconic in the process


#perfume #chanelno5 #fear

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