When I was 17, I made a sweeping declaration that I was going to quit music forever. After a few less-than-perfect shows it had become apparent to me that I simply wasn’t meant to be a musician; I just didn’t have that gift. Performing was a painful experience that left me feeling vulnerable and exposed. I enjoyed writing music, but always doubted myself when I thought about sharing my music with others, or when I compared my seemingly silly tunes to the works of my musical idols. No, I concluded, my life as an artist was simply not meant to be.
Well, my lifelong vow of musical celibacy only turned out to be a 2-year hiatus. During that time I learned that sometimes life is hard and scary and painful no matter what we choose to do with it. It didn’t matter what career path I took; I was going to have to do scary things that took me out of my comfort zone, so why settle for a career I wasn’t really passionate about anyways?
I didn’t quit music because I was ungifted or awful or inartistic (though it certainly may have felt that way at the time). I quit because I was never given the proper tools to handle hiccups, setbacks, and mistakes. I couldn’t stand the discomfort that comes with being new at something; I wanted to avoid painful emotions like fear, anger, and embarrassment. I wanted everything to be perfect the first time that I did it, and I didn’t want to be negatively judged by others. What I didn’t know or realize was that being angry, embarrassed and scared are all really normal and healthy reactions to certain stages of the learning process.
Even if you don’t plan on turning music into a career, one of the most valuable lessons that can be learned from playing music is how to deal handle failure and mistakes. If we’re learning music in a supportive and compassionate environment, we develop all kinds of great habits that transfer into everything else that we do in life.
When we approach new musical challenges (whether it be performing in front of a large crowd or taking on a new and difficult piece) we often begin to face difficult emotions like frustration, anger, and fear. Despite the discomfort, these emotional growing pains are a good thing! It means that you are moving in the direction of your own personal growth. The discipline and self-confidence that comes with learning to work through these emotional growing pains is priceless.
Just remember: it’s not a failure as long as you learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward! It doesn’t matter how many times you fall as long as you can learn to get back up again!………. I know, easier said than done, right?
It takes more than a cute quote and a few positive affirmations to rinse away our resistance to failure. If we have particularly strong emotional reactions to making mistakes, it often stems from the way that our parents, teachers, and peers treated us when we made mistakes when we were younger.
If we had (or have!) parents or teachers that are quick to chastise for missed practice, poor performance or slow growth, we can start to feel like something really is wrong with us! It’s not uncommon for the people around us give and take love and acceptance based on our achievements and failures. If we were taught from a young age that mistakes meant the withdrawal of love and belonging, no wonder the idea of failure is so crippling!
A mistake is only a failure if we don’t learn from it and move forward. The problem is, when we are too embarrassed of making mistakes, one of two things happens; either we are too embarrassed to admit to the mistake (and therefore can’t learn from it) OR we take the mistake as a negative value judgment on ourselves and our abilities and abandon the goal altogether.
The skill of learning from and recovering from our mistakes is a lot like surfing; over time, we are stronger, more balanced, and can take on bigger waves without falling over. It’s important to note that at no point do the waves stop coming. We just get better at riding them!
Imagine living your life knowing that you have the strength and courage to experience anything.
If you ever feel overwhelmed, afraid, unsure of where to start, ask yourself this question:
What would you do right now, today, if you knew that you could not fail?
You may be surprised where the answer will take you!