Failure is a Monster in the lore of human kind. It’s the grand "ogre" bringing about frustration that eats at the soul. Another thing it is: AN OPEN GATE, a rocket ship and a new horizon. There is no such thing as failure unless not seen as your guide.
It happened years ago…. an accident losing three fingers on my fretting hand. Mistake. Big screw up, error and the ultimate failure. In a nanosecond life changed. I was a musician and guitarist as well as instrument maker. Many surgeries and skin grafting from my leg by the wonderful Dr Stackable created what would have to suffice as rather unusual digits. However, this event may have propelled me even farther than I could have imagined. I found the courage to release my debut album Various Waves and it garnered placement in the top five of the year by the largest syndicated instrumental radio program in America. The show was glad to not hear the same phrasing so popular on the radio at that time. I laughed to myself that I tried to play like that, but could not physically do it. I had to find my own way of painting my musical pictures. The limitation imposed by my accident propelled me much farther than I would have gone before. There is a defining of character within ones limitation and/or failure. I have now completed 12 successful (Well, somewhat successful) albums, and this incident played a major role in coloring my musical path. This limitation propelled me past goals I thought unobtainable.
We’re dropped on this planet with our own particular passion and fire. For some it rages and pushes us towards heights unimaginable. We are driven to accomplish, to seek, to explore, and to somehow “birth” that mighty fire that burns within our hallowed walls. Freud, Hendrix, Miles, Renoir, Van Gogh, Coltrane, Debussy, etc. Each on their rocket ship being propelled by the ego, and the firing of nerve synapses through the human experience at the speed of sound, accomplishment, and the thirst for applause, connection and achievement. For some even more. A connection to “the zone” ….. a spiritual path.
Growth, discovery and exploration of playing a guitar, driving a tractor, planting seed, painting a picture, etc. often blooms from error. Failing is a great teacher. Its Gods force of nature sculpting us like clay. Clay is the perfect disciple or student. It has no part in making the DECISION to become what it will be. It completely surrenders to the artist who sculpts and molds it into form and reality. Man, on the other hand, has choice. It is a co-op between Man, God, Nature and destiny. An artist or craftsman can use life experience (Failure) as an interplay toward growth and learning. No doubt natures chisel can very sharp and painful. But we just get up, and have at it AGAIN! Those who have had a completely smooth ride may not have had the opportunity to test themselves. Those who do not choose to bend and flex with failure are missing the opportunity to paint w/ nature and circumstance. They are saying “no” when asked to dance and adjust…. to bend and weave. We are too busy reacting, worrying, controlling - we are not listening.
There are problems associated with failure to be sure. Perhaps the biggest is the inability to see failure as a lesson. Instead we see it as defeat. We feel GUILT AND SHAME. We see it as nature’s way of telling us, we are NEVER going to be good enough. Defeat can also trigger laziness. After all, if I didn’t get it the first few times, why bother? I’ll NEVER be able to get it - AND here is the kicker - “I ONLY WANT TO DO THIS (Play guitar, paint a picture, etc), IF I AM GUARANTEED TO GET A RESULT”.
Well, if you are a musician, there are no guarantees your technique will surpass Bela Fleck or Itzhak Perlman. There are no guarantees that you will sell a million albums, books or paintings. Hell, there are no guarantees you will even reach an audience. Here is where you challenge yourself to the “purity of action.” That is, you do what you do out of love. Love is free. I understand this is lofty, and being human, we want results. But it helps to embrace the process ….the doing. For most of my life I felt I had no skill ….no ability. I was the guy in the corner feeling empty, the last to be picked, the one who didn’t fit. It was tough, but made me appreciate that there IS something I can do. We are all connected, and we do belong.
Failure can fill our sails toward a destination, not render them impotent, windless, and unable to reach your shore. Perhaps the more noble goal is honesty and humility - to accept your abilities (Also called "limitations".), and do the best you can with them. AND, maybe those so called “limitations” help you to make a decision that makes your work or art, unique and fresh. You may not be a genius, but that doesn’t negate your right to speak. Creating a connection to an audience, or fellow man, doesn’t have to rely on technical virtuosity or genius. It relies on an honest level of communicating between the creator, and listener. It depends on the intention and connection of your heart, soul, and passion. Your work may not have reached the masses. BUT, you used failure to grow beyond your limitation. You used limitation to paint your picture in a completely unique way. You used your limits to speak with a voice unique and honest to the creative intent of your work. You have used limitation to offer the listener a vision and point of perspective they may not have experienced before. You have grown and succeeded within your intent. You have created for LOVE. And to answer the age old philosophical question, “if a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”