When I was in sixth grade, my parents made one of the noisiest decisions of their lives. They decided to help me buy a drum set. There was hardly a quiet moment in our house after that. By now, I’ve been playing the drums for over twenty years and even started teaching lessons a few years ago. As I’ve taught others how to play the drums, one of the most interesting things I learned about being a good drummer is that you have to learn how to be good at failure. And to be really good you need to learn to turn failure into success. This isn’t just true for drummers either. Some musicians can turn mistakes into great music. Mistakes are just part of playing music, but it’s what you do with those mistakes that can truly separate you from the rest.
I play drums in my church’s worship band, and one Sunday I was in the middle of a song and my stick hit a cymbal wrong and went flying. This was not something I was expecting. I looked up in shock and made eye contact with my pastor and we both had a good laugh as I pulled out a spare stick and kept playing.
This could have thrown me completely off. The thing is, this has happened countless times before and I was prepared for it. You learn how to stay on beat and keep going because the song doesn’t stop when you mess up. I’ve been telling my students this for years now, and after a while I realized how well it translates to the rest of life.
Failure takes talent. It also takes practice. You can always learn something from failure. What didn’t work? What can you do differently next time? How can you recover more quickly and effectively if this happens again? There is an interesting podcast called “How I Built It” where the host interviews business owners and product developers. They go into their path to success and more often than not, they had to overcome many failures and setbacks in order to get to where they are now.
How do you do this? I’m glad you asked.
One thing you shouldn’t do is focus too much on your failures. If you make a mistake when performing a song, the last thing you should be focusing on is that mistake. The only thing that will do is distract you from the rest of the song. It can and also affect the rest of your performance and even future performances if you let it.
This can be very hard to do for some people. Maybe you have been told your whole life that you’re a failure and this mistake just confirms what you already believe about yourself. It can be a lot to overcome, but it is possible. You can either hold on to your failures, let them weigh you down, and keep you from ever moving forward, or you can let them go. Don’t ignore them. Acknowledge them, learn from them, forgive yourself, and more on.
Easier said than done, right?
Sometimes the hardest part of that is forgiving ourselves. (I’ll go more in depth on that topic in a future post because it is so important.) Allow yourself to be human and to be imperfect. Berné Brown has a great book on this very subject called The Gifts of Imperfection that is very insightful. No one is perfect, no matter how their Instagram appears to look. The sooner you allow yourself to be imperfect, the better you’ll be at recovering and learning from your failures.
Life is full of successes and failures, big and small. Both have a lot to do with perspective because success looks different for everyone. Sometimes success is just getting yourself out of bed in the morning. Sometimes, it is having that hard conversation you have been dreading. Often, however, success can be picking yourself back up and moving forward with your life. Some people will probably tell you that failure was the key to their success because they learned invaluable lessons.
Success or failure mostly a matter of perspective.
Whatever success looks like for you, there will be risks involved to getting there. To live is to risk. Whether it’s in love, business, music, friendship, or pretty much any other part of life. It can be scary, but the benefits far outweigh the cost. Don’t let past failures or the fear of future failures weigh you down. Life is too short to carry that kind of baggage.
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