Using Failure to find Focus

Failure is a word that hasn’t popped up too much in my vocabulary recently except maybe for some baking and sewing projects and even some frustrating experiences with my minimal computer skills. However over the past few weeks the word failure has appeared in some unexpected contexts.

In late December I stumbled upon the new online documentary on YahooTV called Failure Club. Morgan Spurlock and Philip Kiracofe  have based the series on the premise that the less afraid of failure you are, the more you can achieve.

“What were those things that you dreamed of?” Kiracofe asks. “In most cases, what’s stopping you is all the rational reasons why that’ll never work, ‘I don’t have that experience,’ ‘I don’t have the connections,’ etc.”

(Referring to the show’s participants,) Kiracofe adds, “The essence of that is they’re learning, ‘Wow, there’s no real downside to failure. Failure is actually good.'” (read more)

Well, that was the first eye-opener. Fear of success? Fear of failure? I started taking a hard look at my piano teaching and my piano playing and the time and energy I spent on each. What was it that really kept me at the piano bench for all those years? The dream of teaching 40 kids a week or the love of the music? Well, then what was keeping me from playing? Especially in this age where anything goes? Oh, sure. There were three kids at home, two homes bought and sold, four or five moves, the restaurant pianist job, the business of owning a music studio, grant-writing, the blogging. But I had already put in my 10,000 hours. It shouldn’t be that difficult to sit down and play the piano for one hour a day. Was it really the fear of failure that was holding me back?

The next time the word failure showed up was in the context of  writing. Here Pulitzer prize winning author, Jennifer Egan, talks about failure.

Failure. It’s such an ugly word, isn’t it? It reeks of cancer, of loss: the sense that what once went wrong cannot be set right, that the world has come to an end, that failures are failures forever — that it’s not just the project that failed, but you. Successful people, we imagine, are somehow blessed with more optimism, bigger brains and higher ideals than the rest of us.

But it’s not true. Successful people — creative people — fail every day, just like everybody else. Except they don’t view failure as a verdict. They view it as an opportunity. Indeed, it’s failure that paves the way for creativity. (read more)

So, I took these mentions of failure as a sign and took the plunge. I’ve created a SoundCloud account where I will post one new homemade recording every Sunday evening of the music I love. No, I’m not composing or improvising. I’m simply interpreting some of what I feel are the most beautiful piano works. Some are pieces I’ve performed long ago. Others I’m learning as I go along. (This week’s piece is Chopin’s Nocturne Op 9 No 1.) I’m hoping by the end of the year to be able to look back at these early recordings and see growth and improvement. In the meantime, the goal for 2012 is just to go play and present my best at the end of every week.

And yes, I’m still teaching. But my focus is now on the music!


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