Let’s face it. We don’t like failures. We don’t like making mistakes. Failing makes us feel bad, frustrated and stupid. And we definitely don’t want that. We like to be successful, to enjoy victories. We like that feeling when everything flows, when everything what we do is a success. The problem is, that life is not that simple. Success usually comes after many, many failures. So if we want to succeed, we need an effective strategy for dealing with failures. Is there any?
Failures and learning
Let’s talk about learning for a while. I believe that learning is an essential part of development for any artist. If you stop learning, you stop progressing. As a guitarists we are always learning new songs, new licks or some new techniques so we have a lot of “opportunities” for making mistakes. It is very important for us to know how to handle them.
The best learning occurs when we are operating at the edge of our abilities. Learning is essentially struggling, it is not mere repetition of the task over and over again. Learning means doing something that is beyond our current abilities. And by definition that means that we are making mistakes. No matter how good we are, if we want to learn something new, we will make mistakes. We need to realize that failing is inevitable. We need to fail. The more we fail, the better we get. But we have to pay close attention to our mistakes and don’t ignore them.
Learning means leaving our comfort zone, so it feels quite uncomfortable and disturbing. In order to not feel overwhelmed, we have to find a sweet spot where the task we are trying to accomplish is not too hard but at the same time not too easy.The design of the task needs to perfectly fit our current skill level. If we try to learn something that is too hard, we will probably end up frustrated and quit. We need to know precisely where our current abilities are and move just one step further. Wanting too much, too soon usually ends in despair. We should not overestimate what we can accomplish in one day, and underestimate what we can accomplish in a year or two.
“The only thing that’s holding you back, is the way you are thinking.” Steve Vai
When it comes to making mistakes, your mindset is probably the most important element. Your attitude towards failing is critical. If making mistakes frustrates you, you won’t get too far. You are loosing the best opportunity to learn. This concept is quite simple to understand, but definitely not easy to implement. We need to cultivate our mindset and patience in order to get most out of ourselves. Knowing that we are going to fail, before we start learning something new, is very powerful. If we are not prepared for this though, we can get quite discouraged.
Scott Dinsmore in his latest article suggests that we need to adopt a process oriented mindset instead of outcome oriented. This means that instead of measuring results of our work everyday, we have to focus on the process that is most likely to lead to the outcome we want. We have to pay attention to things that we can control and let go of our desire to control things that are out of our control. In order to succeed, we need to find a trusted process that will lead us to desired results and stick with it. Continue Reading →