The Impossibility of Failure

by Paul Adams

Failure is a Monster in the lore of human kind. It’s the grand ogre that can bring about frustration and eat at the soul. Another thing failure is: AN OPEN GATE and a new horizon. There is no such thing as failure.

We’re dropped on this planet with our own particular passion and fire. For some it rages and pushes us on towards heights unimaginable. We are driven to accomplish , to seek, explore, and to somehow “birth” that mighty fire that burns within our hallowed walls. Freud, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, Renoir, Van Gogh, John Coletrane, 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 and achievement.

Hitting the wall and making mistakes provides us with invaluable lessons. Playing a guitar, driving a tractor, planting seed, painting a picture, etc blooms its best from error. Failing is a great teacher. It’s Gods force of nature molding us like clay. BUT, this is a little different. Clay has no part in making the DECISION to become what it will be. It completely surrenders to the artist who molds it into form and reality. Man, on the other hand, has choice. Failure offers to mold us. It is a co-op between Man, God, and destiny. An artist, craftsman, or worker, can use life experience (Failure) as an interplay toward growth and learning. 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 God asks them to dance and adjust. They are denying an opportunity to search out a different perspective. They are saying no when God asks them to learn from mistakes and become better at what they do.

There are problems associated with failure to be sure. Perhaps the first mistake is the inability to see failure as a lesson. Instead we see it as defeat. We see it as natures 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), or IF I AM GUARANTEED TO GET A RESULT”.

Well, there are no guarantees, your technique will surpass Bela Fleck, Eddie Van Halen , or Izaak Perlman. There are no guarantees that you will sell a million albums. Hell, there are no guarantees you will sell a CD to anyone other than your family and friends. Here is where you can challenge yourself to the “purity of action.” That is, that you do what you do out of love. Love is free. Many years ago The Beatles sang “you can’t buy me love”... and it's true. Love simply is. Love is a gift. Love is being, and doing. It is becoming a part of the process of your life in action. If good musicianship were defined by the amount of pleasure or love you derive from the process, I know a lot of very poor players that are better musicians than highly skilled professionals. Their honesty and love of creation may speak more loudly than virtuostic flair.

Perhaps our most noble goal is do the best we can, and use failure as a teacher. Failure must fill our sails toward a destination, not render them impotent, windless, and unable to reach our 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 the fastest guitar player in the world, but that doesn’t negate your right to speak. Creating a connection to an audience, or fellow man, doesn’t have to rely technical virtuosity. It relies on an honest level of communicating between the creator, and listener. It depends on the intension and connection of your heart, soul, and passion. Your work may not have sold a million and 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, not MONEY. And to answer the age old philosophical question, “if a tree falls to the ground deep in the forest, and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”


*There are those for whom things go smoothly and it’s completely right. It’s easy to be a bit envious and resentful of them for not having paid their dues, but this only tends to guide us off coarse. Their life is their life, ours is ours. We have the opportunity to develop the strength to “get back up again” after a fall. We have the opportunity to listen to that crazy “whim” of nature that directs us toward a more intuitive relationship with creation. We have the ability to become better at what we do.

Paul Adams has a web site where he has his albums, photos of the musical instruments he builds, and writing here.

His newest and fondest project is THE NEURONS.

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Possibly the best article I've ever read. I will always keep it for reference when I hit the dark moments of what I think is failure. :D

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