August 4, 2012

The Success of Failure. ~ Paul Adams

We have the opportunity to listen to that crazy whim of nature that directs us toward a more intuitive relationship with creation.

Failure is a monster in the lore of humankind. It is 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 are 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, seek, explore and somehow birth that mighty fire that burns within our hallowed walls. Personalities, such as Freud, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, Renoir, Van Gogh, John Coltrane, Debussy and others, each on their rocket ship, exemplify being propelled by the ego and the firing of nerve synapses through the human experience at the speed of sound and accomplishment, with the thirst for applause and achievement.

Hitting the wall and making mistakes provides us with invaluable lessons. Playing a guitar, driving a tractor, planting seeds and painting a picture all bloom best from error. Failing is a great teacher. It is God’s force of nature molding us like clay.

However, this is a little different. Clay is the perfect disciple or student. 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. There are those for whom things go smoothly. It is easy to be a bit envious and resentful of those who have not “paid their dues,” but this only tends to guide us off-course. Their lives are theirs, 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.

Those who do not choose to bend and flex with failure are missing the opportunity to paint with nature and circumstance. We are saying no when God asks us to dance and adjust. We deny an opportunity to seek out a different perspective, to learn from mistakes and become better at what we do. We are too busy reacting. We are not listening.

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 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 there is this kicker: “I only want to do this (play guitar, paint a picture, etc.), if I am guaranteed to get a result.

Well, there is no guarantee that one’s musical technique will surpass Bela Fleck, Eddie Van Halen, or Itzhak Perlman. There is no guarantee that a musical artist will sell a million albums. Hell, there is no guarantee they will sell a CD to anyone other than family and friends. Here is where you can challenge yourself to the purity of action. That is, do what you do out of love. Love is free.

Many years ago,The Beatles sang, “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and it is 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 is defined by the amount of pleasure or love we derive from the process, there are many very poor players that are better musicians than highly skilled professionals. Their honesty and love of creation may speak more loudly than virtuosic 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 the shore. Perhaps the more noble goal is honesty and humility—to accept our abilities (also called limitations) and do the best we can with them.  Those so-called limitations help to make a decision that makes our work or art unique and fresh.

We may not be the fastest guitar player in the world, but that does not negate our right to speak. Creating a connection to an audience, or fellow-man, does not have to rely upon technical virtuosity. It relies on an honest level of communication between the creator and listener. It depends on the intention and connection of our heart, soul, and passion. Our work may not have sold a million and reached the masses, but we have used failure to grow beyond our limitation.

We use limitation to paint our picture in a completely different way. We use our limits to speak with a voice that is honest to the creative intent of our work. We use limitation to offer the listener a vision and point of perspective not otherwise experienced before. We grow and succeed within our intent. We have created for love, not money.

To answer the age-old philosophical question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?


Paul Adams is a musician, writer, and poet who runs the Lakefront Music label, featuring his eight albums, as well as those by David Hoffman. Compositions include New Age, Eclectic, Acoustic, and World Fusion, and are regularly featured on satellite radio such as SiriusXM, Music Choice, AOL, and Muzak.  He also teaches the use of music for therapeutic purposes.   His website is: www.pauladams.org.


Editor: Kathy Custren

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