To David Murray
Last August at the Bass 2012 convention in Copenhagen, the double bass virtuoso and teacher David Murray successfully preformed the famous double bass piece called Failing by Tom Johnson. In this piece, the bass player is reading a text while playing a melody on the bass. The task gets more and more difficult and the player is expected to fail in attempt to complete the task. In case he succeeds, like David Murray, he then fails to live up to the expectations. Here is a link to a wonderful performance by Gary Karr, David Murray’s teacher (and, of course, my teacher as well).
Sometimes a student tells me: “I am afraid to play in that concert or I am afraid to take the audition”. I must be honest and say that it is not always the fear of failure. Many times it is a fear of success. What happens if I win that audition? What if I get that job? What will I have to give up? Many times when I give guest lectures to young people, I find that many of them are afraid of their own dreams. Some of them fear success but most of them fear to fail. In his book Freakonomics, Steven Levitt talks about how irrational our fear can be. Statistically, more children die in accidents that occur in private swimming pools than children who are shot by private guns kept at home. Steven Levitt shows that people will be reluctant to let their child play at a friend’s house where they know there is a gun but will send their child to swim at the neighbor’s private swimming pool. Why are we so afraid to fail rather than love our failures and be grateful for the lesson they teach us? Many times I feel that it is not the failure we fear but the confession to ourselves that we have failed.
It is also hard to admit to others that we have failed. If we really want to learn from failure than we have to admit and to say it out loud to ourselves and to others: I have failed, I have failed in this task, I have failed in this mission, I will learn from it and hopefully I would not repeat the same mistakes. It is much easier for me to blame the failure on somebody else.
When I don’t get a position I want, I will always have reasons to blame it on somebody else. I will think that it was unfair instead of admitting that I was not good enough, or maybe not the right person for the job. If I try to think that maybe I am good enough but not for this job, I can go in a different direction. Sometimes, when one door closes, other doors open. Instead of looking at the failure and being ashamed or hating ourselves, we should be looking at those other ten doors that open. That can only happen if we accept the fact that we have failed. Back to the piece Failing: if we succeed in the task, we fail to fail, but if we fail the task, we also fail. The moral of the story is, that one time or another, one way or another, we are going to fail. So why not do it anyway?
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