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How to Successfully Fail – Again and Again and Again

June 22, 2013

As the third of four children, I should be an expert in not getting my way. As an actor and writer, I face so much rejection that I could give workshops in not getting your way. And certainly, as a mother, I often coach my child through dealing with not getting his way. And yet, not getting my way still stings the tear ducts of my inner child and can send her stomping off to the corner, not willing to play anymore. Not getting your way is a fact of life, but sometimes not getting your way again and again and again can begin to feel like you are on a one way ticket to Failstown, population: 1.

With all the clarity that hindsight brings, I can see places in my history where a different choice may have netted a more desirable outcome. There was my first professional audition, where I got a callback – score! – and screwed up my song – fail! – then blamed the accompanist – epic fail! There was the lucrative 10-month job offer that I didn’t take because it ended in between seasons and I feared I wouldn’t find work during the lull. Epic Fail. Or there’s the audition I totally rocked, then blew the interview by over-sharing. Epic.Fail.

There are less-epic fails I could enumerate: monologues way outside my type, songs I learned in one key but brought sheet music in another key. My friends, short of disrobing, if there is something you should not – ever – EVER do in an audition, I’ve probably covered it.

All of the rejection, the falling, the hurtling towards the earth with a hole in your ‘chute has got to count for something. Certainly, I have learned many more lessons from not getting my way than I could have, had some of those things not gone so poorly. Certainly, the sum of my life experiences – good and bad – shaped the person I have become. Certainly, the lessons I have learned from not getting my way have made me more compassionate and resourceful than I otherwise might have been.

Rejection is never easy, you just learn better how to deal with it. Not reaching your brass ring can be emotionally, physically, spiritually crushing, but you learn to mourn and move on. Underachieving on your big goals can feel like an absolute dead end, but you have to learn how to go up from there. Because the other option isn’t on the table.

Movies and TV shows can deceive you into the false notion that closed doors lead to open windows in a half hour; at some point, you have the maturity to understand that that is just good editing. Until then, you’d better have great guides around you, because not getting your way is a fact of life. Learning how to incorporate that epic fail into the tapestry of your personality to become a richer, deeper, more fully alive person – that is the art of life.

The world is full of uplifting stories featuring grand feats of human will or endurance or kindness. All of those inspiring stories hinge on one common occurrence: that person did not get her way. Sure, sure, you could boil it down to lemons and lemonade and whatever, but that demeans, I believe, the real suffering a person endured to be that inspiration to others.

But you know, there seems to be another common element to inspirational stories: hope. Grasping, clinging, scraping and clawing to find what may be a thin, frayed end of hope that threatens to unravel at the slightest hint of a breeze – how you do that in the face of not getting your way again and again and again, like waves crashing overhead and the undertow drawing you into the depths – that is what changes not getting your way from an epic fail to a lesson learned. And with a lesson learned, there is something you can do, and when there is something you can do, the beacon of hope begins to grow brighter, warmer. And that light, that warmth can carry you through a long, cold, dark night.


One Comment leave one →
  1. The Growing Artist permalink
    June 25, 2013 11:17 am

    I definitely agree that an epic fail can turn into a lesson learned. We all make mistakes. Keep up the good work! “There is a light at the end of every tunnel. Some tunnels just happen to be longer than others.” ~ Ada Adams

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