Wednesday, January 04, 2017

The Tuning Slide: 2.18- Failing Forward

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
Google goal-setting. There can be:
  • Seven types of goals;
  • Four types of goals;
  • lifetime, long-term and short-term goals;
  • outcome, process, or performance goals….
On and on it can go. Goals need to be
  • Specific and achievable;
  • Measurable and realistic…
  • etc., etc., etc.....
As we start a new year we often hear about all those great new year’s resolutions- that are only too soon forgotten. Anyone who has been a regular at a gym will tell you the worst time of the year is January when all those people who have decided to get healthy show up. Give them a month or so and things will quiet down.

Resolutions, though, aren’t goals. Resolutions are ways of wishing and hoping. That’s why they usually fail. And when they fail, we give up on them. Guess I’m not going to do THAT this year. We move on.

Perhaps that is one of the greatest differences between resolutions and goals. When we set a goal, we are also setting in place the possibility of failure- and if we are honest- we know that. But when we set goals, the failures are planned for.

Several of the faculty talked about some of this at last year’s Shell Lake workshop. I went back to my notebook from the week and came across this series of notes and reflections on the important place “failures” have in helping us reach our goals:

Goals take time. They have failure moments along the way. Success is moving through the failures and using them for your benefit. The famous remark from Thomas Edison that he didn’t have failures, he just knew many things that don’t work.

How did your failures help shape you? I was set on being an engineer when I graduated from high school in 1966. Everyone who had any kind of chance to go to college in those years was directed toward engineering or science. The space race spurred it; American pride accelerated it. After two years it was more than clear that I was not cut out to be an engineer. It wasn’t how I thought. Some of my family saw that as failure. I was not going to make it in the world with a degree in political science. I was a disappointment.

Figure out a different way. Which is what I eventually did. I didn’t give up on life or whatever. Over the next four years I finished college and found something that did fit the way I work and think. I entered seminary and went on to a very satisfying, challenging, and exciting career.

• Change your perspective. Management guru John Maxwell wrote a whole book about this- Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones for Success. Failure is in giving up, not getting back up. Success- at its very basic is continuing to put one foot in front of the other, even when it doesn’t look like it’s going the right direction.

• There are valleys between mountaintops. That is one of the more subtly profound statements I wrote in my notebook. The metaphorical mountaintops lead to valleys. The valleys are the places where we can learn to take the next step toward what we saw from the mountaintop.

• To realize you suck at something- you’re on the right track. It was when I heard a recording of our quintet and the poor quality of my sound that I realized I needed to do something. I didn’t hear that when I was playing live. The same thing happened when I heard my solo on Basin Street Blues with the big band for the first time. In my ear- it sucked! I didn’t like it. It had no life. It sounded tired. If I had never heard that and realized how poor it sounded, I might never have started on this journey that has now gone through two summers of Shell Lake camps and incredible hours of practice in ways I never have done before.

That’s the simple process of failure and success. I was in my mid-60s when that all began. It could have been discouraging. I could have said “The hell with it!” But I had a greater goal, one of those big ones- to truly be a musician in ways unlike any time in my life. It can be called perseverance, or grit, or stubborn, ideas I will deal with later this winter and spring. It is just following the goals and dreams into something new and different.

Have goals and act on them. Prioritize, them, of course. I have never been able to memorize. That doesn’t mean I can’t. At this point in my musical life, there are other things more important than taking the time needed to learn how to do that. My goals are in scales and arpeggios, improvising and endurance, fun and performance. I keep thinking about memorization, but it’s not a priority. Yet.

As we start 2017 in our musical journeys:
  • We start something by taking the necessary steps to get there.
  • We have to know where we want to go.
  • We then create opportunities then things happen.
  • We follow our interests and take risks.

    Happy New Year! Let’s continue to make music- and life.

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