EDMONTON – OPINION – Something weird happened to us.
Somewhere along the way we were taught to pretend that if we never ever even considered the possibility of it – then bad things would never happen. Our thoughts would keep them from happening! If we only focused on the most positive of things, that’s all that would ever occur.
This is obviously not true.
Every day there are good things that come into our lives, and there are challenging things. We experience moments of happiness and love, even if it’s for the smallest of joys. We also experience loss every day. This is just life.
When we prepare ourselves for a new endeavour, we encourage ourselves and others to “only focus on the positive.”
Mostly this is good advice. Your attitude will for sure affect the outcome of most things in your life.
But we sort of stall our development by not allowing for the fact, the simple truth, that sometimes things will not go as planned or hoped for.
Sometimes we really will fail. We will make mistakes.
Things will go smash.
And that is TOTALLY OKAY!
In fact, failure, making mistakes is what we NEED in order to grow. It puts our development into overdrive.
But only if we view it as a helpful tool.
See, a lot of people will bemoan their problems, dwell on their failures, and choose to never try again. What’s the point? They already tried, and it didn’t work.
They’ve been hurt, and now they’re scared or resentful. That’s what bad experiences often do to us.
When I was a starving, struggling artist, I went year after year to gallery after gallery, facing rejection after rejection.
Each rejection spurred me to work harder on my art. I worked to make paintings that people would like. I tried to mimic the stuff I saw in gallery windows. I tried every style I could.
And I still got rejected.
But in the process I really learned to paint. I learned Art History, I received a far reaching education that went beyond the bounds of art school. All thanks to failure.
One day, however, it got too much for me. I gave up.
I stopped painting.
The funny thing is, it didn’t last long.
In that quiet time, something shifted inside of me. Something clicked. I woke up one morning with one thought in mind.
What if I could only create one last painting? What if I painted not what I thought others wanted, but what was important to me? What if I had one last chance to say what was in my heart?
And so I quit my job, pulled out the paints, bought some supplies (with what very little money I had) and got to work.
A few days later I had not one, but three new works that were unlike anything I had ever made. They were a bit raw, kind of unsophisticated, but for the first time in my life I worked from my own voice.
I took a last chance. I walked into a gallery with the work. I heard the same reply I’d heard again and again over the years:
But this time there was something else.
“Leave them here and we’ll see what the owner says.”
By the time I got home there was a message on my answering machine to bring in more.
Not long after, there was a show. Enough people loved the new work that they took into their homes every last piece.
Thank you failure.
Thank you for knocking me down, for knocking off the edges, for polishing my skills.
Thank you for encouraging me to develop abilities I never would have explored.
Thank you for showing me new directions, new approaches.
Thank you for building strength and resilience in me I never otherwise would have had.
Thank you for humbling me through pain, heartache, sorrow and despair – the very things we strive to avoid. But there’s no avoiding them, is there? Only learning how to experience them wisely.
I wish great failure on everyone.
I wish equal and greater strength to learn from that failure.
So if you ever hear from me, “I’m not sure how it will go. Maybe I will fail!”
Don’t think I’m down on myself. Nope!
I’m simply reminding myself that there are bigger ideas ahead and it’s time to learn them. That failures are the necessary steps to triumph.
I wish that for you.
So please, as you work toward something great, embrace the failures along the way. Be grateful for them. They are the building blocks of your great accomplishments.
I failed big time. Again and again. And I still do!
From the outside, someone viewing me mid-stride would see all my stumbles, all my mistakes. And that’s very real. But inside, I was building the skills to seize opportunity, to grow in compassion, to wade through the muck.
Learn to do the same. If you’ve already been learning, transform the message. Make the experience mean something bigger than the moment.
Aaron Paquette is a First Nations Metis artist, author and speaker. Based in Edmonton, Alberta, his first YA Novel Lightfinder comes out in May 2014 through Kegedonce Press.