“The way to succeed is to double your rate of failure.” – Tom Watson, Founder of IBM
Are you failing enough in your art career?
Have you made enough mistakes this week?
Those are funny-sounding questions, I admit. Nobody likes to fail or make mistakes.
But the truth is unless you are failing, and failing quite a lot, you’re probably not getting anywhere or making any real progress.
Unless you’re out there on the battleground of failure, you’re probably just hiding out a little, not taking enough risks and chances to really move your art career along
The artist/entrepreneurial life is one where you fail more often than you succeed.
You come to understand there is something blessed, maybe even sacred about failure.
It has this odd way of letting you know your place in the world. As long as you don’t get complacent, it keeps your ego solidly in check.
You know that half the things you think are true probably aren’t, and half the things you KNOW are true are almost certain to change next week.
You surf the edge of chaos, enjoying the thrill of the ride. The agony and the ecstasy.
The first book I was required to read in art school was “The Natural Way to Draw: A Working Plan for Art Study” by Kimon Nicolaides.
In his insightful book, Nicolaides talks a lot about the trial and error needed in learning to draw. He says, “The quicker you make your first 1,000 mistakes, the better.”
It’s true about learning to draw and it’s also true about building your art career.
I am such a big believer in making mistakes and failing, and failing again, and failing again, that I am going to say this: The most important thing you can do is fail.
Did you know that professional golfers only win about 5% of the time. That means that they’re out there doing an awful lot of failing. 95% of the time, in fact, they’re failing.
And Soichiro Honda, founder of Honda Motor Company once said this, “Trial and error, trial and error. The idea is that we fail a hundred times as long as we succeed just once.”
Our educational system has it all wrong. The teachers reward you with good grades as long as you don’t fail the tests. I think this gets us in the wrong mindset and headed in the wrong direction.
It makes us believe that it’s not okay to fail. When, in fact, it’s the failing in life and in our career that gives us our true education.
Each mistake, each failure we make educates us how to get it right. Always remember Thomas Edison’s famous quote, “We now know a thousand ways not to build a light bulb.”
I think artists are well-equipped to using their imaginations to learn from failures and mistakes. Lots of times when I’m with my artist friends, I hear the stories of their day-to-day struggles.
But I know they’re a tough and imaginative lot and they certainly have the smell of battle on ’em.
We talk and laugh about our slip-ups and flubs, and failures.
And every syllable drips with experience and struggle and victory.
Just know that wherever you are, whatever you’re doing today, if you’ve chosen the lesser-trod path of more failure than success, more uncertainty than exact answers, you’ve won OUR respect.
And most importantly, YOURS.
Seize the Day.