Failing Up

Artists experiences with failure help to expose basic principles that exist in all other vocations as well. This happens because all artists more consciously start off life as ‘appreciators.’ They sense things–particularly other art–in some more detailed, or organized way, that others do not recognize.

In their efforts to show others what they see in life and in art, people become artists themselves. And at least initially, their aim is almost always to emulate their primary art hero(es). They hear, see, smell, taste, or feel things that move them, and they work to find ways to create that same effect in our lives.

But, of course, a person’s art is born from the detailed structures of their brains, and the thoughts they have about the moment and place they are in the world, which themselves are based on wildly varying histories. Then all of that is filtered through a uniquely shaped body, some with this set of limits and capabilities, others with others.

These differences essentially mean it is impossible for any artist to realize their goal of being ‘as good as….whoever.’ That person wasn’t really known for being ‘good’ anyway. They were appreciated more for being ‘themselves.’ Meaning, it is only by failing to live ‘up’ to our heroes that we have no choice to but resign them to being ‘influences’–at which point we begin our journey to originality!

By mixing our influences (the principles in those performances we enjoy), with our own physique, abilities, limitations, and work-arounds, we end up eventually realizing that we, by removing everything that wasn’t us, have become ourselves.

This is not only true for painters and guitar players and writers. It is also true for nurses, and administrators, and engineers, and delivery drivers. Every job on Earth includes a variety of priorities and potential focuses, and each of us chooses a unique set. It’s like our vocational fingerprint; generated by how we specifically grab hold of a role in life.

The combination of things we pay attention to will be uniquely ours. And our choices will be informed by those choices, along with various other choices about influential people in our lives, and of course the manifestations of who our lives have seen us become in terms of capability and resources.

No matter which route we take, until we die we are forever becoming. We begin with imitation, and flow towards the truth of ourselves. This means that what we often perceive as being ‘failures,’ are better and more accurately seen as opportunities to grow into becoming more of who we truly are.

All this being the case, rather than view failing as us not achieving what we wanted to achieve, see it more like a sculptor’s process, where each life experience helps carve or bend or stretch our life into one that fits us well.

The only way we can screw that up is to stop having the sort of experiences that help us create that shape. So, no matter how things feel, we must always remember that we are forever moving towards ourselves. So, when in doubt, as Dory in Finding Nemo always recommends: “Just keep swimming.”

peace. s