By Patrick McNerthney
One time I was in a big hurry to make it to the bank after work. It was payday, I had my check in hand, but I was starving. So I ran home, made a turkey sandwich (as any reasonable person would), mawed it down, then raced to Bank of America to make a deposit.
I remember the teller giggling like a star struck teenager during our transaction. Don’t ask me why I was using the teller instead of just depositing it into the ATM (this was long before online banking so the ATM was kind of science fiction level tech for banks). I tend to make conversation during traditionally boring tasks such as banking so I figured I was just having a really good day and she thought I was both charming and hilarious.
With my deposit completed and loads of suaveness sprinkled throughout the lobby, I kind of skipped away to my Volkswagen Jetta. As I backed out of my parking spot and looked in the rearview mirror, I saw I had mayonnaise all over my face from that hastily consumed turkey sandwich, which undoubtedly generated laughter as opposed to appreciation of my oozing charm. This was embarassing of course, yet it’s a gem of a story, and I like to think I provided the entire staff at the Bank of America West Seattle locationsome needed relief from an otherwise boring day
Owning our embarrassing moments, especially the ones that involve some kind of failure, is a powerful tool. Years later when I worked at a cafe and, oh, I don’t know–dropped a bunch of dishes, or knocked over someone’s latte, I’d simply say, “I meant to do that,” as dryly as I could, rather than cower in shame and humiliation. It worked wonders.
Some customers (and managers) stay angry of course, but honestly, they would have been upset regardless! They were actually quite fortunate, considering I always cleaned up the mess I made, fixed what I broke and sincerely apologized when appropriate. But I do refuse to lament, “Oh poor me, I’m unique! I’m the only one ever to make a mistake, the only one to ever fail!” Come on, no way! I’ve spent long enough behaving that way. No more! I’m not the first person on the planet to ever screw-up. In my maturity, I’ve learned to use failure as a badge of honor and I proudly describe being shot down in flames every chance I get!
This took a while for me to figure out of course. No one is born with the expertise. It’s based on the following theories
- What we do in the face of failure when we are sure we’re doing our best, defines our reality. One version is to see failure as a reason to stop what we’re doing or accept mediocrity. The other, more helpful version is to own the moment and see it for what it really is; temporary, or the best we’ve done so far. Thus when we haven’t created the desired outcome, or when we stumble, or we make a scene, or whatever word we want to use for “didn’t make it,” the key word to consider is “yet.” As in, “I’m not there, yet. I haven’t made it, yet.”
- In the battle between what we think will happen and what does happen, being wrong and making mistakes is simply a way to get more information, not a sign that we should stop. And that is what failure really is; information gathering. And the more information we have, the more effective we become at doing the stuff we think is important
- Owning failures and mistakes shifts power from what we imagine the audience is thinking back to ourselves (and let’s face it, it’s impossible to know what people are thinking. A little lightheartedness in the process belies confidence as well as the ever important maxim, “Don’t take yourself too seriously,” which in turn grants ourselves some grace for being human.
- There are always those who won’t be in on the joke, and by all means we should ignore them. (See definition of professional critics). They probably don’t want to go where we want to go and it’s pointless to try and change their worldview. For the rest, any feedback is a generous gift, deserved of attention rather than bristling denial. With that gift comes the power of, “thanks, you get what I’m trying to do and you acknowledge that I failed this time; but just wait till you see what I do next.”
Undoubtedly you have your own style, so however you roll is cool. It’s not like making jokes and acting nonplussed is the only way to move forward. However, utilizing the power of “yet,” finding the information inherent in failure and mistakes, granting yourself grace, and embracing feedback from your tribe are all game changers as you do work that matters.
Fine Art Miracles (FAM) wants you to unleash the power of “yet” for your residents and loved ones (and in the process, for yourself!). Creative expression may feel foreign and foreboding to some folks, or something they’re “not good at,” but the beauty of art in any medium lies within its potential to simply make something – a drawing, a sound, a written word – where there was previously nothing. It’s a mirror that shows everyone, especially those suffering from social isolation and those who have limited ability to care for themselves, that they still have power to create change, which results in feelings of confidence, mastery, relevance, and self-worth.
The best part may be the future artist’s journey and process, which often goes like this: Making lots of mistakes, followed by feedback and support from their community of peers, which in turn leads to perspective gained, self-acceptance, then turning that mistake into something amazing. Who wouldn’t want to take this trip?
Well, you’re in luck because you can start today! FAM is ready to answer any questions you may have and provide any kind of creative expression opportunity you may crave. Just check out our popular services like Art Therapy, Music Therapy, and Dance and Movement Therapy on the website.
You don’t know what amazing things you, and those under your care, are in for. Yet.
Ah? Yet? See what I tried to do there? No? Maybe it didn’t work, I’m not good at endings yet. But now it’s too late as I have to run to the bank. Let me know if I have anything on my face!