What if there was no such thing as mistakes? Would you take more chances in life? Would you play more full out? How would you be?
Well this blog is going to challenge the mindset that many of us carry about mistakes and what they mean. The fact is that we all make them. Nobody’s perfect. And more importantly, they are a necessary part of growing, learning and expanding.
Michael Jordan wasn’t born making 8 out of 10 free throws. Picasso’s first painting wasn’t a masterpiece. And Mastin’s first ever blog wasn’t revolutionary.
Anyone who is great now has had to be willing to be imperfect, vulnerable, flawed. Mastery and greatness take patience and practice. This is something that most of us would agree with. What is perhaps less obvious is that having a different mindset about mistakes isn’t simply a necessary prerequisite to development, it’s also the key to fulfillment in so many areas of our lives.
When we are constantly worrying about making mistakes, we are coming from a fear-based mindset and the focus is on the end result rather than the experience. This mentality causes us to play small and play it safe; it keeps us confined to what we know and what we can control. That’s not any fun, it’s no way to live and you can bet your ass that you’re not gonna get the life of your dreams with that approach!
I just spent the last month on tour in Australia and got a lot of opportunities to see where my fear of mistakes keeps me stuck. The last night of the tour, I was playing a show in one of my favorite Aussie cities, Sydney, to a full house of totally engaged and attentive listeners. I was admittedly a little extra nervous before the show because I knew all these people had come to see me, including a few people I really wanted to make a good impression on, and I wanted to really deliver the goods. About three songs in, I thought to myself: “This is going pretty good. Just don’t fuck it up!” Well, sure enough, during my next song, I made more than a few mistakes and they were not the kind you can get away with! For the rest of the show, I was so consumed with not messing up again that I didn’t get to really enjoy myself. Even afterwards, despite a lot of really great feedback and compliments, all I could think about was that one song that I botched.
Thankfully, I am now seeing the experience as a huge blessing because it opened my eyes to some really powerful insights. The most important thing I realized is that I was so focused on the outcome (e.g. impressing people or looking good) that I gave it more importance than the experience itself – actually just enjoying my show. In other words, I treated the present moment as a means to an end. This happens so often in so many different areas of our lives and it is a guaranteed way to lose out on the fulfillment and goodness that life has to offer, which is only available when our attention is FULLY in the here and now.
Another thing I realized is that my intention was on not making a mistake, rather than on giving a kick-ass performance. In essence, I was coming at the experience from a place of fear rather than faith. In the end, I got what I asked for and I made the mistake I feared making. We are powerful beings and when we focus on something enough, that is what we will create.
I can objectively say that I still gave a good performance despite this mindset, but I know I would have been so much more liberated and self –expressed if I wasn’t worried about messing up. When we are willing to put ourselves out there and take chances, that’s when the magic happens. When we face our fear of failure and inadequacy with the courage to do it anyways, to take risks and just go for it, that’s when the good stuff flows. One of my favorite authors and creativity experts, Julia Cameron, so aptly captured the essence of this distinction when she said: “You have to be willing to write a bad song to write a great one.”
These distinctions are as true in relationships as they are in any creative endeavor. When we are constantly preoccupied with not screwing up or pleasing others, we are not able to be our true authentic selves. As a result, we sacrifice the experience of being fully self-expressed now in favor of some future-based outcome.
That is the true mistake.
But the biggest mistake of all is to fear mistakes. I’ll say that again. Being afraid of mistakes is the biggest mistake of all.
So I’m taking on a new approach. Instead of trying not to make mistakes, I’m going to see just how badly I can f*#k up. I’m tired of playing small and playing it safe. I’m done with being stuck in the same spot, so I’m giving up my comfort zone and surrendering control. I know that the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward, so I’m going to take chances on behalf of myself and my dreams. There are sure to be some train wrecks along the way, but at least I’ll be playing full out and enjoying life to the max!
Who’s with me? What mistakes have you been afraid of making? Where in your life can you let go of your fear of messing up and just go for it? Where can you be more fully self-expressed and focus on the experience rather than the outcome?
Dream big. Play big. F*#k up.
Written for The Daily Love (March 31st, 2012)