My final article on failure, I wish to leave you with some steps which I use to help navigate obstacles in both music and teaching.
Sir Isaac Newton’s third law states: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. In this specific context, using Newton’s third law metaphorically, if we can acknowledge and accept success, we must acknowledge and accept failure as part of the natural order of things.
If we do this, we can move forward objectively, using the experience as an opportunity for learning, taking responsibility for our actions and the consequences of them.
Below are some steps to help with this process:
Step 1: Accept what has happened
Accept that the event occurred; this is perhaps the most important step. Many people live in denial and choose to ignore that the situation ever occurred; to do this leaves them destined to repeat it, indefinitely.
Step 2: Reflect on the situation
Sitting in the moment, after the fact, preferably when the initial emotional response has waned, can help dramatically. This can help us to look at the event from a place of objectivity.
Step 3: Take responsibility for things that were in your control
What could you have done differently to help avoid the event from occurring? Often, the first response, usually from a place of emotion, means that we try to pass blame to others, who perhaps have had little if anything to do with the actual event occurring.
Step 4: Accept the things that were not in your control
These aspects are the hardest to tolerate emotionally. When we are subjugated to the will of others or random chance, we are often left feeling violated. It is important to accept these occurrences for what they are; out of our control.
Step 5: Come to a definite conclusion
Once we have all of the information, it is time to conclude. It is most useful to summarise the situation in a few concise sentences. The effects of this will have little impact at first, so you may have to repeat them continually until they are fixed in your psyche.
Step 6: Remember for next time
Forgive, but do not forget. It is important that you forgive yourself for allowing the failure to occur. The negative feelings are usually your body looking for comfort, which, you will have to provide for yourself. Forgive all parties involved, including yourself, and remember the experience to help you next time.
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Reflection is an important life-skill; as a musician and teacher, this skill is used on a daily basis, in lessons, and my practise. Learning to do so regularly can help to avoid failures before they happen, and to mitigate the negative emotional feelings if it does eventually happen.
Dylan completed his music training with honours at Colchester Institute, where he studied piano with Australian pianist Lesley Young, and composition with British composer Dr Mark Bellis. While studying, in 2009, Dylan won Colchester Institute’s Canon Jack Award for Solo Piano adjudicated by Andrew Ball. A composer, promoter, and advocate of contemporary classical music, Dylan joined the membership of Colchester New Music in 2014.
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