My "Failure" Story
I have been searching for a story to tell. Everything I’ve read about marketing and motivating people involves the importance of telling stories. I’ve known this for some time but continued to struggle with my own story. What story can I tell that would help others. What story am I living that would inspire others? I didn’t have an answer to that question until now.
My story is one of failure. But, it’s not just a story of failure it’s a story of learning from failure, growing from it, and persisting in the face of it. I am not a success in many conventional terms especially given what I’ve tried to do. But, I’m not a failure either. I have failed but I am not a failure. Let me tell you why.
I have been playing music for over 30 years. I began taking piano lessons as a child and went to a performing arts school. I recognized early on that I didn’t have the inner drive or discipline to be a world class classical pianist so I stopped my formal music education. That might have been a mistake on my part and perhaps has led to many of my musical failures but I never considered quitting music entirely. In fact, I began writing my own music in high school and have continued ever sense.
I released my first CD in 1997 and it sold barely 300 copies. By any reasonable measure of musical success it was a failure. But, I had a great time writing and recording that music and I enjoyed sharing it with people as I performed in several small venues including the local planetarium. I count that as a success.
My second CD was released on 1999 as a self-produced release. I recorded it and manufactured it on my own and sold (maybe) 100 copies. An even worse failure than my first effort. But, I learned a lot from writing and recording that music. My skills as a composer improved and my recording sounded better than the first effort due to what I had learned about mixing and sequencing. I count that as a success.
My third CD of original music was a recording of solo piano music this time recorded in a professional studio with a skilled recording engineer. This was a difficult album to record since it was done live. My previous efforts were done on synthesizers with the ability to go back and edit passages where I made mistakes and punch in and out of individual measures if need be. But, this CD required playing the piece right all the way through. If not, I had to re-record the entire piece. We did many multiple takes to get this right! I don’t believe the CD sold even 100 copies. Another failure. Except for what I learned by working in the studio and playing live. I count that as a success.
Each of my subsequent four releases (yes, four!) of original music have similar stories. I recorded them, each time with improvements in composition, sound quality, and arrangement. I’ve transitioned from releasing physical CDs to releasing digital downloads and have continued to promote my music on various internet platforms. All with similar levels of failure.
So, what’s the point of this? The point is that failure has not stopped me. It has not made me ill or killed me. I can’t say I enjoy failing in my goal of sharing my music with a wide audience. But, I can say I’ve enjoyed every single album of original music I have created. I have improved and learned things along the way I never would have if I had stopped after the first failed CD.
In his newest book What do to When It’s Your Turn (and it’s always your turn), Seth Godin writes “the person who fails the most wins.” I’m a winner because I’ve created a body of work that shows who I am, where I’ve been, how I’ve grown, and what I’ve learned. I’m a winner because I will continue to do just that in my music, my writing, my teaching, and my life.
I hope you will do the same thing. Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from living, creating, and sharing. Don’t do these things for success. Do them because it’s who you are and what you believe in. I’m in the process of writing, recording, and releasing my eighth album of original music. I love what I do and I believe in it. It’s who I am. Who are you?