I am not going to lie.
We all know this instinctively, but it’s different when it really happens to you.
I have screwed up a lot of things in my life. There are a lot of things that I would call failures, but there is a deeper thing that happens when you know you’ve given something your very best effort, and despite everything, it bombs.
That’s what my last band Frequency Theater really is. I have never experienced anything quite like it in my life. I put my guts into it every day for several years. I tried all kinds of things – I went to seminars, I entered contests, I submitted my work to lots of people, I spent thousands of dollars, went all in… and it tanked.
It took a little while to own it. I wanted to keep propping it up, throwing more and more resources at it, trying to salvage the project. I wanted it to work so badly. In a lot of ways it represented everything I have invested my life in. It was terrifying to watch my Titanic break in two and sink into the inky black ocean.
It hurt like hell.
It was only the beginning. For several months I could not bear to go to my garage. It had my studio, and a lot of the other artifacts, the paraphernalia of the project. When I did venture in, painful reminders of how much had sunk with it lurked everywhere. Dozens of unsold t-shirts. Boxes with close to 800 unsold cds in them. Stage props, lights, unused equipment racks, merchandise displays, show posters, boxes and cases full of the wreckage of my inability to connect with the audience. I have staked my entire life on that connection, and the signal was lost.
When I open my computer every now and then I come across things too… bookmarks in my web browser, writings, spreadsheets, website archives. It’s funny how much it still brings strong emotions when I stumble across these things, looking for something else.
However, I have learned, and am learning some pretty important things from this.
Failure is definitely not the end.
Failure may be the best thing for you, because it sets you free. Free from bad assumptions, free from bad ideas, free to hit reset and start over. Failure tells you the truth.
Failure makes you start from zero, and any success you have from there is legitimate and honest, and you know the difference.
Failure makes you take stock of your weakness, and causes you to adress them.
Failure makes you pay attention to feedback. The audience is not lying to you. If your music/art/speech is good, they respond. If not – they tell you in a thousand ways. Trust me, it’s definitely not them, it’s you.
Failure helps you to stop wasting your time on something that does not matter.
Do something that matters. Get honest about what it is you are trying to say, then say it. Stop obfuscating. Tell the truth.