Stressing About Musicality and Failures - Is It Ruining Your Music?

Do you stress about music and your musical life? That is, do you find yourself growing anxious about:

  • your musical progress, whether playing an instrument or learning voice?
  • your long-term musical goals?
  • practicing correctly and regularly?
  • enjoying music and sharing it with those you care about?

You're certainly not alone, I suffer from this (yes, even teachers do, or maybe especially teachers do). Creative individuals and those drawn to the arts are thinkers; people who idolize certain artists and ideals of performance and art -- and then try to imitate it and expect rapid, amazing results. What begins as amazing drive winds up kicking us in the rear.

Failures are not something to be avoided. You want to have them happen as quickly as possible so you can make progress rapidly.
— Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel

There are obvious things wrong with this, and our self-defeat really is the fault of one misconception: that masters of art produce amazing works each and every time. I had this realization not too long ago: I love certain artists (singer-songwriters, indy bands, composers, pianists and vocalists) and when I listen to their discography I'm awed by the quality and sometimes proliferation of their work.

But what I'm not seeing and hearing is their failures. We don't see what went into that work and how that person accomplished what they have. We can't see the 'bad' songs (by some accounts, 90% of what songwriters produce they don't -- or shouldn't -- release); we don't see the stops and starts, the false-starts, the self-doubt or series of 'no's that artist heard along the way.

We also don't see the practice, group rehearsals, lessons, and thousands of hours that encompasses. I think if we did, we would forgive ourselves more, understand that art is a journey, and perhaps even be better musicians as a result. I know I'm still working on this - and good musicians always do.

So if you are in music lessons - wonderful, you're already ambitious. In my experience, at least half of adults wish they had learned as a child or wish they were currently learning music or an instrument. Most do not. So take that ambition and don't be afraid of failure, or as this guy (Luke Johnson) says, "Success is not about being ambitious – that is easy. It’s about overcoming adversity. In my experience, what separates the winners from losers in business – and probably in life – is how they handle disappointment."

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.
— Sir Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965)