Mistakes. Those damn things that could have you believe you are fundamentally flawed and should just stop whatever it is that you’re doing.
Who needs them!?
I’ve often been embarrassed by them. But in recent years I’ve gotten better at owning them, taking responsibility for them, and acknowledging how necessary they are to growth. Growing up, my father would share that famous quote with me, “the man who never made any mistakes never learned anything.” Well father, I have learned much.
I notice in myself still though, the reluctance to publish mistakes. And it makes sense. Why show anybody the less than perfect? Don’t I revere and honour those masters who have put thousands of hours into their crafts in order to rid themselves of mistakes, at least in their performance? Isn’t there something admirable about practicing to a point where you are perfect? Would you enjoy a concert if the musician continually flubbed their way through the performance? I don’t think I would. Part of me longs to see the perfection. Not the practice. Practice on your own time.
But do not be fooled, mistakes are real! They happen. They are necessary. It is because of this I’m more willing to share my process. To share my ugly. Especially when considering the fact that my perceived mistakes are not seen the same way by all who observe. Some people would not be able to identify them through multiple watches and listens. Some see only the beauty and ideal. Some people identify and are drawn to the things which ‘humanize’ the performer. And sometimes, the mistakes are followed by realizations and we get to experience people learning. How inspiring it can be to watch someone fail, fail, and then succeed. So as to inspire in us the hope that we too can grow.
I remember a song I recorded a few years back. It was a single camera, live off the floor take of one of my original tunes called Battle Cry. Overall, the performance was decent. There was certainly passion in the performance. It had its moments. But early in the tune, I missed a note with my vocal. That single note, was enough in my opinion at the time, to throw that baby away with all the bath water. It shone in my mind, glaring. Each listen it stuck out like bad smell coming out of the fridge. Intolerable. Okay, I exaggerate, but my mind has often been this hyper-critical of my mistakes.
Flash forward to two years later and a dear friend encouraging me to share more content. And so I look through my archives and rediscover this damn missed vocal. But, with a lighter heart, and greater willingness to share my real self, not just my auto-tuned, photo shopped face, I release the song on youtube.
On the first day of releasing it, I received the following feedback:
“Your opening chords and vocals stopped my son in his tracks from crying after mom left to go to get some more decorations. He sat and watched all but the last 15 seconds, (mainly probably due to me calling mom in between and losing his attention span, but got it back as soon as it started again.)”
“Dude this is a great song! Love your voice, and love the strumming style in the second verse especially.”
“Wow – this is absolutely beautiful.”
“Keep sharing your gifts with the world, beautiful soul!”
“I still can’t get enough of this song. I listen to this when I feel my creative energy dwindling. It reminds me of myself. Thank you for this amazing piece of art. I can’t wait for more.”
Now, some of that is due to the friends who have loved and supported me along the way, but most of the comments are from people I had never met.
As is the case with a lot of creatives, we can often be our hardest critics: demanding perfection, and failing to see all the beauty that actually exists within.
Too often I find myself withholding thoughts and creations. But over and over again I am experiencing how they are often received in positive ways beyond what I could have imagined.
The fear of people knowing that I am not perfect no longer scares me. The fear of wasting people’s time with my inadequacies is becoming less prevalent. My willingness to share my process is strengthening. Not only am I proud of my creations, but I’m starting to believe that there is value in my public process that I am not even comprehending.
I share these things not for personal glory, but in hopes that I can make the world a better place by showing up as real as I am.
Here is a song. It is not ‘perfect’. It has mistakes in it. But they lead to beautiful and precious moments.