That’s one of the things I love about art. It’s a safe place to make mistakes. I don’t remember the last time I got through a performance without making a mistake. A huge part of my teaching is about how to recover from mistakes and how to keep mistakes from taking over your performance. I talk to my students all the time about this. I tell them that it is okay to make a mistake and that it is not helpful to try not to make mistakes during a performance.Why not? Mainly because that makes the performance a fear-based one.
Though part of the mission of Freedom Arts is to help young people realize and utilize their God-given talents, we are careful not to shy away from flaws and mistakes. Mistakes are indicative of the learning process.If you are making mistakes it means you’re learning! It means you’re trying something new and you’re struggling with it. That is a beautiful process. Mistakes indicate a weakness. Weaknesses keep us humble and remind us that there is so much more for us to learn and know. The journey to creating or conquering is what makes the end goal so rewarding.
Have you ever heard the expression “trial and error?” What does that really mean? It means trying something and messing up. Yes. By messing up, you are on the road to succeeding. Think about it. By trying, you are ruling out what does not work. By trial and error, a child learns how to walk. By trial and error, a child learns how to ride a bicycle. And by that very same process of trial and error, the Wright brothers made that bicycle fly.
Einstein supposedly said he often thought and daydreamed in music. I often think and daydream in baseball. I love everything about baseball. One of the things I love is how forgiving baseball can be. A batting average is a statistic that refers to a player’s hitting ability. A .300 batting average is considered very good, but that means that in 10 at bats, the player only got 3 hits. That’s a 30%. 30% is failure in everything else. If I finished a season with a .300 batting average – or in other words, failed at the plate 70% of the time – I would be thrilled. And I know all about failure in baseball, but I’ll save that for another post.
Art is not far removed from this either. You have to make mistakes to create what you see or hear in your mind. You have to confront your weaknesses to work towards mastering your crafts. One of my favorite songwriters of all time is Bill Withers. He once said “It’s okay to hold out for wonderful. But before you get to wonderful, you’re going to have to go through alright.” You have to begin. Then you have to go through the beginner level before you can get to an intermediate level, and then the intermediate level before you get to the advanced level. In cherishing that climb, you will find happiness in the climb and not just on the mountaintop.
Accomplished artists understand the beautiful value of mistakes. People who are truly successful in anything and are conscious of how they reached their goals are cognizant of the tribulations they encountered, why they encountered them, and how they conquered them.
Here is an inspiring passage from a book by music producer Quincy Jones called Q on Producing:
“You have to treasure the opportunity to make a lot of mistakes. Because the more mistakes you make, the more you’re going to learn. And at some magical, unexplained moment, all of those mistakes, with Band-aids all the way up to your neck, morph into experience. When you have a lot of experience and have made a lot of mistakes, you have something to offer.”
And here’s what master drummer Jack DeJohnette said at a clinic of his at PASIC 2009 when asked if he has any weaknesses in his playing that cause him to make mistakes: “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Sometimes the best ideas come from things you didn’t mean to do.”
That parallels what musician and writer Kenny Werner said in his book Effortless Mastery (which has some material I cannot vouch for, but is overall pretty good) about removing fear from your aspirations: “Just as fear pollutes the environment for creativity, it also inhibits effective study. Fear takes away the strength of what you are doing.”
Cartoonist and writer Scott Adams said: “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
And what did Jesus say about making mistakes and weaknesses? 2 Corinthians 12:9 says: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
We must not fear mistakes. We learn from our mistakes and can teach others through our mistakes. We also will never succeed at anything if we are afraid of making mistakes. Mistakes keep us humble and remind us that we are human. Mistakes are how we figure things out!
But most importantly, the power of God works best through our weaknesses. Cherish those ugly, messy, embarrassing mistakes. Work hard! Play hard! Create freely! Fear nothing! Be humble and give the glory to God ALWAYS!
Andrew Gibson (Executive Director, Music Coordinator, Music/Academic Mentor)