by Natalie Wickham
The young teacher finished arranging the game pieces for the first planned activity of the evening just as the doorbell rang. A few minutes later, the first student was seated on the floor, eagerly anticipating the fun he would have during the group class. He was soon joined by another cheerful face, and the teacher chatted with them about their day while they waited for the rest of the students to show up. But as the minutes ticked by, it became apparent that no other students would be arriving. After hours of researching, compiling, and preparing the materials for this group class that she had planned for her studio of 23 students, the discouragement of having only two students in attendance was acute.
Have you felt such discouragement? Have you poured your time and energy into a creative project or event only to have it royally flop in the end? I raise both of my hands with you. In fact, the brief story above was inspired by my first failed attempt at holding a summer piano camp. And I know I’m not alone. Such experiences are replete in the business world. Whether a professional musician, an independent music teacher, or in any number of other music-related professions, you are a business owner. Business guru, Robert Kiyosaki, has this to say, “If you don’t fail faster, you’ll fail anyway. Look, you’re in the middle of a learning process. The process requires that you make many mistakes and learn from those mistakes.”*
Most of us are familiar with the story behind the light bulb and the thousands of experiments Edison attempted before he finally reached his goal. Here’s his optimistic take on the experience: “Results? Why, man, I have gotten lots of results! If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is often a step forward….”** It sounds inspiring enough in the world of inventions and discoveries, but considerably less so in the presence of an unenthusiastic audience, or when looking into the faces of the two out of 23 students who bothered to show up for our event. But it is this same spirit and determination that drives culture-impacting advancements and movements today. If we want to achieve long-term success, we must embrace failure as an opportunity to grow in wisdom, strengthen our character, and develop expertise in our field. I’ve experienced many such opportunities over the years and have learned five keys to success in any creative endeavor: