Failure is Imperative

Bethany - Richland, Michigan
Entered on May 25, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
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I hate failure. I can’t stand the feeling that comes with not succeeding at something I put my heart and soul into. But nevertheless, I believe that failure is absolutely necessary for everyone to experience if he or she ever hopes to mature.

When I was a junior, I experienced failure in all its ugly, menacing glory. I was at State Solo and Ensemble, the “state championship” for musicians. I had been preparing my trumpet solo for four months and had been working on the scales I needed to know for well over a year. I had been to State Solo and Ensemble the year before, so I had a good idea of what was expected of me and I felt very prepared.

But then everything went wrong. I did fine on my solo, but my scales and sight reading were awful. Of the five scales I had to play, I played one perfectly. The sight reading was even worse. I missed sharps and flats all over the place, completely ignored dynamics, and did a less-than-stellar job at attempting to play in a time signature I had never seen before. I was very tempted to give up in the middle of the piece and leave with what was left of my dignity, but I managed to somehow finish it. When I was finally able to leave my performance room, I knew that I had completely blown everything I had spent so much time working on. I can’t recall any other time when I was so mad at myself as I was after that disastrous State Solo and Ensemble performance.

My reaction to this situation was, in a word, ridiculous. Instead accepting my score and vowing to come back next year and do better, I crumpled up the paper with my score on it, threw it on the ground, yelled at my parents for telling me to behave myself, and proceeded to storm to the bathroom, where I threw myself a wonderful pity party. In short, I responded to my score at Solo and Ensemble with the maturity of a four-year-old.

After awhile, I was able to look back at this situation and realize that though at the time, it seemed like the worst possible thing that could have happened, in reality it was one of the best things that could have happened to me. My reaction to all of that showed me how much growing up I had to do. It also gave me a very clear example of how not to react to failure. This year at State Solo and Ensemble, a very similar thing happened, and I actually ended up receiving a worse score this year than I did when I was a junior. However, this year, I took things in stride and accepted the score graciously.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing bad about succeeding. Success is wonderful. However, I think to truly appreciate success, you have to experience failure first. Otherwise, it is far too easy to take your success for granted. I know I certainly took the success I had with trumpet for granted before my experience at State Solo and Ensemble when I was a junior. I would never wish failure on someone, but I do believe that at some point, everyone needs to be faced with failure so that he or she can both appreciate the successes he or she has had and so that he or she can learn how to deal with failure in a mature manner.