The Illusion Of Failure

As a guitarist for 26 years and quite good one at that, I had a very uncomfortable moment of failure three weeks ago. I was at a blues jam session, twice as old as most of the others and social anxiety gathered inside of me as I waited my turn on the guitar. By the time I finally humbled myself on stage, the band was loud and the amplifier wasn’t. 

Not only was it hard to hear what I was playing, it was also quite bad, even for a semi-beginner. Fortunately we only got through two songs and I sneaked out in the break without saying goodbye to anyone, my brain was melting under anxiety. The experience was so bad I ended up way drunk to calm down.

15-20 years ago I had the same experience. Decided to do electric music on a Monday and was performing new material on Saturday. After one song the first judgment fell:”You suck!” Next song:”Go home!” As the third and last song was introduced, everybody cheered, because I was going off stage.

The first experience with this was when I was fourteen/fifteen and did the Kinks’ All Day and All Night on a karaoke night at school. All I remember was a friend’s laughter, after he set me up for it. He had a thing with humiliating people in public for failing in public. 

Now, my experience with being on stage sober, is not a good one at all. The love for the music however, has gotten me through all these years of failure and humiliation, to the point that my skills are soaring in the skies on any average day.

Accepting any internal pain as just another thing in life, makes it much easier to not dwell too much on our executions that don’t live up to our standards. When I tell people that my skills are all work and zero talent, save from creativity and that I actually hate being on stage, just less than I love the music, they always protest. 

My bottom line is, if you do things that make you come alive, the obstacles become secondary, even if they’re there every day.


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