The Search For A Safe Place To Get It Wrong
It all happened so fast. I never had a chance to say the one thing that could have helped.
It was Friday afternoon. I’d been in the school for a week working with 350 students writing six original songs with six different groups. All of our creative sessions and conversations had led up to this moment on Friday afternoon where each group was presenting their song.
The gym was packed with parents and families along with all the students. Each group was taking turns coming up on stage with me to perform their song and then teach it to the rest of the school.
Don’t mess this up for us!
As one group filed on stage, a young student turned to me and said, “don’t mess this up for us.” It was such a precocious thing to say, it struck me as really funny, so I leaned into my mic and told the audience what he’d said. Everyone laughed.
We performed the song, and at the end, as the audience was applauding and cheering and this group started filing off the stage, this same student turned and said, “you messed up!”
And then he was gone along with the rest of his class. The moment happened so fast it was over before I even had a chance to say the one thing that could have helped. I wish I could have crouched a bit lower, looked him in the eyes and said with absolute sincerity, “who cares.”
Can You Handle The Truth?
I don’t mean to be flippant or careless with my words because the truth is…lots of people care. According to a recent survey for Linkagoal’s Fear Factor Index, out of 1,083 respondents 1 in 3 Americans were afraid of failure (31%) more than spiders (30%) being home alone (9%) or even the paranormal (15%) Only horror films outranked fear of failure, but only by 1%. Out of those surveyed, (49%) admitted that fear of failure was the biggest roadblock to either not achieving their goals at all or discouraging them from revisiting them.
I’ve spent 20 years working in the music, TV/Film industry, and I’ve seen the fear of failure or even making a mistake kill creativity. Maybe this student was right and I’d misplayed a chord or fumbled a phrase. But seriously…who cares. Making a mistake is not failure, getting it wrong on the way the getting it right is not failure. Being perfect wasn’t the point of the week, and certainly isn’t the goal of life. And none of the teachers, parents or other students were focused on our mistakes…they were caught up in sharing the creative moment.
Over 350 students had just experienced an amazingly creative week writing, creating and performing six original songs in five days. That would be daunting to do with 350 seasoned and experienced professional songwriters! I love to tell students in our first session on Monday, that in a few days, we’re all going to get up on stage and perform a song…a song that doesn’t exist yet, cause we haven’t written it! I find this statement sets the expectation for the hair-straight-back white-knuckle-hold-on-for-dear-life creative experience we are about to have. CLICK HERE
The Value Of A Creative Experience
Let me ask you a question, given an option between, a) sitting passively in your seat listening to someone talk about creativity, or b) having an opportunity to actually be creative, in an environment that played to your strengths, and allowed you to choose your comfort level, which would you choose? For me, it would be a no-brainer. But that’s because my experience with being creative in studios, on stage, and on set has been overwhelmingly positive. There are some things you need to learn by doing. A lot of schools talk about the value of diversity and how it’s a strength and not a weakness, but it is incredibly powerful when students can actually experience this. That’s of inviting students into a creative environment where they can experience it firsthand. Because creativity is fun, exciting, terrifying, enlightening and empowering at the same time.
We all need a safe place to get it wrong
What that little dude on stage didn’t know is that when you’re being creative there is no such thing as failure…there are just opportunities to learn. You’re not perfect. You’re never going to be. Neither is anyone around you, not your boss, coworkers, employees, spouse, children, teacher or students. If we take that ridiculous expectation out of the equation we have space to explore our creative potential and not worry if we get it wrong in the process. If you want something you’ve never had before you have to do something you’ve never done before. And no one has ever done anything perfectly the first time…we all need a safe place to get it wrong.
Walt Disney was fired from an early newspaper job for lack of imagination. Steven Spielberg was rejected from film school three times. Einstein was described as ‘mentally slow’ on his school record. John Grisham, J.K. Rowling, and JRR Tolkien were all rejected dozens of times before their books were published.
Times Of Change Can Be Scary
Times of change can be scary; particularly when your bottom line is on the line, and let’s be honest, in times like these everyone’s bottom line is on the line.
In a recent article, Robert M. Goldman MD, Ph.D., DO, FAASP describes this time in history as the 4th Industrial Revolution which he terms, The Exponential Age, and predicts the disruptive effects of exponential technologies on virtually everything.
So as with all exponential technologies, it was a disappointment for a long time, before it became way superior and got mainstream in only a few short years. It will now happen with Artificial Intelligence, health, autonomous and electric cars, education, 3D printing, agriculture, and jobs.
Uber is just a software tool, they don’t own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world. Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don’t own any properties.
In the US, young lawyers already don’t get jobs. Because of IBM Watson, you can get legal advice (so far for more or less basic stuff) within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans. Watson already helps nurses diagnosing cancer, 4 times more accurate than human nurses.
Solar production has been on an exponential curve for 30 years, but you can only now see the impact. Last year, more solar energy was installed worldwide than fossil. The price for solar will drop so much that all coal companies will be out of business by 2025.
3D printing: The price of the cheapest 3D printer came down from $18,000 to $400 within 10 years. In the same time, it became 100 times faster. All major shoe companies started 3D printing shoes. Spare airplane parts are already 3D printed in remote airports. The space station now has a printer that eliminates the need for the large number of spare parts they used to have in the past.
Business Opportunities: If you think of a niche you want to go in, ask yourself: “in the future, do you think we will have that?” and if the answer is yes, how can you make that happen sooner? And any idea designed for success in the 20th century is doomed to failure in the 21st century.
You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks (said the cat)
We are living in a time of unprecedented change where we will thrive or struggle to survive based on our ability to adapt. You’re not an old dog, you can absolutely learn to adapt and change and use all your creative talents and abilities to thrive and succeed.
This is something I know about through personal experience. The last two decades have required constant change. 20 years ago as a professional musician, I would go into the studio, produce an album and then go on tour and generate revenue through selling CDs and tickets. Suddenly everyone was downloading music for free and professional quality recording software was available with every new computer. This created a massive shift in how people perceived the value of music.
Change pulled the rug out from under me with one hand
and opened a door for me with the other
In just a couple years, none of the record companies I worked with were still in business. None of the distribution companies existed. None of the promoters I worked with were in business and none of the venues I’d played at booked live original music. The old way of making a living as a musician changed. It wasn’t impossible to make a living as a musician, it was just impossible to keep doing it the way it had been done up to that point. So I needed to learn how to approach my career and my skill set in a completely different way.
Interestingly, at the same time high-quality video cameras and editing software became so affordable, independent producers like me were able to produce TV shows and films outside of the traditional entertainment system. New avenues of broadcasting and distribution opened up and it totally changed the television and film industries. Change pulled the rug out from under me with one hand and opened a door for me with the other.
Your creative potential is bigger than any industry used to define it
Creativity is a very personal AND professional subject. Your creative potential is bigger than any industry used to define it. Understanding how to develop and apply your unique abilities is what will empower you, or your students, to face the future with confidence rather than fear.
This Is Your Journey of Discovery
If you’re experiencing the disruptive effects of change in your life, you need an environment and people in your life that nurture and support your creative development. That’s why I produce residencies in schools and created an online creative community. If you’re interested in learning more, CLICK HERE.
Life is a journey of discovery…discovering the ways your unique gifts, talents, and abilities can empower you to face the challenges of an uncertain future. And while it can be scary at times, as we take creative risks and try something for the first time, fear of failure should not be the thing that shuts half of us down.
I never had the chance to tell that young student the one thing that could have helped…so I’m telling you. Don’t be too proud to have a humble beginning. Every journey involves taking a risk. It takes courage. You have everything you need to get everything you want. If you need someone who understands the creative journey and can provide the support and encouragement you need, contact me and let me know.
Hi, my name is Rik Leaf. I love everything I get to do as a recording artist, producer, slam poet, and writer. But I particularly enjoy producing creative development workshops and online training courses for students that help them discover the unique opportunities their talents, interests, and abilities can provide.