How Failure Improved My Acting And My Life

    Attempting to dodge failure sucks. Trust me, I’ve done it a million times in my life. I consider myself to be the expert on the subject.

    That being said, I’ve learned how to overcome a fear of failure and now wish to share with you what I’ve discovered about failing. Hopefully, these lessons will help you learn to fail well. The key lies not in planning to fail, but allowing yourself to fail and learning from what you’ve done wrong.

    As an actor and artist, learning to fail has been the biggest success I’ve had yet. This idea didn’t really make sense at first. The idea that the way to succeed is through accepting failure.

    We’re all going to fail and make mistakes, that’s one of the ways we grow. The process of moving on from a fear of failure requires you to do a few things.

    The worst thing you can do is what I did and try your hardest to not make mistakes. If you do that then you will never take the risks you’ll need to take if you are worried about failure.

    K(no)w risks, k(no)w failure, k(no)w success

    Picture this: you’re about to audition for a role in a new Marvel film, say, Captain Ironman. Now you are thinking about auditioning, but then suddenly you start thinking about how terrible you’ll probably do and how you might flub the audition and how it would be better to not even audition, cause why waste your time doing something you don’t do well?

    Probable situation, right?  

    I’ve been in a similar place as an actor. While acting in a scene I would continually think about how I wasn’t reaching the standard I held for myself. I became a perfectionist in every sense of the word. (Ask my parents, they’ll back me up on this one).

    Earlier on, before I got more used to auditioning, I hesitated and stopped from going to auditions or even trying new things out of a fear of failing. There are so many opportunities I could’ve taken but didn’t. You’ll never fail if you don’t try, it’s true. But you also won’t ever succeed either.

    Besides, the continual fear of failure stops you from having fun! Speaking of fun.

    Seriously, don’t take everything so seriously

    The pressure that the fear of failure and perfectionism both create not only hindered me from taking opportunities that would’ve helped challenge and grow me as an artist, but it also kept me from one of the very reasons people create art: for the fun of it.

    An example of this idea in my life came in the form of painting. I liked to paint, but after attempting it a few times, I became so discouraged by what I was making that I stopped. The paintings were never as good as I wanted them to be. The fun of painting had been strangled by my perfectionism.

    But just a few weeks ago that all started to change.

    I underwent this beautiful mind shift where I decided to paint and just have fun. I no longer painted with the intention of avoiding mistakes, that is, having to create something perfect. While I was brushing away at the paper, making a landscape of hills and trees I had a revelation: I was having so much fun just making something. It didn’t have to be perfect or even that good. I made mistakes, but instead of getting rid of the painting immediately, I would fix the mistake or even turn it into something I hadn’t originally intended it to be. In fact, the mistakes were the very things that made me the most proud.

    This revelation was huge for me. It showed me fun is found in the unexpected twists and turns that happen when making something. Also when there isn’t the pressure for the piece to be perfect, I am surprised by what I am able to make.

    The same could be said of any art. When there’s the pressure to be perfect it keeps us from enjoying the creative process. I felt this in my acting. I was starting to take it way too seriously. Then I remembered that acting is about playing. Let us never forget that.

    Perfectionism hinders your creativity and imagination

    With the pressure to be perfect and to create perfect things, starting out becomes a real pain in the butt. When starting something, I had the idea in my mind that I needed to be instantly good at it. I would quickly become frustrated when I discovered I wasn’t.

    This kept me from doing a lot of things as well. I didn’t allow myself to be a beginner, I had to be excellent right out of the gate.

    When it came to creating things or acting, I was the same way. And this need to be excellent right off the bat hindered me from experimenting with different ideas and methods. I had to choose the right course the first time. I couldn’t afford to be wrong. Needless to say, what I created and how I acted was fairly flat, and it would never get any better because I didn’t allow myself to make mistakes and learn from them.

    I fortunately learned that when we begin something, we won’t be good. I learned that it might take awhile, a long while to get good at whatever I was attempting. But that’s ok. The sooner you learn that the sooner you can let go of needing to be perfect and cling to the desire of getting better.

    If I had held to perfectionism when I started out in acting I would’ve quit early on. Fortunately the passion I have for acting helped drive me forward and push past some of the frustration that comes from starting something new.

    See, letting go of perfectionism and the fear of failure isn’t the rejection of excellence. Quite the opposite, in fact. Learning to accept our failings and learning from them is how we achieve excellence in what we do.

    That is what I learned, and it has changed how I have approached art and even every day. I see each day as an adventure, not as a day where I could mess up, or things could go wrong. So believe me when I say, learning to fail is one of the greatest lessons you can learn. Don’t try to always be dodging failure. Beat it by seeing it as a necessary step towards growth. You’ll never look back once you do.

    It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” -J.K. Rowling

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    • Keaton is an actor and writer who works with the Initiative Production Company in Brisbane, Australia. Native to Alaska, he enjoys staring at the stars while contemplating the meaning of life.

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