"Failure" and why we need it.
When I was in 6th grade I ran for class president. I wasn't the most normal child on the face of the planet but I would say I was well liked, no where near popular...but well liked. I was fairly certain I wasn't going to win. I think I had even come to terms with the fact that I wasn't going to win, I didn't have posters, I wasn't on a sports team, and I wore those really intense and scary "Tripp" pants (you know the ones you used to get at hot topic?). Before they did the voting we all got to give a speech to the whole school, A daunting task for any little bean, but for me it came very naturally. I was the last to give my speech and something just blew up in my brain and I CRUSHED IT, Like an out of body experience. I don't even think I wrote anything down. I just spoke from the heart and felt like I had gotten my point across in the most tactful and articulate way a twelve year old could. We returned to our classrooms and the voting commenced right before the end of the day announcements. Again, I was fairly certain I wasn't going to win, but I was so thrilled with how I addressed my peers that I sat there happy as a calm. When the announcements finally started up they announced the treasurer, secretary, Vice President and then the moment came...they said my name. I had won class president, me! The scary emo kid who was bad at math! I was overcome with joy, because I knew that what I had said to my peers had stuck. It had given me the leg up and inspired my class.....then it kicked in.
"shit..I might actually have to do work.."
Here's the thing, as long as I can remember I like to be liked. To win class president was the ULTIMATE testament to how well I was liked. Did I actually want to be class president? Hell no. I was the biggest procrastinator when it came to homework, I had zero school spirit and I spent most of my days at school in the music room or in the guidance counselors office crying because that's what emo kids did. When I was faced with the responsibility of actually carrying out the duties of a class president I crumbled. Literally the worst fitting job for little pre-teen Madeline.
Long Story short, my science teacher threatened me with the whole "if you don't do your homework I'll tell the principle and you will get stripped of your position" ...but I really HATED homework. I was always in the weeds when it came to school. I would like to say I tried to heed her warning but I totally didn't and quickly I was no longer class president. In my eyes this is the first big flubbing failure I experienced. At that time I couldn't handle it, I felt so much guilt and overall shittiness around the whole situation it spiraled me into a pretty dark spot. Fast forward to about 12 years later and I faced probably the biggest failure of my life to date. I hyped up this whole American idol deal with nothing but some kick ass B-Roll and a 10 second clip of me balling my eyes out and hugging Katy Perry (hey I'd call that a win in my book). To be quite honest my nana got more air time than me! (and that will be the joke in our family for eternity) But I faced it in a totally different way, this time I chumbawumbaed the crap out of it and got back up. That failure propelled me into making the choice to take control of my own future. Without the massive failure of coming home empty handed I would have never had the guts to do half the amazing things I'm doing. The people I've connected with, the opportunities that have been presented to me and the confidence I've gained would have been nothing compared to what it is without overcoming that failure. When you get told no by LIONEL F-ING RICHIE the booking agent for a national touring artist doesn't seem so scary. It's about our perspective and our willingness to search for the opportunity in each situation we encounter.
I have asked my buddy Trevor McBane, who unlike me went incredibly far in the competition to answer a few questions about this subject. I instantly connected with him in Hollywood because we had some pretty cool hats, most people in cool hats are pretty cool... I went on from there to learn that he is much more than "the guy under the (cool) hat" He is a genuine, hardworking, wise and grateful soul. He made it all the way to the top 24 and still came out of it with one of the best attitudes I've ever seen, true graciousness and patience all living in one genuine bad ass...
you'll notice that he has a very strong faith and is a rock solid believer in Christ. Even if you aren't so keen on the whole Jesus thing, I think you should read what he has to say on the topic. No matter what you believe you will notice a theme of faith, (in yourself, God, the universe, whatever you see fit), positivity and resilience in his story. All of those things are imperative to gaining an edge over your own shortcomings.
Here's what he had to say.
1. What is the biggest failure you've experienced and how did it shape you into who you are?
"I don’t look at life as series of failures and successes, I try to look at it as moments where I had to learn in a hard way or an easy way! Success is sometimes determined by a person thinking that whatever goal they have set inside their head is met, and if it’s not then its failure, but more often than not I have found myself learning more from my times where I don’t reach my goal and my path is redirected somewhere completely different. I am a man of faith, and I always try to rely on God for wisdom and guidance instead of leaning on my own understanding! God has never led me astray and I continue to follow where He leads me, even if the path is uncertain. So I don’t think failure is a part of life it’s just different levels of learning experiences that make you, you!"
2. Growing up as a man in the south, what is the social climate like around failing? I know there is a bigger focus on competition and "winning" as a man in general and I wonder what growing up was like for you and how it shaped your beliefs around failure.
"Growing up where I have there has always been a mind set by everyone that to lose is to be weak. Losing has always been made to be seen as a bad or incorrect outcome in whatever life event you are facing. The stigma put on children, especially young men that if you lose you are less than, if you lose you are weak, if you lose someone is better than you, is something I feel like too many people are accustomed to. I’m not saying that a person shouldn’t try to be all that they can, or that wanting to be successful is an issue, I’m just saying I’ve seen too many kids try to grow up to quick, or have there lives wrapped around other people’s interpretations of success, and they lose themselves in the process. I was lucky enough to have parents that always wanted me to chase my own dreams instead of what they wanted me to be. It wasn’t easy all the time and I know they probably wished I was something different ,but they always supported me 100 percent. For a long time I believed that if i found failure I was less than or not good enough and I honestly still struggle with that now as an adult especially in the music industry, but it’s a day by day learning and growing experience and my faith in God is what makes me realize that I am a child of God and He loves me for all I am, even with my faults, and that makes me feel like I can achieve anything with His help. Winning or losing He is always there with me."
3. What has helped you cope when you are faced with failure?
"The biggest thing that has helped me with failure has been my faith, my family and my music. My faith in God is just who I am. It says in the Bible that through Christ I am saved, with all my faults, my sins and my weaknesses I am forgiven and renewed through Jesus Christ. Once you have started your relationship with Him and you commit your life to Him all things are possible. I rely on God first and foremost to help me through my low points, because He has only my best interest at heart. My family is a group of people that have seen me grow, seen me win and seen me lose and still choose to love me and stay with me. They are people that have went through the trials of life with me, the losses of loved ones and the growing pains of becoming a man. It’s always a push and pull kind of thing when you deal with people but my family have always stayed constant in the mind set of “ we will always be here for your best interest, I may not always like you, but I’ll always love you “. Lastly my music is my way of expression, it’s the only way I don’t explode with emotion, lose my mind to my insecurities and/or become a person I don’t want to ever be. In my opinion, music is God’s greatest gift, aside from salvation it’s self. There is nothing in this world that can change lives like music. My writings and my songs truly are my favorite forms of expression, and more often than not my most favorite songs at those written about my failures or my trials I’ve lived through. I believe that to be faulted is to be human, we aren’t made to be perfect creatures and it is impossible for us to do so and we should try to live as best as we can and rely on God’s guidance to get us through life. Music is such a beautiful blessing and I personally think it can fix any problem, help any person and even change the world. No matter if a person is musically gifted or not, it effects us all."
4.What advice do you have to someone who feels inadequate or like a "failure"?
"My advice to those who feel less than, or like they are failures in life is simply this. I stand firm in my beliefs that we are all created my God, the maker of the universe, the creator of all things, and He knows you personally and wants a relationship with you. If you aren’t something special and incredibly made then why does the creator of life it’s self want to know you? You are beautiful and uniquely one of a kind. Trusting in God in all that I do is how I am able to get through anything in my life, and my advice is that a relationship with Him is the way to always succeed even when you feel like you’ve failed. "
It is so important as a human being to be open minded to learning from someone else's struggles, no matter how different from you they may be. Whether it's my story, Trevor's story or someone else you admire, you will find the same thing buried in each one.
Failure is just the seed of success Gratitude is the soil where it is planted and Drive is the water that gives it life.
May you truly enjoy the root of happiness and look forward to your next failure, I assure you with the right mindset...that failure will become one of the things to propel you right smack dab into your most amazing and truest life. All you have to do is be open, ready and willing to look at it that way.