I was rummaging through my attic searching for Christmas decorations last month when I once again stumbled upon My Box of Failures. I call it My Box of Failures because that it precisely what it is; a box filled with items from my dozens and dozens of failures; business cards of companies I started that failed to take off, film ventures that were once promising but never came to be, log lines from scripts that never saw the light of day, etc. Every year I stumble into this box and I think to myself, ‘You should throw this thing away. It’s depressing.’
But I don’t.
I can’t. In fact, it is crucially necessary that I not only remind myself of my many many failures every so often, but I truly dwell on them. Failures are like scars; a permanent reminder of something that happened, a story in and of itself. They are painful, embarrassing, and unattractive. For some, failure might be the end, but to an artist, failure is part of the story. Failure is what drives an artist to try again, to get up, to do better, to achieve more, to go bigger, farther, to try something new. Most importantly, failure is immeasurably valuable; it is a lesson learned, a mistake that we will not make again, a bit of wisdom we did not have before.
All too often I see people very much afraid to start, unable to write the first line, or step out and get started because they are afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid of failure. Let it come. Success will make you feel good but failure is the better teacher and motivator.
A few years back I started Jiu Jitsu. For the first three months it was truly depressing, tapping-out multiple times every match, always feeling out of shape, losing again and again. Even wrapping the white belt around myself was embarrassing, almost like broadcasting to the world, ‘Yup. I’m new here. I don’t belong. I’m not any good. Please don’t look at me.’ Then one day, I tapped a guy out. All of the failing for months vanished from my mind as I realized, ‘I’m getting better. I earned this. I’m not what I once was.’
Now, years have gone by, and I see the new people come, wrapping their white belts around themselves; day one. Many of these guys will make it for a month or two and then I will never see them again. They tap out early and go home. They can’t deal with the failure, the inadequacy, losing. But if they do not get up and try again, if they do not come back, if they avoid tapping-out by staying home, they will never experience victory. The guys (gals too) that excel in jiu jitsu are the guys who realize that losing is is as crucial to victory as victory itself.
So, all of you in the filmmaking world, I want to encourage you to get out there and fail.
Then get up, and do it again.