Monday, October 26, 2015

Failure, Fear and The Future

by Paulie Felice

Staring at a blank page.

But in writing just that one little line... poof!

It's no longer a blank page.

I see this in my guitar students all the time; arms poised, eyes slightly glazed over with a nervous half-smile, frozen before me. I've just asked them to "play something," just as my new editor here has asked me to "write something."

"Write what??"


"Play what??"


The blank slates intimidate us. The impossible vastness of nearly infinite possibilities can be paradoxically paralyzing. In writing as in playing, it's that very first step that is the most difficult. I suppose most things are that way. We fear the unknown, and what is more 'unknown' than The Future? The immediate future of notes unplayed and words unwritten; it's right in your face, daunting, infusing you with irrational terror over the simplest of actions.

We usually really want a plan, first. If we can just have some vision, some picture of the future, we can be less fearful. Tell me what to write about. What key should I play in? What's this post going to be about? What's this song going to feel like? How am I going to make a living if I live my dreams? Where will I live and what will I eat and what if I... fail?

The future intimidates us because it is unknown, but what we fear about the unknown is the possibility that we will fail when we get there. And right here, right now in the present, we have not failed yet because we have not embarked on the endeavor. That's the paralyzing aspect, because we're hardwired to protect ourselves from harm. But I think that we have a misunderstanding of what failure is and our fear of it is exceedingly amplified and irrational because of this.

Failure is not the worst-case scenario.

The worst thing that can happen is... nothing.

Stagnancy, perpetual limbo and indecision, being stationary and allowing the paralysis to consume you; these are the things to legitimately fear because they always result in the only true, absolute failure, and that's the failure to move. Motion is what makes all things in the universe matter. It is the only way to affect change and create progress, and the only reason to have goals. If you have goals you MUST MOVE in order to achieve them. The potential for failure is always preferable to the guarantee of failure. If you do not move, you absolutely WILL FAIL.

So move.

Just go.

No plan.

Embrace the fear and in doing so, convert the nothingness of stagnancy into the awesome power of movement through infinite possibilities in infinite combinations. Swing your arm and strike those chords. Move your fingers and write those words. Walk out the door and into the expanse of your new life.

Stop stopping. Get going. Do something.

"Do what??"