If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you’ll know I like bowling.  Me and my boys go from time to time, and it’s been both fun and frustrating to try to figure out why I’m so terrible.  We went yesterday, and I had an experience that I’d like to share with you.


For the first time in several years I scored more than 100.  For those who don’t bowl, this is sort of the first tier of competence.  200 requires nearly all strikes and spares (getting ten pins in two tries), and the best you can do is 300.


I’ve come close to 100 a number of times.  Like everyone else, as I approach the magic number I have a harder and harder time doing what I need to do.  My effort interferes with my ability.


And so it was this time.  There are ten frames (twenty “tries) in which to succeed, and as the game went on, I watched my chances to break 100 get smaller and smaller.  The pressure kept going up as I missed important opportunities.


I have often touted the virtues of failure in this blog.  I’ve talked about how great it is, how necessary it is, and how common it is to fail.  You can’t learn if you don’t fail because you need the experience to point you to success.


Sometimes, though, you don’t fail because of your lack of experience.  You fail because you interfere with your experience.  You get so focused on succeeding that you are no longer thinking about what you need to do to succeed.


Overcoming this mindset is the hardest thing about games (and performing) for me.  I find failure extremely painful, even more so when I think I could have avoided it.  Add my habitual anxiety, and you have someone who doesn’t play games very well!


This time, as I approached the pins with only two frames left to go, I thought about that imminent failure.  I thought about how painful it would be and how scared I was to experience that pain.  Then another thought occurred to me that changed the game.


“Don’t worry about failing. You already know what it will be like.  Don’t stress about the possibility of experiencing it.”


It worked.  It took the edge off the game.  I was able to do what I knew how to do, and I broke 100.


Lots of failure is good for us, but not just because the failure teaches us how to succeed next time.  Failing a lot also brings it down from a catastrophic experience to an ordinary one.  Once we’re no longer afraid of failing, we can function in a world where everything isn’t in our control. 


I’ve failed to get comments from a lot of you in the past.  That doesn’t scare me, but I do like hearing from you.  Please add your comments to the end of this blog!


Adam Cole is a Jazz Musician Who Writes Books. Fantasy author, music educator and performer, Adam chats weekly on the subject of listening, creativity and living your best life. To get a free book on marketing tips for passing out fliers, getting on your own radio show, and writing a blog people will read, please go to www.mymusicfriend.net and subscribe.


Dave July 21, 2019 @07:52 pm

I agree. Hesitancy to fail, especially as the stakes increase - as on the 9th frame - can hinder well worn technique. I would further add to this phenomenon with technology both recording your failures as well as making an error filled performance disposable. Live performance or linear capture such as tape or film tended to incentivize rehearsal and organization. Infinite takes easily edited together take some of that starch out of making music live. It has also seen the rise in quantization as “the truth”. Failure writ large these days is both permanent and disposable. Might as well jump.

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