Lessons From Failure (A List Someone Else As Definitely Written Before)
Artist: Dan Mangan
Song: Troubled Mind
Hello? Is anyone there? It's been so long since I've sat down to write that I have to confess doing so feels a bit foreign. Where do I even begin?
In this instance, I think perhaps the best place to start is with a failure of mine this year. Maybe it's my stubborn attitude or maybe it's been a matter of pride, but accepting failure has never been a strength of mine. I suspect this something others can relate to as well. Very few people I think honestly feel good about failing. I set a goal for myself this year and I failed. Just typing that brings up feelings of disappointment. At 31 years old I'm at a place in my life where accepting failure at least for me is still a weird thing to do. The failure I'm focused on is my project "365 New Tunes". My ambitions to keep writing and listening to new music each day for 2018 lost steam a few months ago when I just couldn't find the time or energy to keep it up (more on this below). This isn't to say that I've completely given up on the idea of finishing the project, but that if I do decide to finish it that it won't be anything like I originally intended. As of late, I've spent some time trying to think about why this project failed and what I could do differently in the future. If my reflection tells me anything meaningful it's that in part at least it can be explained by my increased busyness and that in the lessons in one or another can be reduced to planning, reflecting, and adapting. So what's kept me busy?
January zoomed past me with the 31st marking the 14 year anniversary of the car accident which changed my life. Uncharacteristically the pain in my leg has been a concern for me so fingers crossed it's just a strange flare up and nothing of concern.
In my day job coaching and supporting youth, things have continued on steadily. March marked 6 years after my current place of work which upon reflection is the longest time I've spent in any one place since elementary school. Very weird when I think about it that way. February and March at my workplace also saw the addition of three new team members which have changed the work dynamic in their own unique ways.
The beginning of February also marked the start of an exciting new work opportunity for me in addition to my full-time job working with youth. From February to June of this year I was lucky enough to try my hand teaching a course at Mohawk College. More specifically I had the opportunity to teach an introductory Sociology class to a group of high school youth as part of dual credit program. While I expected it to be enjoyable to return to my Sociology roots (for those that don't know I have a Masters degree in Sociology) it was even more enjoyable than originally anticipated. With only 12 students in the class, I think I may have been a bit spoiled to have such a small class. I'm excited to say that come the autumn I'll be teaching again, but this time a course on Environmental Sustainability. Overall, despite some bumps along the way, the experience of teaching last semester was really great and one I'm super grateful to my friend Bryan for helping me secure.
Throughout much of this time I've also had some health worries about my skin, eyes, and dizziness. Rest easy in that as far as I can tell things seem to be okay. Nonetheless, it's been inconvenient, to say the least. When I haven't been battling with the health annoyances or busy work schedule concerts and board games have continued to be a major source of pleasure for me. While I've caught a lot of great shows this past year I've most enjoyed seeing my friend Carmen's band Diana play again after quite some time, catching An Horse play in Toronto again after a hiatus, and as anyone that will give me their ear for a moment knows absolutely LOVING this awesome band from Oshawa called Dizzy. They're super talented people and so incredibly kind. I couldn't be happier to call them my friends. They have their first album coming out on August 17th called Baby Teeth which everyone reading this should pre-save on Spotify and purchase as soon as it comes out!
Perhaps most significant of all though is that throughout the past year (since October at least), I've also found myself falling more and more in love with my partner. I could ramble on for days about the incredible joy she's brought to my life since meeting her, but I know she'd prefer if I don't in such a public realm. I will say quite excitingly though that she moved in a short while ago and it's been so incredibly nice changing up the living space to make it our own. It's also worth mentioning that we've had some pretty fun adventures already together making an escape to Philadelphia and NYC on the weekend of my mom's passing to enjoy a couple Stars (with Dan Mangan) concerts, awesome food and catch a Broadway show. Definitely a major highlight of my year so far!
Okay - so I've been busy. But what was it that I can learn from this failure?
- Some things are simply out of your control. You can fight against it or you can accept it. Sometimes it's worth trying to fight against and sometimes it's not a fight worth having. Some days writing was so easy and other days it was a struggle. Learning when to push yourself through the struggle and when to take a day off can have a big impact on the overall success.
- Flexible Planning. As my eldest brother is known to say - if you fail to plan you plan to fail. While they're wise words that I sometimes wish I followed more closely I'd sooner completely abandon planning altogether before letting it dictate my life. In the case of this project though I think if I had made some kind of plan for how I was going to stay on top of it might have proved helpful.
- Bite off only as much as you can chew. Knowing how much you can chew comes back to the planning, reflecting, evaluating and assessing of your life. It might be obvious in hindsight about how much is too much I think with some careful planning, thought and even a trial run you can probably get a better idea of what an appropriate amount of work might be. In the case of project 365 New Tunes starting with something much more smaller scale would have been a more appropriate choice.
- Leave time open in your schedule for things to come up or simply doing nothing. As someone that has a serious case of F.O.M.O. (fear of missing out) I sometimes find myself planning something for every second of my free time. While sometimes this can be really fun it can also turn the fun you have planned into an overwhelming burden.
- Figure out your priorities, plan accordingly and most importantly be prepared to throw out that list when something else more important comes along. This one was a BIG realization for me. When I started project 365 New Tunes I was in a very different place in my life just a month or two after I started. I went from being single and working one job to starting a relationship with an incredible partner and taking on a demanding part-time job time in addition to my full-time job. This leads me to my next point...
- Everything and everyone has a limit. Everything is finite. When I'm feeling determined/stubborn sometimes I feel like the "Energizer Bunny" - I'll keep going and going. To be honest it's a quality I really like about myself. Even in the face of adversity or when fighting the odds if I REALLY want something I'll give it my absolute best. The thing is that even energizer batteries die or need to be recharged.
- It's okay to stop doing something you're not enjoying. It's unbelievable to me how long it took me to come to accept this idea. Let me be clear - I'm not saying this is an easy thing to do and sometimes it's not feasible at all, but when it is I think we might all be a little better off if we took this idea seriously. So often in our lives, we get stuck on this idea that we need to do something and keep doing it just because we think we need to when in reality if we stopped life may not change all that much and the change that did occur quite possibly could be for the better.
Are these lessons universal? Will they be of use to anyone else? I don't know, but at the very least taking the time to reflect on them and write them I hope will help me in the future. Enough rambles for now though... I need to seriously start thinking about and getting ready for my trip to China and Mongolia which begins in just a few days! Not sure what internet access will look like on the trip so the tales from my experience might not be shared in real time... only time will tell!