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C06P30 – Don’t try, don’t fail

C06P30 – Don’t try, don’t fail published on 20 Comments on C06P30 – Don’t try, don’t fail

I’ve often heard the phrase, “I don’t like failing, so I just don’t try” and while I understand it, I also view it as one of the greatest mental traps of all time. Personally, I typically fall for a cousin of this concept, which is the “I don’t like failing, so I’ll prepare and prepare and prepare so it’s IMPOSSIBLE TO FAIL BECAUSE I WILL HAVE A CONTINGENCY FOR EVERYTHING.” Still, they’re all in the same family, born of the same place.

The funny thing about learning is that it comes from mistakes, not successes. So it’s strange that we avoid mistakes with such fervor when really they’re the best game in town. John Wooden said “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.” I think this illustrates the consequences of “Don’t try, don’t fail” — namely, that by not trying anything is the greatest failure at all, because it means that nothing is being done! Which means that nobody gets better, nobody learns, and the world becomes a completely stagnant place. How miserable!!

That’s part of why I enjoy seeing how terrible my artwork was ten years ago, five years ago, one year ago. If I can look back and say “Oof! That’s awful!” it means I have gained the skills to see the mistakes. So I’m still getting better. I hope with all my heart that I never look back at my work after a year and think it looks just as good, or better, than the work I’m doing today.

Don’t believe me? Okay. You brought this on yourself. Here’s what I was working on when…
(14 years ago) I was 13: Issue Three of OtherM
(11 years ago) I was 16: First pages of Shades of Grey
(7 years ago) I was 20: 80% of the way through Shades of Grey
(4 years ago) I was 23: I started Oberon’s Garden OCT

Can you see the difference? I sure can. Ye gods, have I improved!


Children visit this site. Moderate your language accordingly.

Sokka: If I had just cut my losses at the invasion, maybe we wouldn’t be in this mess. Maybe sometimes it’s just better to call it quits before you fail.
Zuko: No, it’s not. Look Sokka, you’re going to fail a lot before things work out.
Sokka: That’s supposed to make me feel better?
Zuko: Even though you’ll probably fail over and over and over again-
Sokka: Seriously, not helping.
Zuko: You have to try every time. You can’t quit because you’re afraid you might fail.

I’m just going to quote Avatar from now on, okay? Lol, kidding.

Some of my old art makes me cringe. Yay for improvement! And then there is stuff I wish I could see now, like this story I wrote on a computer when I was really little. I was too young to know that I needed to do something to keep it when we got a new computer… I remember bits of it. It was about me and my brothers surviving in the wilderness. I have a suspicion that I cannot confirm that it was adorable.

I’m not really in the “don’t try so I can’t fail” camp or the “over prepare so I can’t fail” camp. I just kinda think “It’ll turn out alright.” Not a very helpful attitude when it comes to school work (Hey, a B! Great! Oh, a C. Ah, it’ll turn out better next time. Oh, I failed? Oh well, I’m sure my grade won’t be affected too much.) But good for trying new things! Like I made my backpack for my senior year of high school… out of duct tape. It lasted the entire year! If I was “don’t try” I wouldn’t have attempted it at all. (I also didn’t care a bit what people thought of me, or I wouldn’t have been able to do it.)

Auugghh that’s one of my favorite exchanges!! (Although my all time top line from ATLA is Zuko and Iroh talking about pride and shame.) You’re making me want to do another ATLA marathon viewing!!

If I could give you some of my obsessive fear of failure, and you could give me a little of your relaxed confidence, we’d probably be unstoppable AND balanced when it came to motivation and quality work product. 🙂 Frankly, I’m envious about your approach. I often wonder how much more I would try if I could let go of my need to worry! In the end, I’d rather try new things more and have “perfection” less!

Mine is “I don’t like failing, so I’ll start over again and again and again/overwork this one concept to death.”

I know how you feel about your art– I’m not yet in a place where I can do that, but it’s coming, methinks. 🙂

Also it is very hard for me to remember that you are nine years older than me.

9 years older, and the learning is only beginning for me. Life is a very grand adventure indeed. 🙂

I can relate to your version of the “I don’t like failing” mental trap. I’m particularly susceptible to that one when painting. It will always be “not quite right” so I keep messing with it, but that always makes it worse and worse and then I have more and more to fix. I’ve learned that sometimes when I hit that first instinct to “fix” it, that’s the moment I should put down the paint-brush and walk away! The reason is that instinct to re-work is actually the manifestation of one of my negative patterns, and once I’m in it, it’s hard to get out of!

What does it feel like when you start to feel the rework itch?

I honestly never don’t feel that itch. It’s very frustrating. From the moment something is sketched, everything is a fight against reworking. 😛

Keep fighting the good fight!! I’ve been doing that with a lot of my patterns lately, and I’ve discovered that if I work with them, and study them, and figure out how they work, eventually I’m able to develop different mechanisms for coping.

Example: I have a pattern where if people ask me to do something, I agree to it automatically. The worse it would be for me to agree, the more likely I am to go along with the request. I figured out that I did this because I didn’t value myself or my own time. If I didn’t matter, then why shouldn’t I make myself miserable for the sake of other people that did? At first I tried just to “quit” the pattern cold turkey and say no – but it was too harsh a change. Instead, I learned to give myself time to think. I developed stalling tactics, so that I could have a moment or two to evaluate and ask myself questions. Is this something I want to do? Do I have the time and energy? What might be a better solution?

I’m hoping that as I practice this new skill, eventually I can grow out of the training wheels of stalling. I’m sure that, given time, you will find your own kinds of solutions too!

I know your feels. Someday, if I ever become a published author, I would like to post excerpts of the various drafts everything I’ve ever written has gone through because it will make people laugh.

…I’m not really sure that the “try and try again” rule really applies to ruling a kingdom though. D: (Although, admittedly, what Tama’s really avoiding is anything that could help him learn the skills he needs.)

Most success I’ve seen in life comes from people who, a) are not afraid of making mistakes, b) are bloody mindedly stubborn and tenacious at both finding out why they failed and what further knowledge they need to gain to achieve their goals.

Some of the biggest failures from my childhood were exceptional people with excellent IQ’s that crashed against the rocks of reality and couldn’t understand and use failure to forge themselves into better people. It’s how I lost one of my best friends to drugs. His life motto would be, “If at first you don’t succeed, then quit and go get high.”

I definitely have the bloody mindedly stubborn part down. I’m still working on fixing the first part tho. Fortunately, I’m equally stubborn about one day conquering my fear of mistakes too. 😉

What happened to your friend sounds like a very difficult thing to witness. It’s so hard to watch a person make decisions that will hurt them. At the end of the day, it’s their life, no matter how much we might wish they lived it differently.

I’ve known several people with remarkable gifts that couldn’t get out of their own way. It’s always been heart-breaking to see people breaking themselves. Whether stuck in bad patterns, or unable to face themselves or consequences. I’ve often wondered why – What series of events allowed me to dodge so narrowly the pitfalls they stumbled into? Is it all just luck? Genetics? Cosmic alignments? Divine intervention? Sometimes it can be a very baffling and frustrating thing to even think about.

Your story reminds me the story of my father. At the age of sixteen, he failed to become a student on the faculty of theoretical physics, and decided to study physics for himself. Several months later he discovered that to understand physics he needs some math background, and so he decided to study math “for a while”, before coming back to physics. The next time he tried a book on physics was about 20 years later. All the time in between he studied math on his own.

He never changed university, and for 27 years he has been working as an engineer, with no nearly no one, not even my grandparents, understanding his lust for math. He always thought, that the people that have had a proper math education were far ahead of him, and so studied desperately to come on par. Actually, most of those who studied math in the university were far behind him, and, though having my mom as an example, he didn’t happen to get that.

My dad is 56 by now, and he is doing math and working as a system architect in aviation. That is for now, for he changes his job once in several years, and has never betrayed his love to math. Two years ago he has been giving a talk on an international conference in Germany, as a now rare example of an amateur mathematician.

@kolya Ivankov
Mark Twain, that ever observant American put your father’s career path in a maxim I’ve always followed: “Don’t let Education get in the way of your Learning.” Only you know what you want to accomplish in life and can pursue personal learning goals that allow you to achieve it. The more gifted often don’t fit the educational mold chosen for them.

Holy shiz that’s a crapton of improvement!

I’m impressed, completely and totally. Especially as someone who falls into Tama’s trap completely and 110%; I’ve had to learn ways to push myself.

I awkwardly enough do the same thing with my videos. Whenever people start discoraging themselves or I start discouraging myself I dig out the oldest thing I have onhand to remind myself of how much I improved. I keep both my first fanfic EVER and my first AMV EVER on my respective profiles just so I can prove to people, and myself, that A, I’m not perfect, and B, everyone can get better.

I think those are great things to revisit! No matter what a person does – from carpentry to calculus – the first steps are going to be awkward. Even if we’re really proud of them at the time! Being able to look back on previous work and view it as a reminder, rather than an embarrassment, is a really valuable exercise!

It really is! The more I look at them, too, I’ve come to learn another very important skill. Something that I actually heard first in one of my favorite novels when I was like, eight or nine – look at your own work objectively, and learn to see both the flaws and merits. Since I look at a lot of my old stuff and go, “That needs fixing, that needs fixing, that part was absolute crap, WHY DO OTHER PEOPLE LIKE THIS SO MUCH?”

But when I look at it objectively, it gets easier, because I don’t fall into the chronic-depression trap of “It’s mine so it must suck, it’s not perfect thus it’s terrible.” I still refer to both of my ‘firsts’ as my closet-skeletons, though. XD

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