This past weekend The Utility Players participated in the 10th annual San Francisco Improv Festival. Amazing does not aptly describe this weekend of improv jamming, watching master improvisers take to the stage, and all the lessons I took away from the experience. One lesson in particular has had a great impact on me; at a workshop we attended, we were asked to step into the middle of a circle and proudly proclaim "I Failed!". We were then met with cheering, clapping, and supportive affirmations. I have never witnessed so many individuals, and actors at that, openly admit that they had failed at something.
Typically, we do everything within our power to disassociate with failure. As part of our personal prehistory and cultural mythology, failure has become a dreaded state of being. As opposed to being able to admit a mistake, a label of "being" is attached to our identity. It is no longer "I failed in this one instance." Instead, we become "failures". And yet, I see an endless parade of memes stating how our greatest failures can be our greatest opportunities for growth and personal development. So why do we run from failure?
I have seen actors, when given notes, compete in a rousing game of mental gymnastics, talking their way out of personal responsibility and ownership. "It was the lights, the crowd, everyone else on stage, Mercury in retrograde, etc." As if admitting failure tarnishes and diminishes their skills or talents. What would our shows look like - and our lives for that matter - if when somebody failed, they shouted with jubilation, "I FAILED", and were met with sincere support and congratulations? I can say that it was definitely easier to step into that circle and admit my own shortcomings when others had bravely acknowledged their's first.
So, I am going to spend less time saving face by rationalizing and justifying my failures, and spend more time simply admitting "I failed," and use all that left-over energy on learning and improving for the future.
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