In (show) business we often measure a person by their successes. Perhaps they have appeared on television or in movies or are household names. Aspiring artists often try to measure up to these icons by setting high standards of perfection. We work so hard to be perfect that we rarely think about what might happen if things, as they inevitably do, take a turn for the worse. The late Channing Pollock once said, “you can judge a great magician by how well they cover their mistakes.” That’s right, it is not only about how technically skilled we are but how well we handle failure. The way in which we stand up and move on from these obstacles will often determine how likely we are to succeed.
In my mind there are two ways to handle the inevitable obstacles. One way is to react to what has happened with disgust and irritation, thus treating the circumstance as a negative reflection on you. The other way is to analyze the circumstance (“why did it happen?”, “what actions led to this outcome?”, “how would I handle it differently next time?”) and use the answers as a learning experience. It is important not to dismiss the significance of learning from the mistakes we make to gain an understanding of what we can improve upon. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, talks about 10,000 hours as the magic number to achieve mastery. If this is true, it can take many many years and many hardships before we master a skill. The problem is many of us are afraid to make a mistake because we perceive it as a lack of ability. The truth is, most failure only reflects the absence of a learnable skill. We will never know our limits unless we push ourselves to make mistakes and learn from them. While it is easy to excuse a bad performance by blaming the audience, it is more beneficial if we can look at what we might have done to make the audience unresponsive or unreceptive to magic. We should always be ready to ask ourselves “What can I do better?”, “What can I improve upon?”. Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, once wrote “Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” By learning from our mistakes we prepare ourselves for the next time a similar situation arises.

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