Three cookies this week, all of which orbit the idea of making mistakes, or failing.
The principle here—that you learn far more from “failures” than from success if only you allow yourself to—can be applied to your work, your life, your art.
What is rehearsal other than a series of mistakes and failures that are in fact discoveries, as Mr. Edison states? A process of elimination—or perhaps more elegant to think of it as a process of refinement—that results in finding a way that works. And note that “a way that works” in no way necessarily means your process is done. The first way that works can almost always be improved upon. Consider Edison’s light bulb… now we have smart stage lights that can do all sorts of instantaneously magical things. Or his phonograph… connect the dots to your iPod.
Ms. Angelou says the same thing more succinctly, as is her way. What I especially appreciate about her phrasing here is the implicit grace underlying the exhortation. Once again, your process will never be done. You can keep learning more, keep improving, keep refining. You can maintain your humility and humanity even as you achieve expertise. And even more importantly, to my mind, is to offer that grace to those around you, to understand that they too are in process.
Dr. Unknown dives even deeper into this idea of humility, because ego will often whisper to you to hold on to that mistake, to not change your mind, to not admit your failings. It’s classic poker mentality, throwing good money in after bad, refusing to fold (fail?) just because you’ve already invested so much capital. That is faulty not just intellectually but emotionally. Come back to your theatrical art… it is an ever on-going exercise in RELEASING… releasing the choice in rehearsal that isn’t effective; releasing that awesome choice from rehearsal that proves itself actually ineffective once in front of an audience; releasing the entirety of the performance each night; releasing all of the work once closing rolls around. Clinging keeps you static, makes it impossible for you to REACH… to continue your PROCESS. Consider the various applications… releasing allows you to forgive; to receive; to climb; to lift someone else up.