THE RISE —-Creativity, the gift of failure and the search for mastery- Sarah Lewis
Mastery requires endurance. Mastery is also not the same as success. Mastery is not merely a commitment to a goal, but to a curved line, a constant pursuit. Thomas Edison said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work”.
The word failure is imperfect. We should call the event something else – a learning experience, a trial, a reinvention – no longer the static concept of failure. The creative process, what drives invention, reminds us of how nimbly we convert so-called failure into an irreplaceable advantage.
We thrive, in part, when we have purpose, when we still have more to do. In Navajo culture some craftsmen sought imperfection, giving their textiles and ceramics an intended flaw called a “spirit line” so there is reason to continue making work. The undone work gives the weaver’s spirit a way out. There is an inevitable incompletion that comes with mastery. The greater our proficiency, the more clearly we recognize the possibilities of our limitations. The converse is also true –ignorance protects us from the knowledge required to perceive just how unskilled we may actually be. A young girl wrote to Einstein that she was upset that she was below average in math. Einstein said “do not worry about your difficulties in math. I can assure you that mine are still greater”. Those who strive for mastery play on a field that exists largely within – which is our spirit, will, belief and focus.
“Success if going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm” – Winston Churchill. Masters are not experts because they take a subject to its conceptual end. They are masters because they realize that there isn’t one. Completion is a goal but, we hope, never the end.
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep – Scott Adams. Innovative ideas, after all, are often so counterintuitive that they can, at first, look like failure.
If you surrender to the wind, you can ride it – Toni Morrison. To convert our own energy and operate at full force, often we must first surrender. The power of aikido comes from strategic nonresistance. Aikido deals with perfecting both dimensions of life, how to go down and rise stronger. To relax when threatened is the opposite of our primitive survival reflex – which is to tighten in time of stress. By stopping resisting something, we stop giving it power. Surrender heightens perceptions. Holding two glasses, one empty and one full of water, feel the difference in weight. But if we squeeze our hands and arms we won’t perceive the difference in the two weights nearly as much. When we are stressed we lose access to information. To transform from failure you have to embrace it. Surrendering is about giving yourself over to another mode of being. Life (learning) only comes when you acknowledge the pain (failure) that came with it, not by fending it off. Failure is not punishment and success is not reward. You can choose how you respond.
Einstellung effect: The bias of success that can cost future success in that it can block our ability to see when what has worked well in the past might not any longer.
Louis Kahn said…. ”Nobody knows his own frontiers.”
There is a difference between being beaten and being strengthened for, as it happens, it is hard to perceive.
Zen concept of “beginner’s mind” – a shift in perspective that comes from trying to see things anew after gaining sufficient expertise. Twyla Tharp said….. “experience is what gets you through the door. But experience also closes the door. You tend to rely on that memory and stick with what has worked before. You don’t try anything new.”
Grit is one of the most powerful predictors of achievement. Grit is connected to how we respond to so-called failure. Do we see it as a comment on our identity or merely as information that may help us improve ourselves. Grit is a display of endurance that lets you stay in an uncomfortable place, work hard to improve and do it again and again, without positive reinforcement. To succeed you have to learn to handle failure first. It is not talent, not self esteem, but effort that makes the difference in measurable forms of achievement.
The idea of building grit is that you get that through failure. Grit, is focusing on the process not the outcome. You have to try things out. You can’t be terrified of being incorrect.
Ron Winnegrad has been a Perfumer and teacher for 46 years. As a perfumer, Ron has been able to express the world he sees through a rainbow of olfactive and emotive visions. As a teacher, Ron has helped others to see fragrance through his own multi sensorial lens.