At my improv class on Saturday, I was taught, when I flubbed anything, to take a bow while announcing as loudly and proudly as I could, “I failed!” That physical and verbal exercise was meant to release the tension of an error. When my mind went blank, I’d bow and say, “I failed!” When I couldn’t resist the urge to pre-plan my next move, I’d bow and say, “I failed!” When I couldn’t think of one thing after another that I love about myself, I’d bow and say, “I love EVERYTHING about myself!” On that particular exercise, that statement was the substitute for “I failed!”
Failure is tough for me. Even when they lightened it up and made it okay, it was tough for me. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like hearing those words from my mouth at all.
During class, the instructor kept relating what we were learning to real life. Learning to go with the flow is good for real life. Learning to be willing to take risks is good for real life. Learning to deal with and continue on from failure is good for real life.
I can think of a few places where a grand “I failed!” might be helpful – at Toastmasters when I flub a table topic, at a speed workout when I don’t quite hit my splits, or at a book club meeting where I don’t quite finish the whole book before the meeting. (Yes, that does happen at times even though I am the leader of one of my book clubs.) But in the bigger picture – races, relationships, work – I hate those two words. When I feel like I’m on the verge of failure with those things, nothing can release the tension. Nothing.
Right now I’m feeling a lot of tension.
The number one thing I learned at this improv class was the importance of being able to acknowledge failure and move on, but I’m a little leery of writing about the importance of being able to acknowledge failure and move on. It’s that same uneasy feeling I experienced when I joined the production team for a bike ride designed to raise money for organizations that help families facing breast cancer. In my little mind, becoming an advocate against breast cancer somehow upped the chances that I would face a breast cancer diagnosis. I actually feared that and sometimes still do. And yes, I know it’s ridiculous. But that’s how my mind works sometimes. So given that admittedly twisted manner of thinking, if I say that I learned something about acknowledging failure, am I going to have to acknowledge failure in some grand way in the near future?
To be safe, how about I just say that I had a whole lot of fun during the two-hour sample class and would love to take a real class sometime. Yeah, let’s just leave it at that.