Do Not Fear Mistakes - There are None.
“Do not fear mistakes - there are none.”
- Miles Davis
In my art classes at Pepperdine, the one lesson I learned that was probably the most revolutionary to my work is to not fear ruining a painting. Typically, once I get to an image where I like a painting enough, I’ll stop for fear that I can never get it back on track if I mess it up. A professor of mine encouraged me to take paintings that I like and push them a little further until it’s something that I love.
For me, someone who liked to start out with a plan of exactly how a painting would look, then work until it looked the way I wanted it to, that was a hard concept to grasp. It was hard to let go of that little bit of control, that little bit of fear. I was encouraged to experiment by taking my painting, identifying a slight inkling I had of what might make it even more interesting, and setting aside my fear of failure to just try it. He said that sometimes you have to wreck your plans in order to make it better.
So I tried it, and guess what - I loved it. Sometimes it worked great, and sometimes it didn’t, but I could always course-correct if I hated it. It was freeing not being bound by fear of failure, it was empowering knowing that if it started to go down a path I didn’t like I could change it, and it was exciting because by doing so I allowed my work to surprise me. If you’re a creative, I highly recommend trying this in your own work.
Looking back, this isn’t just a lesson in painting. It’s a lesson in life as well. Go back and change “a painting” to “my life” and the lesson applies. Not to say you should try everything that crosses your path - some fear in life is an indication of real danger and I believe in listening to your gut, so it is important to identify the source of the fear. Is it fear that you’re not good enough? That you won’t succeed? That if it doesn’t work back you’ve lost your comfort zone forever? If after some thought you determine that a change or a different course than you intended might lead to a fuller life, don’t be afraid to try. If it doesn’t work out, course-correct. It may take up a little more of your time, but it is better than being ruled by fear of failure and never allowing yourself to be pleasantly surprised by the result.