Failure Is Easy (And Sometimes Success Fucking Sucks)

4 Oct

I did a teaching demo today for the owners of a local yoga studio. It was an amazing opportunity – their space is beautiful, they have a ton of teachers that I love and respect on their schedule, and it’s walking distance from my house. I’ve known the two owners for nearly a year, and they’re wonderful women – both are amazing instructors who have a quiet, gentle presence that would put anyone at ease.

Needless to say, I was fucking petrified.

I started out by nervously giggling my way through a short interview, and then spent a few minutes fumbling around with the audio system, trying to get my music to play and hoping that the trembling in my hands wasn’t obvious. I’d planned and reviewed the sequence that I was going to teach, so fortunately I didn’t forget it or anything, but my voice had gone strangely squeaky, and I could tell that my breathing was shallow. After a few minutes, though, I hit my stride and started to feel more confident. After all, I teach several times a week, right? I know how to do this.

Right?

Afterwards, they smiled at me, and told me what a lovely teaching voice and style I had, mentioned that I’d given excellent cues and had clearly been well-trained, and finally said that I had a beautiful practice.

Even a three-year-old could have heard this but coming a mile away.

But, one of them said gently, we noticed that you didn’t look at us. Do you ever walk around the room while you teach? Do you ever offer adjustments?

I do, I do, I stammered, I mean, maybe not as many adjustments as some other teachers, but I can do them. I mean, we learned how to. And I can walk around the room while I teach. We did focus on that in our training. Walking, that is, around the room, and not just demonstrating the poses to the students. It was something my teachers talked a lot about.

It must have been hard to teach to us, said the other, it was probably overwhelming to teach to the two owners of the studio.

I was totally nervous, I said. Didn’t you hear my voice shaking?

It was the sort of thing I knew I shouldn’t have said even before I said it, but then it came out anyway.

They talked to me a bit longer about the importance of connecting with your students, of having a relationship with them, and of maintaining an awareness of what’s happening in the room at all times. I said a few thing that probably sounded like feeble excuses. They thanked me for coming in, said that they had no immediate spots available on the schedule, but would keep me in mind for the future. I thanked them a little too profusely for having me in to demo for them (because it’s an honour to even be asked, right?) and then rushed out the door.

I don’t know which reaction to criticism is worse: to tell yourself that what other people see is wrong, that they just don’t understand what you’re trying to do, that they’re the ones with the ones with the problem, not you, or to do what I did, which was to tell myself that I’d flat out failed.

The thing is, they were right. I didn’t look at them while I was teaching. I probably don’t connect with and engage with my students enough. I do need to get up off the mat and walk around the room more often.

I could have said to myself that I would work harder, that I would take workshops on how to give adjustments, that I would get better and be the best teacher possible. The problem with that line of thought is that it seemed overwhelming and exhausting. I was tired just thinking about it.

It was easier to tell myself that I’d failed, that I was a bad teacher, that I should just give up and move on. It was easier to blame myself for not being prepared enough, for not thinking to look at them often enough, or even for scheduling a demo like this before I felt fully confident in my skills.

Failure is easy. Failure means that I get to give up, relax, not be so hard on myself. Failure means that I get to spend more time at home with my husband and son, and less time improving myself. Failure, somehow, means less anxiety.

Success, on the other hand, can be totally scary. With every success comes the idea that you need to build on it, keep the momentum going, continue to grow bigger and better every day. And success, of course, makes every little failure seem all the more bitter.

Every time I write something on here that elicits a reaction from people, that ends up being passed around on Facebook, or generates a lot of comments, I feel like my next post has to be even better. And then if I go a few days without posting anything that gets a big response, I feel like I’ve lost it, whatever it is: the ability to write, maybe, or to communicate effectively, to touch people.

A few things, though:

1. Every post I write doesn’t have to win the Nobel Fucking Prize for Bloggers

2. I am still just getting started as a writer who is writing things for other people, and not just scrawling messy feelings in my diary.

3. I am still a novice teacher; I just graduated in June for Pete’s sake

4. Who the hell is Pete, anyway? Is it Peter like the apostle Peter, the one who became the first Pope?

5. I really hate that dude.

I am a good teacher; I am also a good writer. I have innate talent in both of those areas (I mean, if I do say so myself). BUT (did you see that but coming?), innate talent will only get you so far. The rest of the way to success is hard fucking work. It’s hard work, and the road is never smooth – every time I succeed, it will likely be followed by a few failures, and it will be a while before I get to the point where I feel like everything is settling down and working out the way I want to. Maybe I never will. See? Fucking scary.

People like to say that failure is not an option, except that it totally is. I could totally pack up my yoga mat and go home. And I could justify that decision a million ways: teaching was wearing me out (true!), I felt like I wasn’t seeing my family enough (also true!), I wasn’t sure how to improve or move forward (double true!). Failing would be easy.

But I don’t want to fail.

I don’t want that to be the lesson that I teach Theo.

I don’t want that to be the lesson that I teach myself.

So if you’ll excuse me, I will take my lovely voice, my excellent cues and my beautiful practice and go work on learning how to properly walk around the room. It’s going to suck at first, and I’ll probably screw it up the first few times I try it, but I’ll ride that out and see it through until I get better. And I will get better, because I am a smart lady who can figure this shit out.

My child, even though I am a stupid misogynist and it’s totally my fault women can’t be priests, I will pray for you.

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10 Responses to “Failure Is Easy (And Sometimes Success Fucking Sucks)”

  1. Carolyn Thériault October 4, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    Never ever EVER write for other people. Write for yourself.

    • bellejarblog October 7, 2012 at 4:05 am #

      That’s fair!

    • shannon October 8, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

      Who is this lady who keeps bossing you in the comments? She must be a relative to get a way with it. 😉

      • Audra Williams October 16, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

        Haaaa for real, right? It’s like, “Anne has a new blog posted! Countdown to critical comment from her aunt in three … two … one … THERE IT IS!”

      • bellejarblog October 16, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

        Yeah, she’s my aunt 😉

  2. ryanfhughes October 4, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    Yeah, it’s tricky shit. I’ve come to a place where I am defining success as “Well, I did it today.” (since that daily thing is the goal I have set for myself) The good-or-bad thing is a different process. What I think I’m starting to realize in my climb back from having fallen off the writing horse is this: The “it” we talk about is the ease, or the voice, or a certain kind of personality that comes through as a result of writing habitually enough that it’s second nature to a degree. I think it’s a little trick we play on ourselves to then want to hang back for fear that we have lost/will lose “it” when the only thing that will pretty much guarantee that is to stop altogether. Our brains, they are out to destroy us.

    • bellejarblog October 7, 2012 at 4:06 am #

      Yes, YES, this is PERFECT:

      The “it” we talk about is the ease, or the voice, or a certain kind of personality that comes through as a result of writing habitually enough that it’s second nature to a degree.

      Also, agreed that our brains are out to destroy us.

  3. Leopard [Crates and Ribbons] October 5, 2012 at 1:29 am #

    So much of this post resonates with me. I’ve always been terrified of failing, especially when it’s related to something I care deeply about. I tell myself that it’s the total number of successes I have that matters, not the percentage of successes out of the number of attempts made, and that helps somewhat. Still difficult though! Good luck with the yoga teaching, I’m sure it’s much better to be a teacher who has a lovely voice, excellent cues and beautiful practice, but doesn’t walk around enough (that can come with practice); than to be a teacher who walks around loads but has a horrid voice, no cues and a hideous practice! =)

    And yeah, who’s Pete, and why do we need to keep doing things for his sake? Lol.

    • bellejarblog October 7, 2012 at 4:08 am #

      Thanks. I do like your reasoning about the number of successes vs. the percentage of successes. And at least I know that they think I’m well-trained! I mean, other than at walking around, I guess.

      Looked up the For Pete’s Sake thing and apparently it IS St. Peter. Well. I’m certainly not going to do anything for HIS sake.

  4. shannon October 8, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

    I really like this: “…innate talent will only get you so far. The rest of the way to success is hard fucking work.”

    Steve mentioned the other day that he works with people who work really fucking hard, and then smart people who rely on what they know. He sees the people working really fucking hard quickly surpassing the smarties.

    I tend to be someone who likes to rely on why I know. I’ve always called it laziness, but I’m not sure that’s completely it. I think I’m also too comfortable in mediocreland. It’s familiar here and no one is pushing me.

    I desire badly to be good at something. Really. Fucking. Good.

    It’s neat to watch you wrestle with this stuff, too.

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