Failure is always fine in retrospect. It’s when you’re in the middle of it that things can get dark. You wonder if you’ll ever make anything good ever again. It’s a common fear of creative people: We’re worried we’ll wake up one day and all our creativity will be gone. And yet, there’s not a single creative person out there who hasn’t failed miserably at some point. It’s going to happen, and then it’s going to happen again. What makes someone a pro is how they deal with it — how they move on.
Below, we’ve compiled some of our favorite quotes about dealing with failure from past Musicbed posts. Like Galadriel says to Frodo when he’s leaving the Elven forest: “May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”
I think a lot of it is just sort of that endurance test. There are definitely dark seasons. The money’s lower or you’re just kind of questioning what you’re doing. What’s been great, being a little farther down the career path now, is learning when it’s just a dark season and not the time to start questioning what you’re doing. Sometimes you just have rough days. It doesn’t mean you’re bad at what you do. It’s just a bad month. You have to have that longer view. If you don’t, you could think, I’ve hit the end. This is it. — not knowing there’s more on the other side of it.
Sometimes you try to do something and you end up with this really weird result. It wasn’t the right way of doing it but you learn something. I think there’s something to be said for failing. There’s something to be said for doing things the wrong way because then you end up with all these weird things that you can use in the future.
This film, [A N O M A L Y], is a departure for Dan [DiFelice] and myself and for many of us because we’re not used to doing narrative. If it turns out to be a failure or a success, it doesn’t really matter. Because at the end of the day, what we needed to do was depart from two-minute promo music video things. I cannot stay in that world forever. I need to move on to something different.
I feel like failure is overrated. And success is overrated too. Because you can always come up from it and do the next thing. I think people support who you are more than what youdo.
If I focus on the fact that if I fail here then my whole career is screwed up, that’s going to keep me from pushing forward. That’s going to make me hesitant. That’s going to make me scared to try and do something new. I can’t let failure dictate my next move. I can’t even let success dictate my next move. I’ve just got to — and it feels like this is oversimplified — keep looking at what’s inside of me and keep creating out of that.
Between 2008 and 2011 I started really failing. I made a ton of music and did a lot of things wrong. I tried to market myself and push myself out there, and it just never worked. It came off like I was trying too hard. Like I was trying to get my name out there. And there’s so much noise out there. So in 2011 I gave up. I told everybody I’m done. I handed over all of my clients to my friends and started selling off studio equipment.
But I would say that the day I gave up was the day I felt like things really started happening. I was no longer in it for my name or for commercial recognition. I was in it for the love of the game. Now it just comes so naturally.
I can tell you that the best thing I’ve done in my life is emptied myself out and considered myself a vessel, a kind of conduit to help crystalize stories and bring them to fruition. Whenever I get in the way or I have some kind of forethought or intentionality behind my creative endeavors, they usually fail. These things must come from the sky. If I’m lucky enough to have my ears open and my heart open, then somehow they’re created.
There’s this narrative that I believe we’re afraid of in our culture and in our generation. Whenever there’s struggle or pain or something that’s not working — whether that be sickness or failure or death — we run from it rather than facing it head-on and walking through it. We are looking for avenues of upward mobility. We’re looking for trajectories that are winning formulas, rather than altruistic ones where we put ourselves second or embrace failure or die for the greater good.
The people in the music business that I first talked to about what I wanted to do, they thought I was nuts and I was going to be a failure and lose everything I had…. There were some dark days when I didn’t know if we were going to get by, but there’s always a way. If you want to do something, you find a way to do it. If you don’t want to do something, you find an excuse. At one point I’d invested every penny I’d made into the label, and I was like, Oh, God. I’ve blown it all. What was I thinking? But I felt like I had to do this because I’d rather fail at doing something I love than be successful at something I really just like.
It’s become a cliché now, but it’s one of those clichés that’s actually true: If you’ve never failed, that means you’ve never tried. Failure comes with the territory. Sometimes failure teaches you cool new tricks, and sometimes it leaves you flat on your face. But either way, the key is continuing to make that next thing. Always go back to your work the next day. Because even success is arbitrary — doing something you love is what counts.
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