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Nurture Success by Filtering Out Failure

Truthfully, 90% of my world is struggle and failure, and 10% of my world is success. Truthfully, only a few people know about this ratio: my family, my close friends, and my dog (who obviously counts as a person). Truthfully, I recently decided to filter out my failures from self-description to everyone else, making the ratio appear to be 10% failure and 90% success, and doing so has greatened the quality of my successes.

6 years ago, although I had accomplished some cool things in high school and in my undergraduate degree, I was a nobody in my profession. My life was an open book, 90% flaws included, so these accomplishments were buried under a pile of poop. I shared my flaws out of guilt and fear; I thought they could be excuses, in case I failed more. This backfired; I was stuck in an unwanted lifestyle. Showing all my weaknesses allowed people to control me, and I believed my career reached a dead end.

5 years ago, I met my now-fiancée, Angela, who rebuilt my confidence. She changed my life-view with one sentence: "You complain too much." She was right. (She is always right...) I started to shut-up about my short-comings and talk more highly of myself, and nicer opportunities started to arise. I was invited to play in several bands, I picked up enough students to quit my "day job," and I even got a weekly $150 gig, playing at a local bagel shop. Coincidence? I think not.

4 years ago, Angela and I moved to Michigan, after only a few weeks of knowing we would. Our only friends were the creepy crawlies infesting our tiny apartment, we'd never lived together before, and living in a new environment was unsettling. I was jobless, so I put on a happy face, pretended my life wasn't a mess, and amplified my successes to local businesses. This landed me two jobs, and a gig: vocal coaching University students, fixing MIDI tracks for Piano Adventures, and playing keyboard for a worship band. I struggled with all three positions, spending most after hours catching up and preparing for the next day. Nobody but Angela really knew this, so I appeared to be highly intelligent and efficient; this lead University teachers to recommend more students to me, Piano Adventures to give me a pay raise, and members of my band to become good friends.

3 years ago, Angela and I moved, again, to attend graduate school in Arizona. In today's America, getting a Music degree is nearly impossible for the poor, so I worked many jobs to stay afloat, remotely working for Piano Adventures, organizing an international competition, teaching privately through ASU, and running a traveling piano teacher business. Also, in today's America, graduating on-time means taking 5 million credit hours per semester. Due to my perfectionist attitude, I pulled more all-nighters than I had in my entire life, but my professors only knew end products, and I received all A+s for the remainder my graduate studies.

2 years ago, I dove into MTNA activities (Music Teacher's National Association) adding more instability to the Leaning Tower of Me. During conferences, I sweated through my introvert personality, befriended many people, and snuck my successes into every conversation. I gave my first conference presentation at the ASTMA conference, and my presentation was so organized and clear that it landed me the position of technology chair for the state. In reality, I barely threw the presentation together after a night of pulling my hair out. (FYI, this pretty much happens every time I give a presentation.) As technology chair, I attended board meetings, during which I had no clue what was happening, but I nodded my head and smiled. My demeanor gave others the impression that I was competent, and prepared them to consider my input when I eventually felt knowledgable enough to give it.

1 year ago, I graduated, and my bank account nearly dropped down to $0. I could no longer work for the school, many of my private students were taking summer breaks, and a huge storm of bills hit me, some by choice (investments) and some by bad luck (ambulance ride, pet surgery, etc.). However, as I did since 5 years ago, I stuck to my failure filter philosophy, and kept the world focused on my successes.

Now, because I did, my bank account is back on the rise, FJH music company agreed to publish my piano compositions, my teaching business attracted many new students, ASMTA assigned me to a higher position, Piano Adventures gave me another raise, a handful of pedagogical rockstars are name-dropping me, Angela and I have many friends, a local arts school may be hiring me for a class piano position, and my international reputation is growing. Who knew a 5 year old decision would now be saving my butt. I feel like I walked in the rain for 5 years, under an imaginary rainbow, and found a real pot of gold at the end.

Truthfully, my story is reproducible, and you can find your own "pot of gold," too. Work hard, struggle, fail a lot, and you will squeeze out a few successes. Then, filter out your failures, be confident about your successes, and your successes will become greater.


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1 Comment

Lianna Rivera
Lianna Rivera
Mar 27, 2019

Thank you, Christopher, for writing about your experience with this. Sharing about and highlighting your successes to the right people will definitely push you further in life! This is how we can open the right doors to opportunities that are meant for us. But sharing about your failures and struggles helps everyone else know you are still human, just like them. And to achieve these great things is possible for anyone who is willing to work hard and pursue their goals. Why do we follow celebrities, influencers, and other successful people on social media? Because we love to see the behind-the-scenes. We love to see what that level of hard work actually looks like. We often hear the cliche quote…

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