Sometimes we have to talk about things that make us feel uncomfortable, and nothing makes me feel worse than the idea of failure.

In my family growing up, we were expected to do well. Not just do your best, but actually succeed. Oh it was never stated out loud, it was communicated much more subtly. My brother was bringing home trophy’s for football, my older sister never got anything but A’s, and we were always very competitive. It was important to win. And I lost a lot growing up.

With that said, around 7th grade I found my secret weapon. While I didn’t have some of the advantages my siblings had, I was good in music. Aha, I thought, that’s my ticket in life. And for quite some time, it was.

I did well for quite some time on talent alone. I wasn’t a real hard worker, to say the least. But eventually I had to put in more effort to succeed. (to win!)

And the winning was fun! I wasn’t going to win at sports, and my report card didn’t win any awards. But hey, music was fun, and winning was nice to. Until I wasn’t always winning. Boy did that suck. When you put all your eggs in one basket, and it’s not going great, well to someone that learned that winning was everything, it was the epitome of our favorite word: FAILURE!

But it just wasn’t that I didn’t win that particular time, it was more like I WAS a failure.That can sink you way down. As they say in the south “lower than a snakes belly in a wagon rut”.

But my nature was such, that I determined upon any LOSS that I would work harder than ever, so I could prove them wrong! I was no LOSER! And it did provide a lot of inspiration to practice, work hard, and avoid more losses, if at all possible.

Fast forward many years, and I’d achieved my long held goal, I was making my living playing trombone. Would I rather have been playing for the Green Bay Packers, well sure, but this was still success, and I was still a WINNER! And yet, I was only in the St. Louis Symphony, not New York, Chicago, LA, some more lofty position. Why wasn’t I satisfied? This I needed to figure out.

Well as time and life went on, I started to realize something. I had learned years ago that I was not a WINNER. As a little boy, losing over and over to a big brother that was four years older, bigger and more developed, I was just a LOSER! No one else was telling me that, I told MYSELF that! And I carried that around with me for years. And because of how I grew up, losing and being a loser meant I was a FAILURE. Kind of sucks, doesn’t it!

So what I needed to do was not more time in the practice room, but more time dealing with the thoughts in my head.I had to erase that old tape that kept playing, and record a new one. But it had been playing a long time, and was well ingrained. What was required now was a daily reset.

And it didn’t have to do with any current losing or winning. It just had to do with knowing that whatever happens to me in life, I was worthy, and didn’t have to do anything one way or the other to be such. Becuase there is no winning or losing in the big game of life. No one is a FAILURE.

Sure, you will have lots of set backs, things don’t always go your way. But you can determine how you deal with those situations. What do you tell yourself after that audition? My advice (should you care for it!) is to learn whatever you can from it, play some more long tones, and support yourself with the kind of inner conversations that leave you intact as a human. Congratulate yourself for the effort. Because it’s hard work. Not just the actual audition, the try out for the team, whatever. It’s all the hours spent leading up to it. The practice, the anxiety before, the nervous feelings in the moment. You deserve credit just for the attempt, regardless of the outcome.

And win or lose, NEVER tell yourself you’re a loser. Just getting born into this world is no mean feat! You have a right, just by being here, to never think of yourself as a FAILURE! You are a WINNER, a SUCCESS! You are here, on the planet, in the game! Always reward yourself for effort. Learn, try again, be proud that you were brave, you took a chance. It’s never easy to go for something, and the effort itself is worth a good pat on the back.

You can just remove that word from your vocabulary!

None of us is ever a FAILURE! We may have LOTS of less than successful attempts. It does not define us. It initiates us into a very big club. “The Humans that Try Club”.

And  if you believe in Darwin, don’t you think that first little fish that crawled out of the slime onto dry land was scared out of their tiny little mind? Where were they going? What made them try to do that? Everyone said they couldn’t do it, and they probably didn’t make it very far. But that next fish thought, well heck, if they can try, I can. I think I might just make it!

And a few million (or is it billion?) years later, here we are, playing trombone and  sports and everything else. And if that little fish didn’t try, where we would all be now? I doubt you can ever play trombone under water, with fish lips!

Keep your eyes on your goal, work hard, work smart, and don’t ever think the outcome of any one thing determines your value. That’s already been baked in. We are all WINNERS! Each of us is a SUCCESS story!

Now go out, and try everything. Lose, and try again. Relax, confident in the knowledge that you ARE A WINNER!

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