Making Mistakes

I believe in making mistakes.

At the beginning of each concert band season, my band director always emerged from his office holding mysterious music sheets containing unknown notes, rhythms and time signatures. I sat, sweaty palms slick against the cool metal of my flute, agonizing over the content of the papers in his hands as he finished distributing them across the room.

After skimming the music, the director raised his hands, signaling the start of our sight reading. I raised my trembling instrument to my mouth, took a deep breath and began to play. At first, my fingers stumbled over the rebellious notes that defied the key signature. My mind lost all sense of rhythm, and my eyes struggled to read the smear of notes written on the page. Every note, rhythm and breath that escaped my flute was a mistake.

Suddenly, my eyes landed on a familiar scale of notes. My fingers found their footing on my flute’s keys, and my mind began to recognize patterns in the music. Each time a phrase repeated, fewer and fewer mistakes escaped, until the music printed on the page flowed out of my flute.

In addition to increasing both my anxiety and accuracy, my sight reading experiences left me contemplating my mistakes. Without attempting to play my part, and consequently failing to do so, I would never be able to perform successfully.

This applies to more than just my band class. From spending hours on Photoshop creating a graphic for the school newspaper to mastering the art of mopping quickly yet efficiently at my job, my mistakes are more important in my process of learning than any words of wisdom or book of answers.

Life is an unfamiliar sheet of music. The first rendition will never be perfect, but our blunders prevent us from making the same error twice. As this school year comes to a close, I encourage you to reflect on your mistakes and use them to make next year a successful symphony.