Failing an Audition is Like Falling Off a Bike: You Never Forget
Timothy has been begging us to take his bicycle on the street and, since he just got a new helmet and he is still using training wheels, we agreed. Well, we agreed to let him ride on the sidewalk, which for what he wants is just as good. There is a church around the corner with a big open parking lot and lots of ramps perfect for a soon to be six-year-old to gain confidence on his bike.
On the way home he was riding slowly, hit an uneven part of the sidewalk, and wiped out into the nearby grass. He was not hurt but he was a bit frustrated.
“Buddy” I said, “when the bike knocks you over it is trying to teach you a lesson. What was it trying to teach you?”
Sophomore year in high school I was your typical hotshot trumpet player. Higher, louder, and faster was good, better, and best and I knew I was destined for greatness. We had a small regional band festival for southeastern Massachusetts that was by audition, and I knew my place in the trumpet section was guaranteed. When the results for seating at the festival came in, I confidently walked into my band director’s office to see what chair I got.
“Sorry, old bean” he said, “you didn’t make it.”
I was devastated. I had fallen into the trap of being overconfident and underprepared and was now reaping what I had sowed. Adding insult to injury I now had to explain to my friends that I would not be joining them at the festival.
I decided then I would never let that happen again. I would take every audition seriously and put forth my best effort to always be prepared. The next year I made it into that festival (and the year after that as well, despite having a fever on audition day). I also made it into the District Festival. And eventually All-State. In the end, my high school career was marked with only one failed audition.
In retrospect I cannot call that a failure. I learned from the unsuccessful audition that I needed to properly prepare and to take every opportunity seriously. I was not good enough that time. And my teacher, thankfully, allowed me to feel that pain and learn the lesson failure was trying to teach me. There is no losing, there is winning and there is learning. And I learned a lesson that day that I have carried with me ever since.
As I helped Timothy pick up his bike, I asked him again what he could have done differently to have avoided falling over.
“Go faster!” he confidently (and correctly) exclaimed.
One lesson learned. Now to take off the training wheels and see what more the bike will teach him.