What Can I Learn from Failure?

By Brayden B.

“Man…You have got to get out of here now and don’t come back until you know this tune. Come back next week with the tune learned or I will fail you so fast it’ll make your head spin.”

How well I remember these words from my music professor. I was in college studying jazz guitar. I had a professor who was known for being very demanding of his students. He was a great master of jazz, a graduate of Julliard. Filled with excitement and fear of whether I would measure up to what this teacher expected me to do, I had begun my lessons with him. My fears had been fulfilled; it had taken everything I had to be able to keep up with the pace at which he wanted me to learn.

His demanding, harsh words came at the end of a week when I had been assigned to learn the tune “Donna Lee” as played by Charlie Parker. The tune is characterized by an incredibly fast tempo with a flurry of notes that untrained ears can barely keep up with. I had to memorize the melody and be able to improvise a solo over the harmony in the next week. I spent a few hours over the week working on the tune, probably not as diligently as I ought to have. I came to the lesson feeling, or at least thinking, I was fairly prepared. I went into the lesson and my professor started by counting off “Donna Lee.” I performed the tune nervously and with several noticeable mistakes; I knew that I was not measuring up to my professor’s expectations. I finished and my professor turned around from his piano. He looked at me shaking his head in a disappointed stare.


“Man… you could have done way better than that. How many hours did you work on this?” he asked.

“A couple of hours here and there,” I replied with embarrassment.

“What? That is not acceptable. You should have been working on this a couple of hours every day.”

As my professor looked down to the floor and shook his head a few times, and threatened to give me a failing grade, I knew this was a major failure.

Over the years, in order to teach me important life lessons, God has often presented me with obstacles and challenges which can only be conquered through practice of a particular concept He wishes to teach. He patiently helps me though my failures to understand what I need to do to succeed. Though some challenges at times were difficult and the failures devastating, the lessons that I have learned have been invaluable. My experience with this professor was definitely a time to learn.

After his harsh criticism, I left his office with my head hanging down and a pain in the pit of my stomach. I had wanted to succeed so badly and I had failed. I committed that I would not let this happen again. So over the next week I practiced at every spare moment I had and when I did not have a guitar in my hands I practiced in my head. I ate, slept, and breathed “Donna Lee.” When I came to the lesson I was one hundred percent prepared.

I walked into my professor’s office and he immediately counted off “Donna Lee.” I played it without a single flaw; my preparation had paid off. It was then that I received the thought, no doubt from God himself that this lesson was not about teaching me “Donna Lee,” one song that I would play only every now and then. It was about teaching me the lessons of diligence and patience so I could apply this same practice to learning other songs and into anything else. I could take this lesson and use it in all aspects of my life.

From this experience I have learned that any and all oppositions that come to me are blessings and lessons from God meant to teach me the things he knows I need to learn. I take comfort that he counts me worthy to be his student and he loves me enough to teach me the lessons that are, as another teacher of mine has said, “not always good to me but always good for me.”

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One thought on “What Can I Learn from Failure?

  1. angelica says:

    thanks for the advice

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