Epic Win or Fail? By Christopher Bill

Christopher Bill

Adam Savage of the Mythbusters has a phrase-turned-mantra, "Failure is always an option." It means that if you set out to do something and try as hard as you can, you will learn so much along the way that the original goal doesn't even matter. My professional career is still a toddler, turning five years old this May, and I've been incredibly lucky during that short amount of time. That said, there's plenty I've set out to do that didn't pan out. I've taken auditions for military bands, for Cirque du Soleil (twice), for brass quintets, and I've won exactly zero of them. I've had conversations with nationally televised late night and Sunday morning news shows, and exactly zero of those have come through.

Living a happy and successful life is about getting dealt a hand, and playing it like a good poker player. You can't change the hand, only the strategies going forward. You could spend all of your energy being upset by what you've been dealt, or you can spend your energy planning what to do next. The other side of that coin is the in-the-moment philosophy. We have to believe we are going to win the audition in order to take it seriously enough and do the necessary work. If there's even a crumb of doubt in your mind, you'll be creating strategies for an exit plan, for what to do after you fail. In my experience, you'll always learn more if you truly believe you are going to win, and then the second it's over and out of your control, let go.

The best example of this is when I got a call to audition for a tour of Blast! right before I graduated. They had their solo trombone slot open for a Japan tour. It had been a dream of mine to perform with that group, so I decided to go for it. When I decide to go for it, I go for it. Part of the audition was to act in different scenes, so I hired an acting coach and took the lessons seriously. Part of the audition was dance and movement, culminating in a piece that you dance and play at the same time. I hired a dancing coach who also choreographed the piece for me to perform. There was a singing portion, so I hired a vocal coach. What happened? I failed. I never got the job. Was all of the time spent practicing and learning new skills and dancing/sweating in a studio in Westchester, NY a huge waste of time? Of course not! I probably learned more in the six weeks I was preparing that audition than I had in the six years prior. Take it seriously until it's out of your control, and then let go and move on.

An example that happens in my normal work-life now is all of the effort I put into my videos, specifically the ones that flop. When I'm working on a video, that means I'm arranging, I'm practicing, I'm recording/filming, I'm editing the audio, I'm editing the video, and I'm doing post-production. I have to believe that every single project I do will be earth shattering, and then the second I hit upload, let go. Even if nobody ever sees the video (and when I started making them, nobody did), I will have learned and grown so much as long as I took it seriously while I was doing it. Failure is always an option. Step one is to take yourself seriously and do everything in your control to win. Step two is to let go, listen to the feedback and the results, and move forward with your newfound skills and knowledge you picked up along the way. Some people get bogged down and depressed from failure. Those who thrive learn from it and welcome it again.