It feels like the last fifteen years have been filled with positive messages about failure. My generation seem to have arrived at our peak (ahead at work, senior in many things, making decisions for our communities) and taken time to reassure one another that failure is a part of the process. That if you’re not failing, you’re not trying.
As a juggler, I’m very familiar with that kind of mindset. We used to say “A drop is a sign of improvement” and “a touch is as good as a catch” and other such encouraging things. We meant them too.
But it occurs to me now, sitting in my job’s break room, thinking about the debt I have tied up in my house, that we only risk failure willingly when the stakes are not high. No one was forcing me to learn to juggle. Although I tried to make it into a business, nothing major hung on it. I wanted to make a living from juggling, or teaching juggling, but when I couldn’t, I went out and got a regular job. You MIGHT say I failed
Following my own logic, then, I should be willing to risk failure in my hobbies. Eager, even, since there are no real consequences, and no one to disappoint. I can carry on mucking about with upgrading Derek the Dalek and no one minds if it takes ages and goes off the rails from time to time. Right?
Well, no. There’s me. Although the stakes may not be high in terms of life or death, lose the house, bankrupt the family, I DO feel there are stakes involved. Derek earns nothing for the family. We have fun parading him around, but every dollar I spend on him is a sunk cost. The next stage of the upgrade is making a cast of the 3d print I just did of the front half of his shoulders (see picture above). If I get this bit right, we can replace the wood and hardboard construction of his shoulder section with lighter but just as strong fibre glass, giving Laurel much more room inside to work his various functions. But the gear for casting has cost $150. Just making the front half on the printers has cost at least $60. I’ve never done any casting before, and right here is where I am suffering my greatest fear of failure. The next step I take might wreck some of the supplies. I might use too much and have to buy more. I might even get as far as producing the mold, and then get the casting bit wrong. There are SO MANY opportunities to get this wrong and waste money I don’t have, and yet the outcome if it all goes right it just people going “Hey, that looks pretty much the same from outside.”
Mrs Dim sometimes says she doesn’t understand why I have hobbies that make me angry or depressed, but the truth is, it’s not the hobby, it’s ME. I want to do this thing, like fitting Derek’s speech box, and I muck it up. I might not even know HOW I mucked it up, but I do know I’m not learning anything from the experience other than that I can’t trust myself to get these jobs right. I’m fifty now, and I think the real fear of failure is that I can’t learn a new skill, can’t master something I didn’t spend time on before.
I don’t want to be afraid of trying, but I really, really don’t want to screw this stuff up.