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How Embracing Failure Helps You Achieve Success (and Why It’s Important)

Acting instructors often encourage students to embrace failure, but how and why that is important might feel muddy. Why fail when you don’t have to? It’s hard! It’s scary! Let’s break down a few of the many ways failure is crucial to an actor’s development.

Failure Helps You Develop an Ear

There is simply no other way to attune yourself to an audience than to fall flat on your face sometimes. You won’t know where your boundaries are if you don’t occasionally cross them.

In live performance, there is a relationship with each audience. To respect that relationship, learn from it, and earn enough trust to build on it, you have to listen. Naturally, the feedback won’t always be good. But if you don’t let yourself fail, feel the failure and learn from it, you will not be able to read a room. It will stifle the actor-audience connection.

This is true for film acting as well. You will always be surrounded by colleagues: directors, fellow actors, production team, etc. If you can’t let yourself fail in front of them you’re not earning the trust of your artistic team either. Letting go of the inhibitions that keep you from risk will inspire a professional atmosphere of trust, and help you and your fellow actors lift one another up.

Failure Makes You Bold

Fear of failure, rejection, and humiliation often prevent us from making brave and interesting choices in our work. Knowing how to fail and keep going conditions you to take chances. It frees you from self-imposed limitations.

The more you can embrace failure as a positive tool in your work, the further and faster you will be able to grow in the diversity of your choices. Embracing failure also helps you practice living with, and working through discomfort, an invaluable tool for an actor. (Let the distinction stand that working while uncomfortable is different than being unsafe–only the former is professionally useful).

If You Don’t Let Yourself Fail, the Character Can’t Either

The character must fail. For there to be conflict, vulnerability and growth of a character they must not always be likable. And you can’t let yourself be anything but perfect, you will be hard-pressed to allow your character their genuine flaws.

Audiences Love Failure

Audiences love to watch failure. They love the risk, the struggle, the reach for triumph and the invitation to share in your defeat. It’s bonding. It makes you relatable and real. It invites intimacy. Let yourself be real.

Embracing failure is not only a good professional skill, but a good personal one. Though easier said than done, it is a skill worth working for. Also, it’s simply inevitable. No one gets through an acting career (or a life) without some failures. If it’s going to happen anyway, why not make it work for you?

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