You Can Never Go Backwards

If I had a favorite phrase that could sum up my journey as an artist in the last decade, it would have to be “false starts.” So many opportunities to kneel at the starting line. So many shots in the distance that signaled “This is your time!” And on the other side, so many life situations that said “Hold up. Not so fast.”

Life is a rollercoaster, and we tend to pay more attention to the uphill clanking than any other part of the ride. A loss of momentum can feel like a loss of life. A running out of breath. A moment of questioning, “How much longer can I really keep this up?

As our peers seemingly zoom past us in accomplishment after accomplishment, waving to the digital public, the sense of our own inertia grows in intensity. It’s like being held back a grade while everyone else is graduating.

This negative self-image does no good to our creative process, of course. What’s the point in trying when it always feels like a losing game?

Thankfully, there’s an antidote to this feeling of being left behind that I’ve learned to tap into. It’s the simple reminder that no matter where you’re at in life, you can never go backwards. Here are a few examples:

  1. There may be a world in which I miss a timely opportunity to break new music on a major platform and lose out on thousands of potential plays. But the act of collaborating with talented musicians, creating that music, and releasing that music never goes away. The songs themselves live on forever. I am a better writer and better educated artist because of the process. Everything I create will carry the knowledge that comes from my previous experience, pass or fail. The lessons from my past bodies of work live within me and no one can ever take them away.

  2. The last leg of my first concert tour may be cancelled due to low ticket sales. But the experience I got from performing the first leg live in front of a crowd, large or small, night after night never goes away. The skills I sharpened in rehearsal and the people I worked with to put it all together remain. The road stories I’m living to tell my future students or grandchildren are laced with embarrassing moments and disappointments like this. And with that, I am always moving forward.

  3. I may lose a long-term business partnership that I thought would last a lifetime. But the relationship skills and financial education I received in return for my sweat, blood, and tears are an investment in my present and future. I have a foundation to build on, without ever needing to think about it again.

You can apply this idea to a variety of setbacks, whether it be a tough breakup or a health relapse. If experience is a teacher and knowledge is wealth, what seems like going backward is really just another step closer to living more richly.