Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt — marvelous error! –
That I had a beehive
Here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
Were making white combs
And sweet honey
From my old failures.
– Antonio Machado, translated by Robert Bly
I hate making errors. Especially difficult is receiving negative feedback. It’s so hard to believe that everyone doesn’t love me, and love everything that I do. What can they be thinking? This was a really good week for me in the realm of receiving difficult feedback.
This poem reminds me of a quote from a card I published at Brush Dance: “My life is one learning experience after another. By the end of the week I should be a genius.”
And to think — I teach the value of failure. In my workshops I sometimes have everyone throw their arms in the air, and shout, “I failed,” with joy, with letting go. And yet, a little negative feedback can bring me down the rabbit hole of self-doubt and self-judgment.
Then, I read the above poem by Antonia Machado, Spanish poet, born in 1875. Though my own judge and critic remained, I could feel myself expand, widen, and lighten. My questions transformed from “How could I have done this?” to “What can I learn from this feedback?”
Some things I’m learning from this poem:
- Don’t chase away failure; embrace them
- When receiving difficult feedback, expand and lighten
- Listen to your heart; let pain and difficulty widen your heart
What can you learn from your “mistakes” and your “failures”?