I recently read an article in Newsweek on Ben Kingsley titled, On the Horror of Being Called ‘Absolutely Suburban’, and was blown away.

In this article, Kingsley, the Oscar-winning actor for his role as Gandhi, admits to having been prideful as a young actor. After finishing a rehearsal for the world-renowned theater director Peter Brook, he awaited his praise and was initially shocked to hear something quite the opposite.

I saw Peter Brook, the great director, advancing slowly across the rehearsal room with a twinkle in his eye. I thought mistakenly that he was about to say, “My dears, that was absolutely wonderful!” I stood up mistakenly waiting for the praise to fill my actor’s begging bowl. He put his hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye, and said, “Dear Ben, that was absolutely suburban.” There was a long pause after the word “suburban.” And he said, “If we want to watch suburban, we’ll stick our heads over our neighbor’s fence.”

He proceeded to give the actors constructive criticism to which they applied and when they did the play in New York, this particular scene received several rounds of applause.

Perversely, I thank God we were so bad. Without me having to transcend the word “suburban,” I don’t think I would have been able to play the amazing characters I have onscreen.

Peter Brooks was pushing him. Squeezing the brilliance out of Kingsley that he knew was there. Brooks was actually doing him a huge favor. But how many of us would’ve reacted emotionally and been resistant to the idea that we needed improvement? How many of us would’ve let our ego get in the way of revealing the greatness within simply because of pride?

This is where a healthy dose of humility is helpful.

Failure is an event, never a person; an attitude, not an outcome. – Zig Ziglar

I don’t know about you but when I used to think of amazing actors like Ben Kingsley, and other innovators and leaders, I tended to think they were always just that brilliant from the get-go. But now I know better and have come to realize that they are people too. Like you and I. And they were once neophytes making the typical mistakes we all do.

It makes it that much easier to believe that we, too, can realize the greatness within us. That we are not separate from them. Only our thinking makes it so.

So would it be safe to say that those who make it to the top of their fields not only have the skill but perhaps more importantly, are really good at using their failures as feedback instead of defeat?

Failure as Feedback

The teacher I last studied acting with in LA introduced me to this concept which was an especially useful tool in the acting world where rejection and failure is rampant.

She posited the idea that failure is nothing more than feedback. You may be doing every thing right, but it’s not always about you. There are always other outside factors involved.

It gives us the chance to take the ego out of a situation and take a more objective stance. And then take the necessary action to change or improve the situation. Kinda like Edison with his light bulb.

It’s not whether you get knocked down. It’s whether you get up again. – Vince Lombardi

What would we do without failures? We’d be living in a bubble which, as we all know, is not sustainable. It’s bound to pop at some point.

So I want to hear from you! Are you pretty good about listening to criticism and using it constructively? Or do you find it defeats you more than it empowers you? How has failure affected you? Can you find a way to love your failures as much as your success?

Photo courtesy of cbc.ca

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