What a Viola Taught me about my Biggest Failure

violin viola music

Bob Marley once said:

One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.

I beg to differ.

Sometimes musicians know exactly what chords to play that tug at the very heartstrings we try to keep rigid in order to stay – or appear – strong. Their music eloquently says all the things we haven’t been able to articulate into words; and sometimes when we hear it, it knocks the very breath out of us.

But I get ahead of myself…

In an older article, I mentioned that the best part of working with Godigio wasn’t the paychecks, but the opportunities and perks they provided me with. One of these perks involved tickets and backstage passes for an upcoming Black Violin concert I was ecstatic about.

I was looking forward to it for two primary reasons: firstly because the violin is my absolute favourite instrument, and secondly because it was a valuable connection for Michael and his music career. I was set to have the absolute best night of my life and all would go well, right?


Many people visit my blog throughout the months looking for positive vibes and motivation to beat the odds stacked against them. For eight months I did this exceptionally well, but recently many of you may have noticed my struggle to find that positivity for myself.

The Black Violin Concert

And that’s where I was as I sat in the middle of an amphitheater in Little Five Points. That’s the state I was in when Kev and Wil B took to the stage and began to play their violin and viola with exceptional skill.

The instruments wailed and purred and tugged at the melancholia I thought I had buried for the night in order to enjoy the show. While everyone else jumped and screamed and shouted to the music and positive vibes reverberated through the building – me? I was struggling to keep it together.

Without words, the violin and viola sang of my first real failure in life that had sent me into the pits of deep, dark self-reflection for two weeks. And that’s when it hit me – that word.


All week I had put on a brave face and held it together, but good music can break through any facade. As the word resounded in my head, I finally realised that more than anything else, that had been the issue. It was never so much the problem itself that stung, as much as accepting my first and serious defeat.

Failure at 26

I know it sounds arrogant to say, but the fact is: at 26 years old, I had never really failed at anything I put my mind to. Not until now.

I breezed through school on honour-roll with ease, received many commendations for my work in payroll, and have launched a successful full-time writing career all on my own. Not one major thing in life I ever threw my strength behind has ended in failure.

But one venture I had taken on in 2015 did, and after 26 years of a spotless record, it was a blow to the chest. I once wrote about how I felt like I had failed myself when I left school and did not immediately find employment.

Looking back now, I realise that there’s a huge difference between a delay in our dreams, and an abrupt ending to them.

Lessons Learned

So, having suffered my first and biggest failure at the “ripe old age of 26”, I thought it best to pass on what I learned about the experience for the next time around. After all, it’s always better to learn from other people’s mistakes than your own.

Shared Ventures Bring the Greatest Risk

Sometimes in life we get lucky and take on a project we have full control over. Because our own skin is at risk, many of us ensure we get the job done. But in joint ventures, someone’s bound to slack off at some point or other, so take the necessary measures to safeguard yourself from risk.

Find Your Support Group

Whenever I find myself in a tough spot, few people ever offer to help. This isn’t because they don’t care, or out of selfishness. It’s because when it comes to me, no matter how difficult the problem, people think, “It’s Alex – she’ll figure it out. She always does.” – and I do.

But “figuring it out” is not just an end result; it’s a process. Sometimes we have to swallow our pride and reach out to those who can help and say, “I need you.”

Dress for Happiness 

It’s easy to neglect our appearance and not take good care of ourselves, when we’re down. I did my best to resist that. During even the hardest days I made it to the gym, went running at night, groomed my hair, and made the effort to put on make-up, though usually my low-maintenance self wouldn’t give a flying fig.

It didn’t solve my problems, of course, but it certainly made me feel better about myself, while I weathered the storm.

Dressed for the Black Violin Concert

Look Ahead

One of the mantras I recited to get me through virtually anything as a teen was:

When you can’t look up, look ahead.

I still live by this today. When things don’t go as planned, rather than focus on all that’s currently wrong, I spend a lot of energy trying to work on how to make it better for myself in the near future. I am by nature a problem-solver and usually rest easy once I chart a course of action and begin to follow through with it.

I believe anyone can benefit from this mindset, if we only stop wallowing in self-pity long enough to create the silver lining in our dark clouds. Life won’t always hand it to us. In fact, most times it won’t.

Failure is never the end of the road. It’s not about falling down – but how we get up. Do it right and you could turn a former failure into perhaps your biggest success. I have no idea if I have managed this – it’s too early to know for certain. But I’d like to think I have.

In any case, I have planted the seeds as best I can for that outcome. Now, I can only watch and wait…

Check out pictures from the show below.

AC Sign 2_0

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8 thoughts on “What a Viola Taught me about my Biggest Failure

  1. “When you can’t look up, look ahead.” I love that.

    I’m also very pleased to see that we have the same taste in scarves.

    1. Thanks. I made up the mantra as a teen. It probably has origins elsewhere though.

      Haha really? That’s so funny. Where did you get your scarf? I ordered mine off Amazon years ago. Absolutely love it.

      1. Amazon on mine as well… Came in a set of five. Great for keeping me warm on the trail or when camping. It looks a lot better on you though!

      2. Haha, why thank you. I got mine as a single, but I did buy it in other colours as well. I have it in purple, and blue too. The red one went missing while in Illinois. 🙁

      3. I have a blue and a green, but no red. I think there is a gray and a brown lurking in my house as well.

      4. Awesome – I need to get more of them. I’ll keep an eye out on your pictures for them from now on haha.

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