learn to fall first

cactus, Self Realization Gardens, Encinitas, Canon Digital Rebel

At the Ice Rink

I came here to fail
And to fall
But not so well
As that man careening over the ice
Sliding into the wall as if into second base
Shambling up, grinning, like a great bear,
And taking off again,
Saying, over his shoulder,
“You’ve got it backwards.
Learn to fall first,
Then skate.”
I end up clinging
Barnacle-like to the sides,
Inching around the perimeter like a caterpillar.
Wall-hugger. Nothing has changed since I was eight
And my parents paid for skating lessons
In hopes I would become more balanced.
Now as then I am wobbling, terrified,
Feet frozen like blocks of wood at the ankles.
Not loose-limbed and easy like Hilary
Who rides the ice like a North wind scouring the plains,
Nor deft and graceful like Ruth
Picking up her feet and kick-gliding
In time to the 70’s pop muzak.
But what can we do
When fear throws its rustiest pickaxe
Dead ahead in our path?
Mince. Inch. Stumble. Pray
For the grace to fall
And not be rescued, pray for the scramble-up,
For the liberating laughter that knows
It is not in our control.
There is the center, gleaming like a fish-eye,
Little girls spin on it, twirling their bright skirts.
It shines under its white scars like a destiny.
Alison Luterman

This poem was used as a prompt in my wild writing class with Laurie Wagner last week. I love the wisdom of it… Learn to fall first, then skate. Isn’t that how it always goes? It’s the prospect of falling that stops us every time. Why even begin? we say. Why endure the humiliation? or just, I could never do that.

The willingness to fall.

This is something I’ve had to learn over and over as a life coach. That first practice client two years ago, who I stumbled and stuttered with, how I felt I said all the wrong things, how I got off the phone with her knowing she was so much smarter than me… And how, even after she asked me for more coaching later, how she wanted to hire me, I couldn’t bear it and ignored her emails. Not willing to fall or fail.

It’s easy to tell others. “You don’t wait until you’re confident enough or qualified enough or good enough to begin! You just begin, and do it badly and that’s how you build confidence. One does not come before the other.”

What happened to that 10-year-old girl who choreographed dance routines to every song on the Flashdance soundtrack? who wrote novels and recorded her voice in song and drew portraits of Ralph Maccio? What happened to the tiny gymnast who was willing to do back handspring after back handspring across the floor until she finally got it – if you bend your arms, your head will hit the ground.

And yet, even as I write this I know that some of it is a lie… I always wanted to be perfect. I never laughed at myself when my head slammed into the gym mat. I was always keenly aware of the watchful eyes of parents, coach, peers.

I don’t know if I’ve ever been willing to fail.

Still, I know it is the key to everything. “Be willing to do it badly,” SARK says in her books. Willing is the key word. Be willing to do it anyway, alongside the imperfection, alongside the fear.

What are you willing to do badly?

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Hi, I’m Andrea

On this blog you’ll be learning with me how to use our voices, share our creative superpowers and live life in full color.

As an artist, photographer, life coach + mentor, I’m redefining what it means to be a SUPERHERO — ‘cause in my world, it’s got nothing to do with capes, spandex or sidekicks and everything to do with tenderness, intuition & baby steps of bravery.



  1. stef

    so glad to hear you’re enjoying the wild writing again – the poems have been wonderful and yes….falling is something we just don’t want to do…I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do badly.

  2. Tammy

    This post really resonates for me. I’m always feeling stuck in my life because I’m too afraid. Even too afraid to leave comments here because I’m afraid I’ll sound like an idiot. But today I’m willing to do it badly. And I will meditate on your message. There is hope for me yet.

  3. deezee

    Love this and how you present it (and tell Laurie I miss her!) I dive into things, but can’t deny my self-consciousness in the falling – or fear of falling, more accurately.

  4. Reach.Dabble.Shine

    Oooo. Ouch. That failure thing. Oh, that we perfectionists never got started in our craft. That is probably THE most difficult hurdle for me is to accept things as good enough and actually enjoy life rather than beat myself up about truly insignificant things, and lose out on experiences I was too wrapped up in not attempting in case I “failed”.
    Today I will be having a converation with a coworker who is brilliant at his technical profession. I will be asking him for information “in English, please,” and “slow down, I lost you there,” and “can you say that again?” because I will be extracting info from him that my boss wants me to become conversant around over time. Ugh. But I’m going to do it anyway. Because I’m smart, and I can do this if I hear the vocabulary often enough, and I want to prove to myeslf once again that this failure moster can be tamed.

  5. colette

    thank you, andrea. i am starting a new career and feeling unqualified and inexperienced and hesitant, and this is EXACTLY what i need to read.

  6. Erina

    wow… i’m floored. this is a lesson often overlooked, but one that is so necessary to achieve true happiness (for us, control freaks).
    i fear too many things to know what i’m willing to do badly… cooking and baking is fairly safe.

  7. Erin

    How true. Thank you for these words. I am taking Laurie’s 40 Days and 40 Nights class. She is wonderful. I am certainly falling a lot right now. I am trying to accept it and do it with grace.

  8. liz

    you are so awesome! your quote of yourself in this is what helped me find my courage to be a freelance photographer. It got my out the front door to my first paid photo shoots. You responded to my email about pricing suggestions. Now when I want to try something new I prepare to not be perfect at the the first time, but to know these initial steps are the only way I will aspire to get to the level I want to be. They will give me experience at learning some stumbles in addition to the feelings of successes. and the dusting off of the knees when I stumble and moving forward anyway.
    so thanks for being so inspiring.

  9. la vie en rose

    thank you for this. some time ago i was asked if i’d speak at a conference being held in oct 2007. i said yes even though every fear in me screamed, hell no! i have the contract–unsigned–and i’ve been asked to give the title of my talk so the agenda can be set. i’m still stuck on the hell no! after reading this i think i’ve decided what i’ll talk about–i’ll talk about how i’m standing there in front of these women not because i have it together or because i’m not afraid but because i’m going to be willing to fail, to stutter, to turn red, to completely suck. and you know what, maybe that will give them the courage to do the same…

  10. victoria winters

    Wow. Such wisdom. I began career counseling this week, so I take these words to heart. I’ve struggled with what I want to be/do for years. Problem is, I’m living my life while wondering what to do with it and I’m letting it pass me by. I’m afraid. I hate the 9-5 sit on my butt in front of a computer world, but I’m also afraid to leave it and to see what I can do with photography/creative abilities. If I didn’t feel the pressure to pay the bills and bring home a paycheck, perhaps I’d be more free to fall first. Ugh.

  11. Boho Girly

    i really needed to hear this today in regards to my business…and store opening in November. i am a scared little rabbit and busy-ing myself with everything else imaginable so that i can have that excuse not to open it. excuse not to fail. i had a long talk with carsten about it yesterday and now i read this…as if an angel whispered in my ear this morning to come visit your heart for an answer.
    i suppose i just have to be willing to do it badly.
    love you, my friend. i took a writing class in san francisco a few years back at the writing salon. it changed my life. so glad you went to yours and that we get to reap the benefit…

  12. Rebecca.

    I’ve heard it put a slightly different way…
    “Fake it until you make it.”

  13. punky

    I’m willing to do that badly over and over until I get it right. It’s always worth the risk of falling on my head, breaking my heart and looking the fool. Love is worth the risk everytime.
    Also … bowling. I’m willing to totally suck at bowling because it is fun. Same goes for most new activities I try.
    I think the place I am most scared to fail is at work. But I am getting better at accepting that failure is a sign of growth … and it is only a failure if I don’t try again. Otherwise it is merely a lesson.

  14. kristine

    I needed to hear these words today. I am preparing for Open Studios and starting to get anxious and crazy. I realized yesterday that the pressure I feel is all self-imposed. I control what my show looks like, how many pieces are shown and all of the other details. SO why am I freaking out – perfectionism.
    Thanks for the reminder to breathe. Your story reminded me of learning to ski. The first thing they did was knock me down because they said I’d need to learn how to get up more than any other lesson they could teach…

  15. ~ bridgette ~

    Apparently I’m willing to parent badly. It’s not that I’m not trying my hardest but I am parenting a child that is in the foster care system. He had been moved from foster home to foster home when he arrived in our home two years ago at the age of four.
    He is a challenge. Honestly, that’s the nicest way to put it. There are days that I want to send him away but I love this boy and am willing to continue to parent him the best way I can and I’m willing to accept that he may never be what I hope for him.
    And, as Punky stated, I’m also willing to bowl very badly simply because it’s fun.

  16. Meg

    Personally, I think falling is the best PART of ice skating. I won’t leave the rink till I’ve falling pretty hard a few times, because otherwise you feel like you haven’t begun. I think I’m naturally probably a perfectionist, but everyone else in my family is REALLY a perfectionist, and It makes them tired, stressed, and even sick. So a while back I decided it just wasn’t worth it. Besides, doing things perfectly usually isn’t even very much FUN. I’d far rather just make a big mess, learn something, fall down and then be done. Makes you feel like you really dove in and did it. And it’s FAR less stressful.
    Sending messy, ice on your butt, but boy-was-it-fun wishes your way. May you execute really terrible, but super fun spins dead center in the rink!
    P.S. the trick is to say, I’m going to try to do this a badly as possible.

  17. Tylene

    Now that I’m living in Europe it’s the perfect time for me to start a Photography business. But I’m afraid to fail. I find myself doubting my abilities. I keep thinking I need more experience. But your thoughts are so true. I need to be willing to fall. Like you said, “begin, and do it badly and that’s how you build confidence”. Thanks for the inspiration!

  18. kkonmymind

    thank you for the wonderful post. some real food for thought for me. i have also historically been petrified to fail, and i’m harsh on myself when things don’t turn out “just so.” but you are so right that there is strength in just trying, and i can honestly say that everything does eventually turn out all right. learning to relax and go with the flow is the problem!

  19. meenu

    dude! it’s so true, so TRUE! that is so champion you wrote this! thank you!
    jahluv, meenu

  20. Savannah

    This has been a long time in developing, and I’m so grateful that now I have a chance to confess:
    As a senior in high school about to make my college applications and begin the application process that has been the looming stress in my life ever since /kindergarten/… I am finally willing to do badly in school. I’m not sure if this is a willingness or a lack of caring, but I’m leaning towards the former.
    I am willing to be okay with not being perfect.

  21. Stephanie

    This post came at just the right time for me. I just adopted a two month old puppy from the county shelter, after years of raising already adult dogs. Let me just say I underestimated how much it would take to do this– let alone do it well. Last night I was crying to my partner about how bad a mom I feel like when she’s whining and yelping in her crate while I try to sleep. She reassured me I’m doing the best I can, but there is a small voice in my head that tells me anything less than perfection is unacceptable.
    What a freeing thought– allowing myself room to fail before I can be expected to succeed. I hope it sinks in…

  22. jennifer

    I am willing to open my heart to a wonderful man. I am willing to love him. I am willing to go into this relationship with my heart and mind open. I will fail him and he will fail me, but I am willing to go in anyway.

  23. Stacie

    Thank you. I needed to read this today.
    And Victoria Winters: I know EXACTLY what you mean. I’m in the midst of life coaching and trying to make an attempt at never having to have a dull office job again. It’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever done (make my own way instead of following the path of least resistance), but I know it will be worth it after the growing pains are gone.

  24. happy little atom

    Write my first novel. It’s a story that’s been in me forever, a conglomeration of so many parts of my life, seen through the eyes of a 14-year old. I’m halfway through and there’s this part of me that says “it’s bad. the words are good and the ideas are good but as a full-on book? it’s bad.”
    Then the other voice says “keep going. do it badly, do it relentlessly, do it while throwing a tantrum, but do it anyway. Perfection is for editors.”
    So I’m writing. One small word at a time, one small chapter. It’s the first thing I’ve ever been willing to do badly. And that makes it so much fun!

  25. Christine

    it was good to read this.

  26. bluefaery

    yes I belive that I too am parenting badly. Sometimes I sneak sweet traets to my son when my husband isn’t looking so i can have some peace.
    I like the saying “children grow up in spite of their parents”… sometimes this helps.

  27. genevieve

    Writing my PhD thesis is proving to be so difficult. I consider myself a writer but still, some days, most days, i just can’t bear to sit at the computer and type. I am afraid of sounding stupid. I am afraid that my ideas are not coherent or deep enough. I am afraid that this is going to end up a failure.
    But there comes a point where one needs to say “Enough”. Enough to the voices in my head that say i can’t do it. Enough to me thinking i’m not going to be able to produce a good thesis. I think today’s that day. I am going to write.

  28. Scared of failure

    I want to be fearless! I want to be willing to fall and fail and have fun while doing it. It’s just that I’ve fallen and failed so many times. I feel like I need a few successes under my belt. 🙁

  29. Leah

    This fall, I returned to college after a 5-year hiatus. I got straight-As in high school. I am twenty-two and starting over.
    On Monday, I failed my first math test.
    I’m going to be on my feet in no time, but I have to fall first. And fail.
    Thank you for this.

  30. Michele

    Thank you Andrea! This resonates so well with me today. In my freelance work I try to pursue new and interesting adventures. I had always been a “perfectionist” and would sell myself short and hide from the dreaded fear. Now I walk through the fear, being still afraid, sometimes very afraid, but still moving forward with little baby steps. It is very hard some days, but I still do a little bit to push myself away from the fear even though it may feel impossible!
    I am currently designing a logo, card and blog set up for a highly acclaimed personal chef who I met online through a forum my husband is on often. A wonderful and kind man who studied in France and Switzerland. Who is a personal chef for millionaires, some billionaires and many five star restaurants. He is the same age as my parents. He is in the process of selling his home and personal stuff to travel the country for a year to cook for anyone and everyone he happens to meet on the road. He is a bit fearful of his journey and I am a bit fearful of “representing” him. But I have sent him samples of my designs he wanted me to try. This is a direct quote from him in an email he sent to me a few days ago…
    “Hi Michele… I am left speechless these past minutes looking and looking at those designs over and over!!! If you would have been here I would have given you a big hug…I cannot believe that it is Spirit!… it is me! it is my truck… and the bike!!! I had no idea that there was going to be the resemblance!!!… I thought you were just drawing something generic!!!… I am floored… no words are able to express my excitement… and honestly I am not one… to be getting pleased too easily!!!… OH!… what a great LOGO it is going to be… great Leisure Cards and especially T-Shirts!!! “Karma” must be very good to me… too good with all these preparations… and with
    the hope that you are also tremendously enjoying your Art!… as I have enjoyed all my life cooking for others to see a smile on their faces!!! As maybe you read on my last post I am also offering to cook for members…occasion or no occasion… always something memorable… has to be! So… Michele… you are so totally spoken for in this
    journey… now… and so much rests on your
    shoulders… ah!ah!ah!… Smile… just think how many on many Forums are going to get to know you through your designs and upcoming designs!… Isn’t life “grand”… as I have heard that expression before!”
    I am still fearful that my designs will not please him, but this email gave me pause to let it all sink in, that I deserve this.
    Thank you for reminding me that is it okay to fall and keep falling because that is the only way we learn.

  31. Lindsay

    I don’t think I’m ready to fall…for anything! I’m in the last semester of my senior year to be an elementary school teacher. I feel that in this field there is no room for failure – because then I’m failing 22 other little brains. Besides, so many of my lessons are observed and I want to prove myself in any way that I can. Maybe I’ll learn to ice skate one day….that’s when I’ll do my falling.

  32. Jennifer

    You know I always have to be reminded that other people are just as fearful as I am about things, and this entry was right on target. As a kid, I never knew that, and I’m only really figuring that out as I’m fast approaching 40, so thanks for the entry and thanks for giving the opportunity to read everyone else’s responses…

  33. denise

    What a great topic.
    I’m scared of everything.
    Snow skiing
    trying new foods
    starting a new business
    I have a really hard time stepping out of the “comfortable” box…even though…no, especially because…I know I need to get out of my “norm”.

  34. Jen in Ohio

    Fall out of love.
    This weather is making me drown in melancholy…
    I will be creative! (You know what I’m talking about)

  35. mikaela

    I’m often in near panic that I mother badly. Like all mothers, I’m sure 🙂 Luckily, parenting is something that we don’t have to “be willing” to do badly – there’s no time to think about willingness, you just do.
    This is a great post – thank you!
    🙂 Mikaela

  36. justme

    I enthusiastically second every word of this! Story of my life. Especially the part where I ask myself the question: where did the fearless, daring, cocky young girl I used to be go?
    Who or what undermined my confidence so?
    Or, more importantly, when will I ever stop blaming others for undermining my confidence?
    (but they do, they sooo do!!)
    When will I overcome that and enjoy the trials and tribulations of doing, succeeding and/or failing?
    Rising and falling…
    Soon, I tell myself,… soon.
    (By the way, this is Vanessa… the girl with the thyroid op scar… ring a bell?!)

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