Failing While Performing


I got a nice little fire kiss on my eyelid last night. My fire fans are four wick, but I decided to borrow an extra set of five wick fans because they look cooler. More flame = better, right?  

Anyways, was doing a little opposite spin and lost my grip on the fan spinning inward. It bounced off my face before it hit the ground. Talk about graceful!    

Naturally, this is what I’m thinking about over my morning coffee. Probably because I can feel that little stinging reminder. Or it's just that we humans like to obsess over failure. It’s endemic of what I’ve been doing the past few months. You see, I decided I wanted to go deeper into my fire spinning practice. I’ve been playing around with fire for a couple of years, and really enjoying it. I never really enjoyed performing though. I would get super nervous and revert to my same five moves and three props. If you’re curious, I’m partial to the staff but would muddle through poi and fans when Kiki, our dragon den mom, would put it on the set list.   

My first step in breaking through to a new level was getting some new props. Good tools can make a huge difference. Last year, I bought better fans, poi, and a heavier staff. I also started performing on a weekly basis. Yet, it was still the same five moves with just as many butterflies pounding their little wings around my stomach.   

I also said yes to a retreat in February and on New Year’s Eve to say yes to three performances that night. We didn’t have big plans. Why not ring in 2022 with fire. What could go wrong? No, don’t answer that.    

My new rope dart came in a couple of weeks before and I had been teaching myself new moves off YouTube videos. Thanks Flow Mayhem (seriously, she’s insanely good)! The new pathways I was developing in my brain would surely pay off one day.   

After our three performances, we were still playing around on the beach and Kiki suggested I light up my virgin dart. With the adrenaline from the shows pumping, I went for it.   

There aren’t too many things that feel as good as lighting a brand new prop and nailing the moves you’ve been learning. I rang in 2022 on a fire high! If you watch the video in the link above, it was the one where she wraps it around her neck. The thing is, I hadn’t consciously remembered that the dart would swing behind me. Luckily, my muscles did and I remained unscorched.    

Muscle memory is an awesome thing. It’s what I’m working on here. It’s why great writers throw away most of what they write. Without muscle memory, you never get to mastery. If I hadn’t decided to get out of my five move rut, you would still see a solid performance, but you would never see mastery.    

I started the book Mastery this week. We’ll see if it says anything like what I’ve discovered.    

I also lit up a new fire sword in our performance last night. The challenge with it is that there aren’t many tricks, so it forced me to focus on how my body was moving…in front of so many people. And that is another critical element to master that I haven't paid much attention.    

After writing all of this, I believe the main point here is that you don’t attain mastery by doing the same moves over and over. You start with those moves and you still do the same moves over and over, but you also learn new moves with better tools, then you start creating your own moves. In writing, we call it voice. First you imitate, then you create.   

So try a technique, a prompt, or a prop that’s new this week. See what happens. And if you get a little (metaphorical) fire kiss, figure out the lesson in your failure and try again.