The Fear Of Failure

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I have a theory: so many home studio owners aren’t making the kind of music they want because of fear. Specifically people are afraid of failure. Failing as an audio engineer. Fear of never producing the kind of tracks they hear on their favorite records. Fear that they just aren’t good enough.


TRR134 The Fear Of Failure

Via Chris Potter Flickr

Why Are You So Afraid?

Does this resonate with you? Are you afraid of failure? Why? Too many people give up on this home studio thing before they are even out of the gate. I get emails every week filled with words of desperation and fear. People tell me they have all the “right” equipment and gear, yet they aren’t getting the results they want. They hope I somehow know the answer.

And you know what? I do! The reason so many of you aren’t getting the results you want is because you are too afraid to keep trying. Your fear is holding you back from the very thing you need in order to improve, experience. The more you work at this, the harder you push into your craft, the more confident you will become and the better your recordings and mixes will be. Guaranteed.

You’ll Never Be The Best

I hate to break it to you, but you and I will never be the absolute best recording/mixing engineer on the planet. It’s just not going to happen. No matter how hard you “believe in yourself” you’ll never “will” yourself into greatness. That’s just bogus. But guess what? The good news is now that we’ve got that out of the way, the pressure is off. You don’t have to be the best!

Instead you can grow your skill and become frickin’ awesome at recording and mixing. But not if you’re afraid of not being the best. Take the burden of absolute greatness off of your shoulders and instead get back to work on your latest mix. Your tracks will get better and you’ll have more fun in the process.

Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back

I’m not sure if it’s a generational thing, but people (especially young people) these days seem petrified of making mistakes. They want their lives mapped out for them. I’m seeing this in the recording world every day as people are afraid of purchasing the wrong DAW, the wrong microphone, the wrong plugins, using the wrong vocal techniques, mixing at the wrong sample rate, etc. It’s rediculous. What a waste of energy!

Don’t be afraid. Just get to work. Work hard. Educate yourself. Try new things. Make mistakes. Get feedback. Have thick skin. Don’t be so timid that you lose out. There’s no magic bullet to audio recording and mixing improvement, only experience, time, and hard work. So stop reading this and get to it!


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16 Responses to “The Fear Of Failure”

  1. Scott

    Thank you for this. The timing of that message couldn’t have been more perfect. God bless you Graham.

  2. Luis

    If i have heard all what you are sharing 15 years ago….
    Thank you and God keep blessing you

  3. Kevin

    I agree with scott, graham. So right on time for me too… I felt this week I just hit that point in the major phase of learning my DAW and the recording tips and stuff (thanks to you and also your buddy Joe Gilder’s blog and some stuff on Kevin Ward’s site too) that now is where the rubber is about to meet the road. time for me to make it happen… and the past couple days that thought has kinda scared me … maybe I need to give myself the grace to make mistakes that God gives us. Blessings at ya, brother.

  4. Bob Sorace

    I’ve been recording for about three years now, and I’m just now becoming comfortable with what I put out… I still have a long way to go, but I’m not afraid of posting my songs anywhere and everywhere, if someone doesn’t like it, so what! You can’t please everybody, but you can please yourself, and that’s all that matters.

  5. Bastian

    I absolute love the way you put this “simple” truth into words! Trying and making errors is the way our babies learn to survive – and they do well with this strategy – so we as the elder people should also be able to get our benefits out of trying something new, shouldn’t we?

  6. Matt

    Along with the fear though, many folks are overcome with disappointment because they don’t attain their goals in mixing in a timely manner. This time that it takes to really hone in on your skills is often understated, and only perpetuated by advertising of certain gear and/or plug-ins that supposedly ‘get you there’ faster. Time & Work, folks!

  7. Dave

    I don’t think it’s generational as much as it’s the long term effects of internet usage. The web gives you instant gratification on so many things, that something like learning to mix is tough to stick with.

    People forget that in order to use Microsoft Word, you had to learn language, grammar, and spelling first. Simply knowing the software or having a computer won’t get you anywhere.

    Mixing is the same way. You have to understand the theories behind EQ, compression, delay, etc. Too many people get into music production wanting to make music that sounds like ‘X’ and then get depressed once they realize that likely by the time they really learn to sound like ‘X’, they won’t want to sound like ‘X’.

    Photographers, video producers, fine artists, web developers, EVERYONE goes through this. The internet may give us freedom, but freedom can cripple you with too much of it. You spend too much time analyzing, regretting, second guessing, and fantasizing instead of doing. It’s the same for people who work out for two weeks and then quit because they’re not in shape yet. Suck it up and get to work people. There’s no such thing as a “best” in art, so quit worrying.

  8. ColeMizeStudios

    Loved this article. Thanks for the words of encouragement graham! I have been enjoying your videos for the last half year. They have helped me out tremendously. Thanks again God bless you brother!

  9. Marcello

    Overheard in 1975 or so…

    Joe Strummer: “We’ve got a band, but we’re not ready to play, we’re not good enough yet.”
    Joey Ramone: “Don’t wait until you’re good enough, just go out there and play. Come see our show tonight, we’re awful.”

  10. Jacek

    Very good article and I can definitely relate to it.

    What really helped me to break through that was to take on a responsibility and follow through with it.
    It might be uncomfortable, it might be painful but having people depend on your work and a deadline sure helps you not only learn things fast but also manage your own insecurities.
    Stop getting ready and start living.

    If you have no pressure, no deadlines, it’s very difficult to make progress.

  11. Eric Jean

    Perfection can be the greatest killer of productivity! I agree wholeheartedly with you.

  12. Smurf

    All i can add is that it has taken me 5 years to get this bad, I can only go UP from here! LOL

  13. Phil

    The brain and the soul have a somewhat limited space. Where I work, we have students who take “practicals” basically a skills test, and they worry and worry about it. I tell’em if there’s only so much space in the brain, and you waste half of the space (and time) on worrying, there’s not much left to do the real work, what you do best, to create something that is you.

  14. HerbyJ

    You know its funny, I constantly second guess my guitar playing skill and song writing capabilities when I play back my raw recordings. I have zero skill or experience in mixing but why not? Thanks for the words of wisdom.



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