I was practicing piano this morning, working on my Hanon exercises (as all of my piano friends retch reading this). I made several mistakes, as one does. Immediately before a particular one, there was a sense of uncertainty about where finger 3 switches in the pattern. I found myself particularly short-fused today. I could feel the frustration and even outright anger. But then, I realized that a mistake indicates an unasked question--in this case, “Where does finger 3 switch?”
I think this can be generalized to virtually all mistakes. There was something we didn’t remember. A body part didn’t do as ordered. We thought it was one thing, when actually it was another. These mistakes become an invitation to ask the question that we haven’t asked. In the moment, it can be incredibly frustrating to ask questions, even more so if the error is made in front of an audience. It’s also tempting to ask/ tell ourselves, Why did you do that, stupid? Although we ask it with invective, we ignore the most important part of the question: the answer, or more specifically the process, the explanation of answering the question. Of course, we did it for a reason. It’s a habit, the person tapping her foot off the beat distracted me, I’m tired. In asking and answering the question, we can then answer another question: What do I do about it? If we’re honest and if we keep exploring, we can find a solution to most of our problems. But we can’t find the solution to a problem if we don’t take the error as an invitation to ask, to wonder, and to explore. A repeated mistake is one where we haven't asked the appropriate question. With this mindset, I found myself getting less frustrated as I practiced.