Common App Admissions Essays

Lessons from Failure Essay – "Piano"


The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

And I stand up, my dark blue dress cascading down my legs, the last note still echoing in my ears.


Then, a thunderous applause rattles every bone in my body. I bow. It gets louder.

Carnegie Hall. This was supposed to be a dream, seemingly unattainable. Yet, here I am. Looking back at the piano, I see my reflection and wonder how many people have gazed through this window for expression. My mind is pulled back to times of uncertainty and apprehension.

Four years ago

    “Jenny, you can do it. Stop shaking,” I mutter to myself. I am backstage, waiting for the announcer to call my name. My mind is consumed in dread and fear, emotions that have made a habit of inviting themselves every time before a performance. Glancing sideways, I see the formidable stage: a 12-foot Steinway sits in the center and lights shine brightly on the performer.

    “Please welcome Jenny Shu, performer number eight.”

    Startled, I take a few steps toward the stage and stumble. The bench is only a few feet away, but it seems to take me a while to walk over. With each passing step, my throat gradually tightens, my knuckles start to lock up, and my heart involuntarily begins to race. As I look up, the audience is shrouded in black, like grim reapers ready to jump at every mistake I make. Shuddering, I take a cautious seat on the bench and wait for my fingers to attack the almighty beast. Suddenly, as if I were in a dream, my eyes cloud over and I cannot find my first note.

Having practiced piano since the age of four, I was still unable to enjoy the art of performance. I realized that fear, brutal and relentless, inhibited my mind and buried all rational thought. Never once did I doubt its indomitable power until I discovered the truth: FEAR is nothing but “False Evidence Appearing Real.” Believing that I would perform poorly and appear incompetent, I planted this “False Evidence” inside my mind. It “Appeared” so “Real” that I diagnosed myself with performance-phobia, an obstacle that offered fear a chance to undermine the love and joy I poured into each piece.

But, I have built back the magic and beauty in my music and to even greater heights. For hours a day, the piano would have no peace as I laboriously carved each note and every melodic statement into my heart. Constantly reminding myself of my mastery and authority, I unhinged the parasitic fear leeching on my confidence. And seeking all opportunities to perform, the stage became a home as I slowly took control of my fear. The piano was tamed into a gentle creature, prepared to sing under my fingers. All the nuances emerged in a tender lullaby and each change in mood magnified. Now, I am the ringmaster and the piano is bent to my will.

Entirely aware of my surroundings, I bow one more time at these “grim reapers.” But, I have nothing to fear.

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How to cite this essay (MLA)

Anonymous Student. "Lessons from Failure Essay – "Piano"" Study Notes, LLC., 11 Nov. 2015. Web. 26 May. 2024. <>.