I’m not a big fan of rap music, but I sometimes listen to a guy named George Watsky (pictured above). I like him more for his personality and his spoken word poetry than for his music, because even though his music’s got some pretty great things to say, it also often slips into needless vulgarity. Today I’m not going to talk so much about Watsky’s music as an experience that he had that impacted me. While on the Vans Warped Tour in 2013, Watsky decided to conquer his fear of heights by climbing progressively taller objects and jumping off of them into the crowd. But one night, he took it too far. He jumped off a 35-foot lighting fixture into the crowd below, landing himself and two of his fans in the hospital.
That was a pretty stupid thing to do. It was destructive not only for himself, but for the people around him. But I really respect the way Watsky handled the situation. He immediately acknowledged what happened and offered a sincere, public apology. He paid for his injured fans’ recoveries and was very humble about the whole ordeal, and I respect him for that. This experience had a really strong impact on Watsky, and it ultimately determined the name and direction of his next album.
In 2014, he released the album All You Can Do. In the title track, he tackles the subject head on. He acknowledges what happened, takes full responsibility for it, and concludes with the repetitive line, “All you can do is all you can do.” This isn’t a dismissive statement. He’s not saying that he didn’t do anything wrong. He’s not throwing his hands up in the air and saying, “Oh well.” He saying, “I did something wrong, I take responsibility for it, and I’m going to do everything I can to fix it. And ultimately, that’s all I can do.” While I don’t condone Watsky’s dangerous actions, I commend the way he handled it, and I think we can all see a little bit of ourselves in the statement, “All you can do is all you can do.”
The truth is that we all mess up. We try things, and we fail. I’ve never jumped off a lighting fixture into a crowd and injured people, but I can imagine what that would feel like, because I’ve screwed up plenty of times myself and hurt other people. But I haven’t always had the grace and guts to step out and claim it. And that’s when I truly fail. Screwing up is a part of life. There isn’t a single person alive who hasn’t messed up at some point, and we’ll each most likely mess up in some way in the future. We can’t avoid making mistakes. But there is something we can do when we mess up.
Usually, the mistakes we make are honest ones. We weren’t trying to hurt anyone; it just happened. In our attempt to get what we wanted, we stepped on someone’s toes. Or we were so focused on ourselves that we forgot to consider someone else’s feelings. And yes, they deserve to be upset. We did something wrong. But once we’ve gotten to that point, there’s still something that can be done. Because an honest mistake can be forgiven, whereas refusing to apologize and to make up for an honest mistake can ruin relationships.
Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: When I mess up, I’m going to own it. I’m not going to be proud of it, but I’m not going to deny it, either. I’m going to take responsibility for what I did, try to make up for it, and learn from it. Because that’s all I can do. And all I can do is all I can do. But here’s the beautiful thing: All I can do can often be enough. And for that, I am so very thankful.