Posts Tagged ‘losers’

From the Editor’s Perch…

October 2, 2013

Editor’s Introduction:  Why are we all so ambitious, nowadays?  What is ambition, anyway?  It seems rather like the Chicken’s Need to Cross the Road.  Who knows why?   The best advice I’ve ever been offered about failure was what I was told about handling disappointment when trying out my act Amateur Night at a comedy club:  “It’s not you they don’t like.  It’s your performance.”  Somehow or other we’ve gotten it all twisted around and have been led to believe that we are our performance.  Perhaps it’s partly the godless times we live in.  God knows your importance, and demonstrates it every day by your presence.  So take a deep breath.  Everything’s fine.

FAILURE

 

A Clown is a Failure with Style

A Clown is a Failure with Style

 

And How to Be Mediocre Successfully

Thoughts About Failing and Locating the ‘Middle Way’: Part I

 

            Where I work it’s possible to work a forty hour week and make $125,00/year, if you are good at your job.  But you could also become demonically possessed, work an 80 to 100 hour week, and make over $250,000/year.  Unfortunately, there’s not a choice.  The company makes more money and grows when the employee makes $250,000/year.  The person who makes $125,000/year is under-utilizing their human capital and dampens the company’s prospects.  This is not so different from many other work situations.

More frequently these days it is possible to work crazy hours at a crazy job and make far more money than you need.  Or you can be fired, and find a much less remunerative, insecure, part-time job which pays less than you need and without retirement or health benefits.  Or, you can go to work in the services sector and work crazy hours, and still not make quite enough to get by.  Or you can live on the street or go to jail.  Have I left anything out?

We are an achievement oriented culture.  According to social theorist Judith Halberstam in our culture failure is subversive.  In her book, “The Queer Art of Failure”,  she notes though: “Under certain circumstances, failing, losing, forgetting, unmaking, undoing, unbecoming, not knowing may in fact offer more creative, more cooperative, more surprising ways of being in the world”.   These are some of the reasons failure has fascinated me.  Failure is relaxing.  Failure allows us time to think, to speculate, to ruminate, to sleep…  Failure will slow it all down and keep those damnable over-achievers at bay.  Failure allows nearly any sort of activity short of costing money to flourish – like chatting with your neighbor or chatting up a girl.  Unfortunately failure is also an impoverished, disreputable haven, an Elysian field without food nor drink nor shelter nor audience – a place only poets, hermits and religious seers might court.  But as Quentin Crisp, the famous British homosexual once noted, “If at first you don’t succeed, failure may be your style.”

Failure has a style, yet is egalitarian.  You can labor away at being a failure without ever being hired or having to create a resume or write a job application or appear for an interview.  The hours are right.  And failure completely circumnavigates the personnel department.  Failures needn’t attend meetings.  And for those trapped in those long, tedious, tired workdays in the cubicle farms which cover more and more of the corporate world, failure can look pretty tempting.  Why, it’s not much more than just looking out the window, where you can often catch a glimpse of it, walking by freely having a smoke, or chatting up a girl.  Failure even has its achievements to tout.  When I quite medical school I defended my ‘achievement’ by noting that whereas only 20% of applicants at the time were admitted – only 2% of those admitted, got out.   And moreover, I pointed out that by quitting medicine, I had probably saved more lives than a lot of doctors had by continuing!  My life post-medical career had primacy, some style, and a lot of free time.

Unfortunately, it also paid poorly.  A pure failure is about as rare an animal as the dodo bird.  Most of us are forced to claw our way into some sort of mediocrity in order to survive.  Which, as it has in olden times, aptly describes the post-modern ‘middle way’.

So, though I still harbor a fascination for failure, the thread of this essay is about how to achieve mediocrity, which as I define it is, a more practical, palatable blend of achievement, success and failure, all stirred into a chaotic soup of slacker regimentation aptly anticipating the post-modern ‘middle way’.

Photo of model by Carl Nelson

Advertisements

From the Editor’s Perch…

August 3, 2012

What if Who You Are is a Loser?

Artists struggle with this fear constantly.  And well, the good news is: it’s not all bad. 

With losing comes an incredible amount of freedom.  Nobody much wants to regulate you, or direct you or to control you – because there isn’t much in it for them.  And hapless as you are, it would require a lot of effort.   So you can pretty much say what you want, do what you want, act as you want, dress as you want, dream as you want, do just about anything as you want – as long as you remain unsuccessful.  If you consider that most things have very humble beginnings, this places the loser out there on the forefront of just about everything, with the opportunity to create just about anything, and to move the world! I mean, most everything new which ever happened in this world began with a mistake.  (Why, just look in the mirror!)  And that’s you.  So keep your spirits up, first off.

The bad news is that when you are a loser, you’re alone.  And it’s the loneliness which is almost crushing.  No one will listen to you.  And it’s very difficult to make money.  People will laugh at you.  And without these levers of money and attention, moving the earth is very difficult.  In fact, doing anything is trebly difficult – and this can include just getting out of bed.  You may sink into your depression as if it were a soft mattress.   And you may think, as you stare at the ceiling fan turning in the sultry afternoon air in your cheap, anonymous rented drab green room and finish the warm beer, which doesn’t taste very good, but it’s something,  ‘Where’s the daylight here?’  ‘Where’s the good news?’ ‘ Why not just put the gun in my mouth?’  Well, my friend, the daylight is streaming in here, right in through that window!

So.  Alright.  And just to keep my readership up, I’m going to suggest something…

What to do if Who You Are is a Loser.

Surely you’ve seen the horses racing at the track.  The tinier the rider, the faster the horse can go.  So if you’re a loser, the first thing you need to do is to face up to it.  The surprising thing of it is, is that what keeps most losers down is their unwillingness to ‘go with it’.  They keep contorting themselves into a winner’s posture.  It’s a ‘failure to launch’, really.  Accept what you are, and let it out.  Let it go.  Let it free!  Let it thrive.  Quit imagining yourself as a winner, and take a little pride in yourself.  Allow yourself the freedom to parade yourself and to exploit the pride you find in your uniqueness.  You are small, but you control the horse.

So if you are a loser, what you need to do is to attach yourself to a winner – in a way, that makes you an asset.  You need to sniff around until you find someone who can take advantage of you.  Oppress you to their needs!  Yes.  Sure.  Place yourself in a position where they can sniff you out.  Go to where the action is.  Find out who the players are.  Go into your juggling act, and see who is hiring. Remember, weakness is provocative!  You are a great catalyst; an initiator!  You are what makes the world go ‘round.  And you needn’t get rid of your pride; but just save it in a different place.  Make it appear as a different object, so it isn’t trifled with.  Because every winner requires an awful lot of losers.  They need more of you than you of them.  So the only trick you need is to make them pay for your services.  And they’ll do that when you control the situation.

You all set?  Okay.  We’re done then.

OR, there is this one more strategy:  Find a natural winner whose nature and outlook you trust. Join their team!  Help them, and be a loyal follower. 

This anecdote from a Reader’s Digest article years ago has always stuck with me.  A teacher was writing a letter of recommendation to an Ivy League College for a student of his.  After enumerating all of the student’s exceptional talents the teacher went on to say, “I can’t say he has the qualities of an exceptional leader; but he does make for dependable and resourceful follower.”   The Dean of Admissions included this note to the teacher with a copy of his Letter of Acceptance.  “With all of the natural leaders we admit around here, we can probably use one good follower.”   

The one thing a leader cannot buy or coerce is loyalty.  And the wise winner cherishes them dearly.  Are you a loser capable of great loyalty?  Well then, you’re a shoo-in. 

Photos of Troupe Comique by Carl Nelson


%d bloggers like this: