Posts Tagged ‘self-help’

From the Editor’s Perch…

November 23, 2013
Looking at it from the Devil's, Devil's Advocate's Position

Looking at it from the Devil’s, Devil’s Advocate’s Position

The Devil’s, Devil’s Advocate

On Failure: the Final Installment

 

            Well, you can get tired of anything – especially writing and thinking about failure.  On the upside – or downside, depending upon your point of view – a person could go on investigating and writing about failure forever, and still not get anywhere… except for acquiring those deepest feelings of abandonment and self-disgust which mark a real gut feeling for the topic.              After all, we’re probably all hardwired to seek success.  Humans are a hierarchical animal.  As soon as we enter a room the question is “Who’s in Charge?”  Then we arrange ourselves in such a way as makes us most comfortable around power.  Some of us try to be in charge.  Some of us evade being in charge.  Some of us don’t want to have anything to do with the whole scenario.  But, for the most part, if you are going to socialize, then when people listen to you, their first priority in granting you their attention is whether or not you sound ‘in charge’ of whatever it is you are saying.    If you don’t, their attention drifts elsewhere.  This is probably why we all seek success – even if it is never to be granted us, and we know so.  We simply can’t stop.  It’s like wanting sex.

 

A little thinking about failure is a good thing, I’d say, because we fail much more often than we succeed.  Most people are a marbled confection of a few successes and many failures.  It’s rare we can be gifted in every way.  So understanding the strategies of the failure and utilizing them at times can be helpful.

The thing to remember though, I think, is that failure and success are really quite different animals.  And it’s a mistake to view one as somehow evolving into the other; that if you were to train your dachshund long enough, it would become a greyhound.  Don’t be a fool.  Recognize what you are.  And then move towards the light.  Even a paramecium understands this.  But humans, with their complex ways and books on social theory, often don’t think to do it.  Don’t get stuck.  “Show me the money!” Can be good advice.

 

These posts about the upside of failure have also been the Devil’s Advocate’s position.  Now, to bring it full circle, I’ll add the Devil’s, Devil’s Advocate position with this observation from a Stanford researcher, Carol Dweck  (who probably didn’t intend this in the way I have it spun):

“Not only weren’t they discouraged by failure, they didn’t even think they were failing.             They thought they were learning.”

–        Carol Dweck,  “Mindset: The Psychology of Success”

 

How many ‘smarter than anyone else’ failures do you know?  Quite a few, I’d reckon.  Don’t be a fool and think the same thing.  In this fast paced world, more often than not, winning is winning and losing is losing.  That’s it.  That’s all.  End of game.

Photo by Carl Nelson of Jeremy January of Theater Comique

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From the Editor’s Perch…

October 22, 2013

Achieving Mediocrity II

Beverly Hillbillies

Locating Failure, and then Adjusting Slightly Upwards

            Which brings us to the, “How to…”

Let’s start with failure.  So often people shy from failure, or are so preoccupied in shunning it, or ‘distancing’ themselves from failure, that they never really stop to take a good look at it.  If this sounds like you, then there are a lot of surprises in store.

The first surprise is that most of the people you may categorize as failures, really aren’t very good at it.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise as many people are not very good at anything.  That said though, most failures you will see suffer for their failures, but have never really explored or exploited its opportunities.  They latch onto their little thread of failure and ride it in as hidebound manner as any successful type might, except to their dismal ends.  They see problems and enemies everywhere.  They worry about what happened before, or what might happen again.  They are constantly afraid of being ‘found out’.  They are hidebound, close-minded, stuffy, stilted, puffed up, snooty, completely paranoid, worn-out from excessive posturing, and possessed by envy.

A successful failure embraces what they are!  They turn a blind eye to difficulties.  They see opportunities everywhere. (Because there are!)  They admit to no limitations.  (Because there aren’t!)  Everywhere is a bowl of cherries. They act like a complete fool! and are nobody’s victim.  They don’t ask the government’s help.  They are free of envy.  And they are just fine on their own, thank you.  Though they’ll certainly take whatever’s offered, because they are not proud!  The best failures don’t ask anybody for anything, because a good failure lives in the now.  And right now, they’re still breathing, so anything could happen!

A good failure just trundles on, oblivious, explaining every setback as at worst a detour, and at best, a fortunate intervention.  Because life is on the failure’s side, and the failure sees himself in the lead position because he is alive!  Always!  …while a lot of things aren’t.  Because the very successful failure bumbles along, “forgetting, mislaying, losing, unmaking, undoing, unbecoming, not knowing”… all the while engaging, cooperating, chatting, visiting, and doing surprising things!  In short, fully engaged in living a charmed existence.  For it is only sound reasoning to presume that a true failure leads a charmed existence.  Because what other rational could explain their continued existenceIf there is anyone who fully embraces the presence of God, it is the fool and the failure.  And a good failure will bless his charmed existence and not embrace any golden calves.  In this respect, the true failure is faithful and monogamous – a near saint.

 

But it is very hard to fail at everything and yet not to have found a little success at something.  That’s just the way it is!  And it is these small successes which your common, garden variety failure quilts into a livelihood.

The true failure lives a small existence, but often in the midst of thriving success.  Successful people have an incredible need for failures all around themselves, and they have the money to pay for it.  They hire and delegate and presume upon supernumeraries all over the place.  All of which creates a thriving market for affable supernumeraries, a position for which the failure and his persona the ‘fool’ is eminently qualified.

Another aspect of failure many people do not recognize is that it is an enduring position.  A comic, who passed through town, shared that she made up for the breaks in her career by working as a lowly aid to the disabled.  “Because they will ‘always hire you’”.  A good failure just goes on and on like the Eveready Bunny – the world, as it is, displays a continuing need for them.

Failures are like the little beetle who captures a little water from the morning dew as condensate on his wings, a little water from the vegetation he chews, and quite some protection from the thick carapace he labors under as he trudges around under a blistering desert sun where few others can live.  The failure locates a place of little or no competition, and finds a way to make themselves comfortable, living on God’s bounty.  They arrange their modest existence well away from the frenetic world of successes.  Whenever the successful get too close, so as to oppress them, they make quite a show of their failures to drive the predatory successful away.  “No money to be made here!” The successful shriek.  And it works well.  The successful can’t seem to distance themselves from failure quickly enough.  And in this way, failures share many of the same defenses as the skunk or our small, unsung  beetle.

Whenever a successful failure speaks, it’s usually with humor, because humor is idiosyncratic and subversive.  Most humor in one way or another utilizes the banana peel – to pratfall the predatory successful.  Success is reiterative, and vulnerable to the vagaries of life as a machine.  Whereas a failure’s humor and persona is as agile as a cat, and all the more reason for failures to employ it.

A real failure can be quite a funny and engaging character.  Most good stories employ them.  But if you would rather hear a person blow about themselves all day, in a continual, reiterative manner, then you’d be better to pick the successful for a drinking companion, or get hired by some high powered firm.  A failure doesn’t much like to talk about themselves, except in a self-deprecating manner, so as to add a little flourish to their stink.  They’d much rather the spotlight shown elsewhere… perhaps on the scenery chewing success!   All they would really like is your respect.

Which, unfortunately, is hard to come by – unless we’re on the same page here.

 

Which is why I suggest locating failure – find that inner fool! – and then just back yourself off a bit, until you have found just that level of income and respect necessary for your comfort – but not a jot more.  Don’t let those lunatic over-achievers grind you down, or shut you up!  Leave yourself open to life, and parade your failures and your mediocrity – don that fool’s cap and bells – capture a little of that morning dew, sniff that morning air, gaze out upon that great blue horizon!  and motor on.  The world is yours.

Photo by Google Images

From the Editor’s Perch

March 23, 2013
Do it.

Do it. 

Stop it.

Stop it.

 

Do It, Then Stop

Here is a ‘pleasure generator’:

It has been found that events of great pleasure in my day are either when I begin to do something, or when I stop.  For example, by the end of the day I’m tired and sleepy and there is nothing better than brushing and flossing and piling into bed, and then lying there in the dark to let my mind wind down and exult in the soft mattress and the warm covers with the cold and rain securely outside, and the calm rising up inside, while my dog licks my face and we talk.  I remember that I have money in the bank and food in the fridge, and a wife and a son and a dog and a cat, and a car that runs well.  After a while, I push off the dog and the cat hops up.  And I rub him, feel the mats I need to brush out, and we talk a while in the dark.  And then I push the cat off and roll over and fall asleep. A good half hour of pleasure.  Cost: very little.

Of course we all vary.  And on a scale of “Do it” versus “Stop it”, I would guess I come down fairly heavily on the “Stop it” side.

Perhaps this is why I am so reluctant to commit myself to something which is supposed to be fun and active, like a vacation.  A vacation can be hard to stop.  They are hard enough to start.  And just the planning can take us well out of our way.  Where’s the flexibility? And everybody knows that vacations can well get out of hand.  Just watch Harvard Lampoon’s “Summer Vacation” – which is only one of a very many cautionary tales!

But nearly everything can be made pleasurable by employing my “Do it, Stop it.” ‘pleasure generator’.  Probably even a Harvard Lampoon Vacation.  If you don’t like something you’re doing, then stop.  You’ll immediately feel better.  Or if you’re bored, then do something.  You’ll feel better eventually, and if you don’t, then stop doing it!  It can’t be simpler.  And if you can’t think of anything you’d like to do – then do something you don’t like to do… and look forward to stopping doing that.  It’ll feel great!  You can’t miss.  You might even want to go a little longer for a greater kick.

(Feel better?)

Really, this is a philosophy which always leaves the door open, and plays well with other(s)  philosophies and lifestyles.  “Do it, Then Stop” is a team player.

A lot of people would call people like myself a dilettante, or possibly a flaneur (Fr. trifler), or for the more modern, a ‘slacker’.  To this I would give two replies.  First a lot of people aren’t very happy.  L  And second, you can get a lot farther if you stop to rest.  (And maybe have a coffee.)  J  Anybody should understand that.

In the morning, when I wake, I lie there a while, thinking about getting up but not doing it.  You see the trick is to stop it – and then all of a sudden I’ve done it; I’ve sat up without thinking of it.  I sigh.  I love to sigh.  So maybe I do it a couple more times –  until I’ve had enough.  And maybe I’d enjoy feeling sorry for myself, so maybe I indulge myself in that for a few more minutes… casting myself as a great romantic figure, doomed by some higher ideal, like earning a living.

Then I leave the radio on while I prepare.  I sure am brighter than those knuckleheads who call in, and I enjoy the music.  But if I’m not, I can turn it off.  And my whole day goes something like this.  I make the commute interesting with coffee and a favorite radio show or music.  And then I finish the coffee and the radio and the driving and get to work, where it’s good to get out of the car.  It’s good to stop and stretch my legs.  Then I picture the work hurdles and jump them one by one.  It feels good to land on the other side of each one and to get something done.  Take a moment to look back.  Or maybe it feels good to place something else on the backburner.  Or maybe take something else off the backburner.  Whatever.  You get the idea.  And then I’m a little thirsty, so I slake it.  I look forward to lunch and then, when I’m done, I enjoy feeling satisfied.  I pat my stomach, and then back to work to enjoy a short conversation or two.  And then I enjoy passing my co-workers in good humored silence.

On the weekends, which is that big ‘stop’ at the end of the week, there’s nothing better than to start something.  You get the idea?  You’re always just playing one thing against the other.  Say I mess around in the soil and get my hands dirty, if it’s a nice day, or perhaps I fix something.  And then, when I’ve worked up enough of a sweat, it feels great to stop and treat myself to a beer.  Take a long shower and clean up.  Both of which make the wife happy…

(It is the weekend, after all…)

Or if I make a few extra minutes, I stop downstairs and try to capture a thought I’ve had swimming around in my head for a few hours.

Photos from Google Images

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


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