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buster


Buster Benson

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On Failing Beautifully
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buster
To fail beautifully--this is my manifesto and my new motto. A couple years ago I tried in vain to search for a fundamental purpose in life--one that would be the common denominator amongst all the things I was striving for, and pulled my hair out for months until I simply shaved it all off. The closest I came to a fundamental purpose was: gain reputation, avoid credit. It was one way of saying that by seeking a good reputation one will automatically seek the right things. Also, you can't get a good reputation by being normal, or safe, or conventional... you need to stick your neck out, experiment, and help others along the way. However, since seeking reputation in itself is a hollow and pointless thing to strive for, I wanted to counterbalance it with a conscious attempt at avoiding credit for anything I did. To self promote is one of the things I feel life is too short to have to indulge.

During Wednesday Office Hours I realized that all of the advice I give falls into one of six or seven simple answers:

1) drink more (this solves 90% of all questions I'm asked)
2) quit your job
3) break up
4) consider getting a pet fox (this one, though indirect, I think is very therapeutic for almost any ailment)
5) dress better
6) jump (last resort, but sometimes necessary)

A few one-offs that I've given, but which I don't think will make the cut:

1) remove the signs (regarding a parking ticket dispute)
2) blow it up (forget what this regarded)

In any case, the common thread follows two qualities, like a double helix wrapping around itself endlessly. Admit failure with style. Be stylish and fail. I don't mean this in a "give up" sense... even though it definitely might be mistaken for that. Enjoy failing. It's a great feeling, really, if you see it right. Because we're all going to die anyway. Failing is like succeeding with none of the added responsibility of maintaining it, repeating it, or even acknowleding it. It puts all of the burden on the thing you were doing, why you were doing it, and whether it was worth doing. Success is a false reward, since you can feel good about success even when you're successful at something that you didn't mean to do, and you didn't know why you wanted to do it, and it wasn't worth doing. All of it is really meant in a "try harder to enjoy it" sense, and also in a slightly self-challenging sense. Solve problems by removing things. Get back to the basics and figure out what really happens when you mix things up. How difficult is it to find a better job, or lose some weight, or spend some time alone, or lose a little control over your own behavior. What's really underneath it all. What are you really trying to do here?

Anyway, by failing beautifully, I think we can continue to strive for what we really want to do, to try harder for the things that we are trying for, and not get caught up in the "will it succeed" question. Who cares. Just enjoy it, fail, and enjoy it again. Once you succeed at something you'll stop enjoying it as much... and you'll have to find something else to fail beautifully at.

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good.

Failing with style and enjoying it is much easier after a month or two of excruciating cognitive dissidence. But once you're over fighting with the "How did that happen", you reach a sort of sweet spot where it's all clear. Your mistakes, the mistakes of others, everything. And it just feels right. You're able to catalog things in an orderly fashion, and the pain of failing in the first place makes the lessons learned brighter in your mind.

For example, I will never again eat a whole can of corn.

what if instead you continue to fail but never admit to failure and always call your moves "successful"? that's what i do. sometimes i even fool myself.

A slightly different solution to the same problem. :) But whether you're succeeding or failing, you're doing it beautifully.

The idea of failing beautifully reminds me of the method by which one can fly -- you fall to the ground, but miss it completely.

I might steal your reputation-without-credit credo, though. It seems like most of the folks I admire share that in common, whether it was their goal or not.

1) drink more (this solves 90% of all questions I'm asked)

check

2) quit your job

check

3) break up

almost! But I think we're out of the woods.

4) consider getting a pet fox (this one, though indirect, I think is very therapeutic for almost any ailment)

We've talked about this, but I'm just too allergic. We have plants. Close enough?

5) dress better

Check.

6) jump (last resort, but sometimes necessary)

Crap, is this my last option?

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