Failure Is Not An Option!

Yes it is. It always is. You can play around with the semantics and argue about splitting hairs but this fact will still shake itself out – we fail. Call it what you want but it will still feel the same. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of self-talk. It’s just that I’m a bigger fan of emotional honesty.

At the risk of sounding religious I would have to admit that my failures have been “legion”. Many. I have not succeeded multiple times in my life. I had an amazing organic restaurant for some time, The Bad Dog Grill. I have started several businesses and have always believed in seizing opportunities, even a few long-shots. Not all worked and some have come and gone. Even starting a blog most of us secretly hoped we will be discovered, or at least quoted in one of those cheesy quotation pages. I average just over 80 69 visitors a day. Millions are not hanging on my every word, regardless of what my mom might think. Been discovered yet?

Like many of us, when I started a WordPress blog, I wondered how long it would be before I would be featured on “Freshly Pressed”. The answer is forever. Most of us will never be discovered, in spite of our childhood dreams and aspirations. This doesn’t fly well with contemporary positive-thinking gurus, who are adamant that our ‘attitude determines our altitude’. I have had a love-hate relationship with possibility-thinking and can appreciate it’s finer points. Changing your attitude, changing how you think, is probably the single most important thing you can do to transform your life. I have spent my entire adulthood seeking to understand the power of such transformations and wholly endorse any efforts to help us move forward. There is, however, a darker side to the positive-thinking gospel. Gurus like tall, tanned, rich and gregarious Tony Robbins make us believe that anything is possible if we only want it bad enough. Tony is wrong, though well-intended. Some things you will never be able to achieve, no matter how much you want it. You may never reach your childhood dream of becoming a dump truck or an astronaut. You probably won’t ever get that audition to be in Michael Jackson’s entourage. Wait a few years, though, and you might get to hang out with Justin Bieber if you commit a felony or are desperate for friends. Believing that you will succeed if you just want it bad enough is an important, though limited, commodity. People in my field endeavour to deal with reality, even when that reality is uncomfortable.

Sadly, everything is not possible. Someone struggling to survive in Sudan or Mogadishu will never be accepted to Harvard, no matter how many times they wish upon a star. We are limited by our intelligence, our looks, our income, but most importantly by our contacts. You may be only seven steps removed from Kevin Bacon but that is far enough away that you will have difficulty getting him to read your resume. Malcolm Gladwell has made buckets of cash helping us understand that even the month you were born in may affect your chances to play in the NHL. He reminds us brilliantly in several of his very readable books that the myth of the “self-made man” (sorry ladies but according to the misogynistic cliché you don’t qualify) is just that, a myth. Very few famous people got that way without an amazing endorsement. Every single one of them got breaks that you probably won’t get, even if you hold your breath and stomp your feet. It is no coincidence that Drew Barrymore or Nicolas Cage just happened to be spawned by famous parents. Millions of us silently chuckled when Bush told the media that being from that famous family didn’t help him in his rise to power. Seriously? The fact that he was from a multi-millionaire family that ruled the strongest country on the planet in no way gave him an advantage… Say what you want but it really is who you know, not just what you know. It has only been with the onset of the internet, where the playing field has been altered somewhat, that a few of the masses have gotten their message out.

In my files I have, from an earlier time, exercises for clients called “Affirmation Sheets”. Every counsellor that has been around for a few years has brushed up against them from time to time. Apparently there must have been a time in my life when I handed these out, though I cannot recall exactly when. They say things like “you are awesome!”, “you can do it”, and “anything is possible if you want it bad enough!”. I’m truly sorry if I ever made you read one of these. The problem is that they are simplistic in their understanding of life. People who believe such things are either pre-trauma or a product of bad teaching. We are all led to believe in such fairy-tales, we desperately want to. We are bombarded daily by messages convincing us that we are only one sudden discovery away from being adored. Sell this, buy a lottery ticket, grab this latest scheme, reach for the stars.

I do a lot of work as a motivational speaker and you can just imagine how weird that is. It is difficult for me to write this article because everything inside of me wants to scream “yes you can!” I completely believe that.

I love what Augustine said, “Love God and do whatever you want” (he was a bishop). The question he followed with was, “so what do you want?” His assertion was that if one truly loved god his wants would align with god’s (sorry, another old boys club) and therefore “doing whatever you want” would fundamentally change. That’s good psychology. Change your mind and your butt will follow…

The same philosophy can apply to what we are discussing here. I don’t need to believe in the actually impossible in order to believe in the seemingly impossible. These days my “Affirmation Sheets” say things like, “you’re doing the best you can in a difficult circumstance” and “hang in there, you can do this” more than “you’re going to be a rock star!”. I have had to lower my expectations of life again, just a bit. This is, of course, the secret to a reasonably happy life – lowering my expectations. Many would disagree with this sentiment but I have found that the fewer unrealistic expectations I carry into any relationship or situation, the more content I find myself. For example – in my marriage. The fewer expectations I have of Annette the less she will fail me. It’s simple arithmetic. My goal is to not need her at all, just want. I figure the more whole I become, and subsequently the less emotionally needy, the better husband, better friend, better person I will become.

Put that in your pipe…

8 thoughts on “Failure Is Not An Option!

  1. I like what you said there at the end…lowering your expectations of life a little can really make a difference in overall happiness. That being said, I think it’s a fine line between lowering one’s expectations and self-sabatoging in our life goals/relationships because of fear of being disappointed or failing or losing…I’m very aware of this as I approach dating again. One of the wisest things a counsellor told me years ago – “the best relationships are those based on want, not need” And I think you “need” less when you are more fulfilled and content with who you are as as a person.

  2. I think ..you should always “need” your wife and not just want..need is food and want is dessert . What I am and how well am I connected to people , has one clear points, some of the influential people have power..and if they have that..there must be a way..I am not saying to attain power is an expectation of one self..but it is power we feel rich with..

  3. I think the problem lies in the concept that much of what we want in life is not neccessarily what we really want or need but rather what we think we should have based on the mass marketing putting out by the media and the authority figures in our lives. According to my mother I have failed because I should have been the ceo of a large company because I am smart and I am not doing that. That was her dream not mine–never has been. Only recently in the last few years did I realize writing was my passion not acting–wow imagine if I had known that at the age of 18. I think we fail because essentially we are not following our passion or calling. Someone who loves music does not have to be a famous rock star–there are many other ways to follow a passion without using the prescripts of society. I think the idea of failure is simply not measuring up to a societal prescript. If you can pay your rent, engage in your passion you neither need be famous or rich. You can simply be happy living life by your script. In my humble opinion.

  4. But who’s going to pay money to a guru or a counselor who’s going to say “you’re average, and your life will be more or less average, and while you may hope to become rich and/or famous, it’s probably not gonna happen”? 🙂

  5. What a great concept….the more whole I become the less emotionally needy and then by default less disappointed and happier I will become! This is going on sticky notes to be posted in my car, on my bathroom mirror, on the frig…..you get the idea. Love this!

  6. I think this is brilliant! I personally needed this right at this moment in my life. I thank you for this post. I think this should also be applied to kids nowadays. They need to know about failure and loss. We live in such an instant gratification society, and we are always telling our children “Yes”, that they do not know the meaning of “No, you have to earn it and work for it.” I am definitely keeping this in my inbox!!

  7. Thanks for validating what I’ve been learning. I worked hard to change the negative tape by using affirmations. It didn’t work. I hated the affirmations because my negative tape was always louder. Until I chose “I belong to God.” It didn’t require anything of me or guarantee anything. The negative tape would kick in, “You’re stupid.” “Yes, but I belong to God.” “You’re bad.” “Yes, but I belong to God.” “You’re a mess.” “Yes, but I’m God’s mess because I belong to God.” Now that I think about it in light of one of your previous posts, the negative tape grew boring. I’ll never be a New York Times best seller because I choose to not write that kind of material. I’m now okay with that. When I started writing, I told myself that I’d be happy if I could help one other person. I have. Success! I’m upping the goal to being able to support myself. 🙂 Thanks again, Scott.

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