IMG_2361
Blog powered by Typepad

« Lifted from comments ... | Main | Quotable »

Comments

Got to disagree. Don't we admire success because the successful have brought something into the world that wasn't there before, be it a product, an idea or just a pile of money? It's not the specific result but the fact that they made "something more". Failure therefore shouldn't normally be used as a label for a person, but as a description of a result.

The only time we could justifiably call a person a "failure" is if they failed in life. From my reading of your blog, Michael, I see that you have become learned, spiritually aware, intellectually fearless... in other words, in many ways, wise. This I would call success in life. In a previous comment I asked whether there was a universe where you "succeeded" in Hollywood and became a rich, selfish, egotistical celebrity. I would call that "failure", not what you are now.

I think failure can be on many levels, and so can success. I would not say you are a failure. I would say that you have failed. As I have - five million more times than you have. But success and failure are like the stock market: they go up and down.

You've never failed in writing the best book you could write. You never failed in giving people their money's worth. You say you're a failure. But you're also a success.

My much-despised former agent (See? I'm REALLY a failure - I don't even have a f**king agent!) once said something smart to me. I told her I "will get there some day". And she said, "Get where?" She said you never get "there", there's always something that isn't right. There is no perfection.

There is, however, a guy who has made a living writing books for 20 years, which is an amazing feat in itself.

If, a hundred years from now this doesn't matter, you've got to be happy for all the hours of joy, fear, shivers, and hours of escape you've given people over the years.

In my world, you are in no way, shape, or form, a failure.

Accept that you have failed, absorb that, appreciate that failure is part of the human condition, and move forward, doing what you want to do, what you LOVE to do.

The only people who can really triumph are those who are brave enough to fail. Failure, when linked to striving, is an indication of bravery, and worthiness.

And now that I've been reduced to talking like somebody out of Star Wars, I shall exeunt.

Hi Michael,

I enjoyed your piece. It's courageous, and I appreciate your call for self-acceptance.

But I like to say it this way: I've come to understand that I feel like a failure only when I incorrectly identify the game we're all playing here.

It's a much different game than I used to think!

Let's just say that you've succeeded at not succeeding. This way we can all feel a sense of true accomplishment and call it a day. :-)

I would also agree with Bruce above and say that you are courageous and bold in your embrace of failure. This acceptance will totally free you up to molt into a better person.

Let's just say that you've succeeded at not succeeding. This way we can all feel a sense of true accomplishment and call it a day. :-)

I would also agree with Bruce above and say that you are courageous and bold in your embrace of failure. This acceptance will totally free you up to molt into a better person.

It appears to me that the world is like a giant “lapidary” rock polishing process and instead of rocks being polished it is our souls that are polished to a perfect reflection of ourselves as that that is.

Some of that friction that polishes our souls is our successes and failures.

I think I read somewhere that bill gates stated he felt like a loser when they were trying to break up his monopoly. I wonder how many people in the world believe that 40 billion dollars would make them happy.

I think it is a mistake to throw out the concept of success and the urge for success simply because in so many ways our society places emphasis on silly and meaningless forms of this concept (millions of dollars, beating out our fellow human at some trivial endeavor) As a conception, divorced from all of those things, success is a primary motivator of human behavior. As such, it should be embraced and made pure or ennobling. For example, one cannot improve morally without some concept of a proper trajectory for this improvement. If I have a fault which causes me to lie to avoid conflict, I can name and recognize this fault. It is called cowardice. Only by being able to identify a higher, more ennobled state, namely courage, can I strive to embody that ideal in future. Does this mean I have to beat myself up for being in a state of cowardice now? Absolutely not. I agree with you in principle that we have to have a calm recognition of where we really are at any given point, and waste no excess energy engaged in self-flagellation. However, I think it is a recipe for stagnation and ultimately disintigration to think that this calm recognition is equal to "acceptance". I can no more accept my cowardice than I can "accept" violence or brutality in others. If I can recognize it as a diminishment from an ideal or even as a less mature state than an ideal, I feel compelled to strive toward that ideal. I feel compelled to SUCCEED. However, for me, this has next to nothing to do with material success. Also, recognizing that life is a process, a gradual unfoldment toward greater strength and greater virtue makes self-flagellation ridiculous.

Hey buddy, I hope you are feeling OK. I know you are not a failure as a writer, because I've read your books and they rock. On the other hand I have read other authors in the genre whose books fill every airport book kiosk and grocery store aisle, and none of their thrillers are the least bit better than yours and many are much much worse.

How many books you sell is pretty much unrelated to how good your material is. Sad, but true. It is also unrelated to even getting published, as the travails of many superb books which failed to interest any of dozens of agents and publishers until they finally saw the light of day, sometimes to financial success and sometimes not.

You are a success as a writer. At this point the only thing that matters is whether you can support yourself financially as a writer. If not, I guess you'll need to figure out something else. I'm sure you will continue to write, regardless.

Let me know if you need anything. I have a few contacts in the world of corporate cubicleland, if that becomes a road you need to take.

I'm not even sure I believe in free will. If I'm a failure it's because the Universe wills it so.

Art free will is a very explosive subject. The ego loves the concept of free will. Religions and justice systems thrive on the term free will. The ego wants to think it has complete control over its destiny. Even my Webster’s dictionary states that free will has limitations.

I heard the term "choices within boundaries" and for me that explains our volition better than the term free will. From my point of view those boundaries are ignorance, which is not yet acquiring that which is available to be known.

Synonyms for ignorance are lack of knowledge and unawareness. Some so-called enlighten gurus teachings suggests that we lack knowledge and are unaware of our real or true self.

" For the most part, our lives consist of going from one failure to another, with only the most ephemeral and insignificant victories."

Both "victories" and "losses" are ephemeral and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. When we die we lose everything we had anyway.

Interesting comments. Thanks for all the feedback.

>Don't we admire success because the successful have brought something into the world that wasn't there before

We've been taught to admire it, but we shouldn't. When we admire "success," we implicitly denigrate ourselves. We put ourselves on a treadmill of the pursuit of "success," which becomes a death trap.

>Accept that you have failed, absorb that, appreciate that failure is part of the human condition, and move forward

I agree with this, as long as "moving forward" doesn't entail seeking success. If it does, you're still on the treadmill.

>you are courageous and bold in your embrace of failure.

Thanks, but I'm not courageous at all. I'm just tired of playing the game. The treadmill has worn me out!

>I think it is a recipe for stagnation and ultimately disintigration to think that this calm recognition is equal to "acceptance".

I disagree. We disintegrate because we pursue the chimera of success. This is what drives people to drink, to abuse drugs, to get ulcers, to foul up their relationships, to become bitter and cynical. Striving is not good. It's another ego game. This is true even if you're striving for spiritual or ethical improvement. Give up striving and accept yourself as you are, and the game is over.

>I hope you are feeling OK.

Yes, better than I have in a long time! I realize now that I've been making myself crazy with this idea of "success," which is just a bill of goods. But I appreciate your concern.

>You are a success as a writer.

By my standards, I'm not. But that's okay. All it means is that I missed the target. There is no problem in missing the target. The only problem is when we decide to assess our self-worth on the basis of our target practice!

>Both "victories" and "losses" are ephemeral and insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

True, and that's another way of looking at the fiction of "success." It's an ego trap. We could say, "By worldly standards I'm a failure, but by a higher standard it doesn't matter." That would be equivalent to what I mean when I say, "I'm a failure and I'm okay."

Maybe these words of wisdom from a master spirit apply here, maybe not, but I find them of interest considering our discussion on success and failure.

"Man is not only a manifestation of that Cause which gives rise to all expression, but is a phase of the Reality which is inexpressible in any other way. Thus he has no will of his own other than the inherent tendency to express himself ----and this is NECESSITY"

"He is not a blind sport of environment, for the potentiality inheres in him, not in his surroundings, and the necessity lies in his relation to the external, not in its relation to him"

Anyone want to elaborate on the statement “the necessity lies in his relation to the external, not in its relation to him”

As far as Michael being a success if I got one book published I think I would feel like a huge success. Many people publish their own books to find this satisfaction.


Yes, better than I have in a long time!

Great to hear that.

I realize now that I've been making myself crazy with this idea of "success," which is just a bill of goods. But I appreciate your concern.

Yes it is just a bill of goods, and as long as you see that that's fine. I was just worried that you were feeling down about things, and putting on a brave face. You are absolutely right about the "treadmill", and stepping off. . .

Michael,

Excellent description of what I find principally profound in Christianity. One thing that you didn't add (and possibly don't agree with) but I would, is that everyone must "fail" in critical aspects: nobody can live forever; nobody can preserve anything of value permanently; nobody can connect with another in a way completely free from distortion; nobody will have all of his good actions rewarded, nor all of his evil actions punished; et cetera. Once you really get that, you can seek asylum in empathy and forgiveness.

Bottom Line: Life is oxymoronic.

Success and failure are material expressions of the Christian concept of Heaven and Hell, in which there is some externally determined LINE which we must cross over in order to be valued by God or humanity. The trick is to realize that there is no line. Life is a process, not a goal. God wants us to love one another, not jump through hoops. Moving forward (towards one's own spiritual potential) is "success" and moving backwards is "failure." It is the movement, not where we end up that defines success or failure. An achievement that would be considered a success when we were young might be considered a failure if we were to do the same thing today because it was not an expression of our current potential.
At the same time, we all move two steps forward, one step back for our entire lives (and perhaps beyond). It keeps us humble.

I always worry about people who achieve great success when young, because then they feel like failures as adults. I've read that Paul McCartney still wishes he were as good alone as he was with John. If he is lucky, he will have progressed as a human being to compensate for his "failure" as a musician.

The comments to this entry are closed.