Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Monthly Archives: June 2018

Pay Attention To Your Internal Dialog

Humans are infinitely complex creatures, what you see is most definitely not what you get. The inner dialogue is known only to the one experiencing it and how much they choose to reveal is the choice of the individual. I am writing this in response to the recent suicide of Anthony Bourdain, who I would like to honor in another post – but there a few points I would like to address here first.

There are legitimate reasons for taking one’s life, at least in the sense that the act of suicide has been thought out and processed thoroughly and rationally in response to whatever is causing the extreme distress. For example, my sister committed suicide after many years of untreated debilitating mental illness and poly substance abuse. She had attempted it multiple times before, and her life had been a nightmare of psychic pain and chaos for a long, long time. She chose to end her life, and ultimately I had to accept that this was her choice. I had tried to intervene a thousand times, but one of life’s brutal lessons I learned from her was that you can’t fix someone else, no matter how much you love them – the desire to get better has to come from deep within.

When a well loved public figure commits suicide, the rational human response is to wonder why? But why is unknowable except to the one making that decision. Perhaps they were recently diagnosed with an incurable disease, or had been fighting one privately for a prolonged period of time. Maybe that disease was mental illness…

And that brings me to the point of this post: Pay attention to your inner dialog. There is a well known and statistically successful treatment for clinical depression called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that essentially works by teaching the individual suffering from depression to monitor their thoughts and learn to to recognize their cognitive distortions. This requires a degree of self-awareness and the willingness to seek help.

If you are thinking about hurting yourself or ending your life, you owe it to yourself to think carefully about what you are doing and why. The choice is ultimately yours to make, and yes, you do have the right to end your life as you see fit. Just don’t do it as a spontaneous act.

When you are feeling this way, write down your thoughts and tell yourself you’ll wait until tomorrow to read them and decide whether to act on ending your life. And if you are so fucked up you are afraid you are going to kill yourself immediately without being in full control, call 911 and simply say “I’m afraid I’m going to kill myself.” EMS will pick you up and take you the closest ER, and as an ER nurse, I love it when someone does this, because they have asked for help. We have a protocol for protecting people who feel this way. It keeps them from immediately harming themselves and gets them evaluated by a psychiatrist.

There is no shame in having a mental illness, and there is no shame in wanting to hurt yourself. These things are just part of the human condition.

There is shame in not asking for help.

Show Some Kindness

A spontaneous moment of kindness could be a life-changing event for the one receiving it.

And you’ll feel better in the process.

Do it.

Every Day Is A Gift

A 40 year old colleague just had a stroke.

Seriously, I am really not kidding here. I constantly say this to myself – I repeat it several times each day, sometimes out loud, and sometimes only in my mind.

I repeat it enough so that it becomes ingrained in my psyche, over and over, day in and day out. I am deadly serious, and I suggest you do the same.

You just never know when it’s coming, but it’s somewhere out there, biding it’s time, waiting. And it will find you my friend, because there’s no where to hide.

All you can do is really try to make each moment count. Understand that tomorrow is not a given, and you’d better be fucking grateful for what you have right now, today.

It’s a gift with a time limit.

Make Your Own Religion

I was recently talking to my wife about my attempt to answer metaphysical questions about life and death as an atheist. I was specifically talking about the concept of reincarnation and how it might explain a lot, yet lamenting the fact that I am not a Buddhist, as if to say I couldn’t believe this even if I wanted to. With her usual clarity she simply said, “You can take bits from different religions and incorporate them into your own belief system,” as if this was the most obvious thing in the world, except, at least to me, it wasn’t.

It was one of those “Ah-ha!” moments where I immediately realized she was, of course, right. Mind you, I’m not really sure I want to incorporate specific aspects of different religions into my belief system, but it’s a novel idea, and really, why not? I am so used to rejecting all religious dogma that perhaps I was “throwing the baby out with the bath water.

This is one of the cool things about the human experience – you have the freedom to figure life out for yourself.

System Failure

This is an unfortunate perfect storm – I dropped and broke my iPhone for the third and final time, and I’m on vacation. So now I have a shit ton of spare time on my hands with no computer, no tablet, no iPhone and no TV. No books, no music, and unfortunately no blog.

My wife is letting me type this on her iPhone, but understandably she doesn’t want to give up her password. I don’t blame her, god knows what you’d find on mine.

So although I have a personal contract with myself to do this blog everyday, it would appear that Mr. Murphy has made his appearance. Whatever could go wrong did go wrong, but we can at least be grateful that no one got hurt.

So unless I can hijack my wife’s iPhone I’ll be back on Saturday when I get home. At least I can post something on my home computer until I replace mine.

Until then, protect yourself at all times, roll with the punches, and stay safe.

Vacation Mode

Due to multiple modalities of “relaxation” therapy, this blog has been temporarily suspended. Regular operations will resume tomorrow.

Thank you for your understanding.

44 Years And Change

1974: I’m 17 years old, half – hammered after “relaxing” with friends, aimlessly walking through Myrtle Beach (South Carolina) at night looking for a bite to eat and whatever else interesting might pop up.

2018: I’m 61 years old, half – hammered after “relaxing” with my wife (& friend), aimlessly walking through Myrtle Beach at night looking for a bite to eat and whatever else interesting might pop up.

44 years between these two events, yet I am the same person in each. The astonishing thing is, I still, quite literally, feel no different.

I am, of course, a very different person, yet somehow I am essentially still the same.

How much do we change by our own effort, how much do we change because of our environment, and how much do we simply stay the same, because that’s who we are?

Made By Committee

You can always tell when something was made by a committee because the more people involved in making it the more generic it becomes. Nowhere is this more evident than the American car industry. Modern cars have pretty much evolved to one body type – a vehicle stripped of anything that might distinguish it from the rest, an amorphous blob on wheels. No personality, no style, nothing to offend, no indication of any artistic design whatsoever. Just a utilitarian thing designed to perform a particular job for a certain amount of time and then break so you can buy another one.

Films are another great example. Except for rare outliers, you can pretty much assume most large scale, big budget movies will have had all of the edge sanded off. After it’s passed through a thousand meetings and focus groups, met the approval of everyone asked, had everything removed that might be “offensive,” then shaved off whatever was necessary to get the desired rating, what you’re left with is an amorphous blob of “entertainment.” Only it’s not really entertaining, is it?

It’s visionaries that make the stuff that’s highly desirable, that makes us excited. Steve Jobs may not have been someone you would want to spend time with, but he was most definitely a visionary. Harley Earl, who designed the Corvette also fit s this mold, as well as Elon Musk. Likewise James Whale, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, George A. Romero, Martin Scorsese, and Quentin Tarantino in the film industry. Or Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, and Bjork.

Study the world around you and make what turns you on. Change nothing unless it advances your artistic vision. The more unique the better. It may or may not change the world you live in, but ultimately it’s visionaries who move humanity forward by showing us what’s possible.

Be one of those people. Strive to be a visionary.

Learning By Failing

I’m learning by failing, which is the best way to learn.” – Greg Wells

I keep coming across this concept in interviews with successful people whose work I admire. Here it is again in an interview with musician/producer Greg Wells, and once again I am struck by the utter simplicity of this obvious truth.

I think the reason I didn’t learn this lesson earlier in life was because I made the fatal error of personalizing failure. Because I didn’t have a lot of self-esteem to start with, when I failed at something I would interpret it as “I am a failure,” rather than “OK, I failed to achieve what I wanted – let’s look at what went wrong and regroup…” As a result, failure would really slow me down. I would become stuck in this fatalistic loop of distorted thinking, ashamed and embarrassed at my perceived shortcomings and having difficulty looking at things rationally.

There were two things I didn’t understand:

  1. You are not your failures. Big, big distinction.
  2. Failing is good – because it means you are learning and pushing yourself into uncharted waters. In other words, it means you are fully alive.

And really, this is the goal. To be fully engaged with life, always growing and learning new things. There is no stasis – you are either moving forward, or falling back. If you choose to move forward you need to get used to failing, because this is just part of the process.