Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Monthly Archives: September 2019

Art as a Metaphor

Sometimes people get caught up in the plausibility of a story, both in film and print. This is a big mistake, and is kind of missing the whole point of art.

It’s not meant to be taken literally, it’s meant to trigger a response, to make you think about the possibilities, to see the world in a different way. Scientists can sometimes (though not always) be the least imaginative – their thought process is too literal. Art isn’t meant to be literal, so there can be a rather large disconnect.

To appreciate art requires that you open yourself up to possibility – to suspend belief. If you look at art and think well that could never happen or that’s not possible then you’ve missed the experience due to your own lack of imagination, or at least your refusal to use it.

Mind you, a lot of art just isn’t going to resonate with everyone – I’m not talking about that.

I’m just saying that great art doesn’t have to make sense, and if you think it does you need to go back and look at with the innocence of a child. Then process that experience with your adult brain and grow.

Deadpool

My wife and I are BFF with another married couple going back 33 years. Recently, after dinner and a few drinks, the discussion turned to our own private Deadpool. I’m pretty sure I was the one who brought it up, it sounds like my idea of a party game. You see, my apparent obsession with death can also be used for amusement, at least until it starts to get real. It was great fun, at least for me.

Unfortunately, on reflection it seemed clear that I would be the first to go, and my male counterpart would be the last. That left the two women – it was decided my wife would be third and his wife would be second after me. I’m not sure about everyone else, but I was somewhat amused and as comfortable as I could be with my spot at number one.

Of course it leaves me at 62 with the realization that the other shoe could drop at any moment. The first shoe dropped when I survived my bout with cancer, although when I became septic after my appendix ruptured at 58, I realized that if I had been somewhere without access to medical care that would have been curtains for me as well. Ok, for the sake of argument let’s pretend I have three shoes.

The whole point of this exercise is this: it’s good to have some awareness of your mortality, if only because it makes you appreciate the moments you have now. It also helps you prioritize what exactly is worth spending your precious time on, and clarifies what is useless bullshit.

If you can figure this out, you will be a lot happier with the time you have left.

Important Note (Part 1)

If you’re creative, most people are not going to particularly like what you do. You mustn’t let this diminish your love for whatever it is you’ve made, they’re not secretly telling you how much you suck – they’re just indifferent. This is normal.

I recently listened to the author Ben Mezrich interviewed on Brian Koppleman’s podcast “The Moment,” and he talked about being rejected by hundreds of publishers, for multiple books he’d written before finally publishing something. Brian asked him How did you deal with all that rejection, how’d you keep going?

Ben replied, cheerfully and without hesitation: I knew they were all wrong. And I’m still convinced that every book I wrote that was rejected, could, under the right circumstances, be a best seller.

To state the obvious: everyone’s not going to get it.

Maybe your audience is really small, maybe it’s just you, it doesn’t really matter. All that really matters is that you keep learning, growing, and creating.

That’s the key, because when you stop doing that, life stops.

Hey!

Whatcha got there son?

Nuttin

A big, ginormous pile of nuttin’ – watch your step, mind you – you don’t want to get any on yer shoes.

For Every Action There is a Reaction

Sounds obvious, right? We all learned this in school at some point – after all, it’s Newtons Third Law of Physics.

But this actually has a very important relevance in our daily life – understanding this concept should help guide everything you do. Because if you think about it, it kind of puts the idea of karma and luck into perspective. After all, karma and luck are just a reaction to something. A decision to be at a certain place at a particular time, or maybe the act of creating something and showing it to the world.

Sure, you have a greater likelihood of failing at whatever goal you’re striving for than you do of succeeding. But what if that’s the wrong way to look at it?

Perhaps instead you should look at it with the understanding that the very act of trying will have some reaction – you just don’t know exactly how that reaction will play out.

Because, you know, it’s physics. This isn’t conjecture.

It’s a law.

Letting Go of the Things You Love

Notice I said “things,” not people. People are a whole different thing – BTW, just to be clear, I’m including dogs and cats in the “people” category.

Anyway, with that out of the way, sometimes “stuff” you’ve owned for a long time can seem to become imbued with a sort of power, almost like it’s more than just an object. You don’t really love the object, but you love what it represents.

Maybe it represents a particular time in your life, perhaps it was given to you by someone you love. Maybe it’s a reminder of dreams you once had, and letting go of it reminds you of your failure to make those dreams real.

Maybe you feel it should be worth something financially and you find out it isn’t. For you it’s filled with memories and love and hopes and dreams, but in the cold light of day it’s essentially worthless. How do you let go of that?

Maybe by giving it away to someone who will love it in its twilight?

Notes to the Void (Part 1)

The thing is, no matter how great your contributions to the world are, how celebrated you might be, one day you will die and life will go on. Whatever great thing it was that you gave to the world will continue to have some meaning, at least for a little while. But eventually it too will fade away into the dusty halls of history, eventually to be swallowed up by the yawning gape of millennia.

So the good news is, at the end of the day the same fate waits for the rock stars, the billionaires, the architects of social change and global visionary’s as it does for the invisible social outcasts and the mentally ill.

Same beginning – same end.

May as well enjoy it while you’re here.

Why the ER?

Because, apparently I require a high degree of stimulation to remain engaged, paired with a very low threshold for boredom.

Perhaps because I like to hit the ground running and not stop until twelve hours later – I actually enjoy seeing how far I can push myself before things start breaking down.

Let’s not forget the unending parade of those in need. I like attempting to help those people, especially when it’s not clear to anyone exactly what kind of help is needed.

In other words, it would seem that uncertain chaos is my comfort zone.

So there you go.

It’s important to know yourself, if only to find environments in which you may thrive.

This is so Weird

I’ve been thinking about this idea I have for a short story for the last couple of weeks, but I couldn’t figure out what it was about. Part of it was there, but it was missing something and I wasn’t sure what.

So yesterday I started a blog post while I was working out at the gym, not really thinking too much about it, and then suddenly I just started writing feverishly on my cellphone. I was trying to write as fast as I could because it was all coming so quickly and I didn’t want to miss any of it.

After a few minutes, I realized I was writing my next short story – it was as if my mind was saying Forget that other thing for a minute, here’s what you’re writing next.

That’s how writing is for me – there is usually some vague idea I start off with – but sometimes I don’t even have that. “The Question Mark Bridge” started as a blog post about a real event and then morphed into something else entirely. That was my first piece of fiction and I didn’t even know it until the characters and story just sort of appeared as I wrote. I’m not kidding, I was shocked to find myself writing fiction – it just happened out of nowhere, with no conscious intention on my part.

Grace Comes at Nightfall” just appeared with no idea at all, I didn’t even know who the main character was until I was well into the story, when he told me. I immediately got excited and thought of course. The whole thing was written stream-of-consciousness.

Eraser” started as a vague idea and the characters just seemed to appear in my mind, fully formed. I have no idea where they came from, but once they showed up all I had to do was listen and they told me what to write.

I never intended to write fiction at all, but it seems like these characters have picked me to tell their stories. It’s as if they’re saying Don’t think about this too much, we’ll tell you what to write.

Like I said – this whole thing is pretty weird.

I’m not questioning it.

The Power of Human Connection

Never underestimate the power of what might seem at the time to be an insignificant moment of human connection. If this interaction is with someone who is not known to be particularly friendly, all the better.

We tend to downplay the importance of these moments and yet my experience tells me this is a big mistake. Full disclosure: I am as guilty of this as the next person, so I have to periodically remind myself as well.

What, exactly am I talking about? Just this: smile when you meet someone, say hello, communicate that you are genuinely glad to see this person and that they are important. Seems kind of simple and inconsequential, no?

Well, it turns out that it’s not. Sometimes, the person you had this simple interaction with will actually reach out and thank you days later. It can be a bit humbling and moving to realize you have this kind of power at your fingertips and don’t routinely use it.

Ethical Dilemma (Part 1)

For the sake of illustration, let’s say this is a hypothetical test question:

You have an elderly patient who’s alert, oriented, and appears to be of sound mind, agreeing to and complying with care in the emergency department. This hypothetical patient is sick – very sick. An immediate family member presents after several hours of treatment and identifies as the health care proxy, demanding that all medical interventions be stopped, stating “I want this person discharged now.” Death could occur if this happens.

The patient is now silent and appears to acquiesce to the proxy’s wishes. On further questioning the patient states “I want to be discharged” in a less than convincing manner, adding “If it’s my time it’s my time.” As the doctor calmly explains the severity of the patients condition, the proxy becomes more and more agitated, shouting “I don’t want to hear what you have to say, you’re not listening to me. Respect my wishes!” What does the ER doc and nurse do?

If you enjoy navigating these kinds of difficult scenarios, trying to find a solution where it doesn’t seem possible, then the ER is for you.

I must warn you though – just like life, things don’t always turn out well.

Page Turner

I knew that I had a difficult story. It was going to make people think about uncomfortable things. And I felt very strongly that if I was going to ask them to think about uncomfortable things, they had better be turning the pages.”

– Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

Recognizing When to Bail (Part 1)

This one not only isn’t simple, it’s going to be downright painful, so let’s get one thing out of the way right up front.

Your emotions cannot enter into your decision.

Having said that, this is going to be easier said than done. Because we’re talking about bailing on something you’ve been working on, right? The very fact that you’ve been pursuing whatever it is means that it’s something important enough for you to spend your precious time and energy on – therefore bailing is going to feel like failure. Hey, winners never quit and quitters never win, isn’t that how the old saying goes? Well, yes, but that’s not exactly how the real world works – as usual, life is a little more nuanced than that.

First of all, is it your ego that really wants this thing or is it truly important to you? Because if it’s just for your ego, that, by itself, is not a valid reason to pursue something.

On the other hand, are you pursuing something because it would contribute to the greater good? Or perhaps achieving this thing will lead to higher state of self-actualization? These are definitely valid reasons to keep going even when things seem impossible.

You might also ask yourself do I have the resources to actually accomplish what I’m trying to do? And finally, perhaps most important of all, there’s this:

You’ve got a limited number of minutes left in your life. Is this how you want to spend them?