Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Monthly Archives: May 2017

The Failed Hail Mary

First of all, the Hail Mary should never be a strategy – it’s only a last resort – your last shot when all seems to be lost. Under those conditions, you really have no choice. It’s either do nothing, or go for the Hail Mary and hope for the best (hope for the best is never a good strategy either, BTW). So throwing a Hail Mary and losing the game isn’t really a big surprise – the game was already lost, you were just hoping for a miracle (hoping for a miracle – also not a good strategy).

So I just threw a Hail Mary in life and came up short. Losing sucks, but nobody got hurt and I’ll live to fight another day. Take a deep breath, remember all of the things you have to be grateful for, pick yourself up, and move the fuck on.

Tomorrow is another day.


I love NYC – even as a child growing up in the south, I would look at pictures of New York and think “That’s where I belong…” I have no idea what made me think this at such a young age, other than it just seemed like a magical place. When I finally moved there, I wasn’t disappointed. It just felt so right to have seemingly every iteration of humanity packed tightly together, each culture influencing the other, all striving to move humanity forward in their own small way. It’s really a microcosm of what makes America great – we are a country of immigrants who came to this new world ready to work tirelessly for their future. Ultimately we are ALL immigrants, you just have to look back far enough.

As an older man, I look at this city and have a deep admiration and love for it’s diversity. This is what really sets it apart – the rich tapestry of humanity that flows through it. If you really want to see what’s special about America, go to Queens. It’s as if you took every culture on this planet and packed it into one borough. A Noah’s Ark of humanity – and it works! It’s this living, vibrant, mass of humanity, occupying every nook and cranny, somehow all working together.

No one is trying to kill each other – they all have work to do. Together they are giving birth to another generation, another dream of what might be. Another dream of what WILL be. It’s a beautiful thing to behold…

To Be Alive

What does it mean “to be alive”? If we are not dead, we are living – but are we alive? 

“Alive” seems to imply a joy in living, an engagement in the struggle to be fully present in the moment.

“Alive” seems to imply purpose, not just a sequence of days where one wakes up, goes through a routine, and goes to bed.

“Alive” seems to imply the acknowledgment that this life won’t go on forever. That this moment is special, and it when it passes we can never get it back.

“Alive” seems to imply living without fear. Being vulnerable and open to the possibilities of the moment.

I am actively aspiring to be fully alive.

I am both writing and discovering my story with each moment. I plan on continuing this process until I am no longer alive.

What We Leave Behind

I have been very moved by the death of Chris Cornell last week. To realize the depth of his suffering and that he ultimately couldn’t escape the darkness that engulfed his life is psychically painful to contemplate. This tragedy plays out daily for those who are wounded by depression, Chris Cornell was not unique in this respect. The loss of any life to suicide ripples through time and effects the lives of all who were touched by the lost. In this case, because his music touched so many, the sense of grieving and need to understand briefly permeates the entire culture in which he flourished.

But over time this focus on his tragic end will fade, and what is left will be the body of his work. He left behind an impressive legacy of a man powerfully driven to create and express himself through music.

I want to link to a couple of moving tributes to him, one is a powerful essay written by Michael Beinhorn that he published on his great blog “How to Save Popular Music” in 2010. The other is a haunting interpretation of “Black Hole Sun” that I found to be powerfully moving in a very unexpected way. Rest In Peace Chris Cornell, you made life better for more than you knew…

No One Owes You Anything

Your parents don’t owe you anything

Your lover doesn’t owe you anything

Your boss doesn’t owe you anything

Your friends don’t owe you anything

Your profession doesn’t owe you anything

Your teacher doesn’t owe you anything


Whatever you get in this life, you’re going to have to fucking work for it.

And you better be prepared to get banged up in the process…

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

If you’re comfortable, you’re probably not growing. Learning something new, being a struggling novice, trying to do something you have no idea how to do, is fun. It’s one of the things that makes life thrilling.

But by definition being out of our comfort zone means being uncomfortable (and humbled) – something we are programmed to avoid at all costs. So we have to push ourselves by trying new things. We’re not talking about making a living here, so the sky’s the limit.

What do you want to learn?

Iron Goes Through Fire Before It Becomes Steel

As a child I grew up in an environment of unforgiving chaos and danger. Abusive violence and unpredictable explosive expressions of mental illness were my norm. Neglect was a positive thing in my world. I thought everyone lived this way for a long time – people could appear “normal,” but I assumed it was a facade. It wasn’t until I met my wife and began to be assimilated into her family that I learned this wasn’t true. It took many years of therapy and the love and support of my wife for me to understand my story. When my first psychiatrist told me I was exhibiting classic symptoms of PTSD (as an adult), I remember thinking WTF?

The thing is, I wasn’t exactly broken. I had learned to survive and adapt – a skill that would end up serving me well…

Now, I am well aware that things could have turned out very differently, but I want to make an important point here. Struggling and learning to adapt is critical to succeeding as a human being in life. I remember thinking, at some point in my therapy, that I had an edge over most other people. I could remain very cool and calculating in the most dangerous situations. I was hyper-aware of my environment and could read people and sense danger with a high degree of accuracy. I knew how to adapt to my surroundings to achieve the highest degree of functionality. I had learned these things in order to survive.

Overcoming exposure to crippling, extreme stress ultimately enhances our ability to adapt and survive.  But the stress doesn’t have to be this severe (indeed, it shouldn’t be) to achieve the same effect. Although every individuals ability to cope differs, we are all stronger than we realize. We are built to survive.

One Hundred Posts

This marks my 100th consecutive post, and as such, I want to take a moment to step back and look at what I am doing here. What has this experiment taught me? Well, first of all, it has taught me to be disciplined enough to post something for 100 days straight – no insignificant feat. I have tried to say something meaningful in each one, some more successfully than others, but hey, in order to succeed you have to be willing to fail.

It has forced me to think and write my thoughts down in a coherent fashion. Sometimes this is harder than it seems – I will write something, preview it, and then either edit or expound on my thoughts. Sometimes they are short and very stream of consciousness, in other posts I have spent time really trying to develop an idea. There have been situations where I found myself in the bathroom of my ER at the end of a 12 and a half hour shift with multiple deaths and my brain is just fried and yet I have to dig deep and post something. I have also started posts and then not published them, because…

I have had to think hard about what I am willing to explore here. There are things I have written that I’m not sure I want to share publicly (even though I am assuming no one is really reading this). This idea of what topics to write about is an ongoing process – I am still growing here. This blog is an act of self-actualization that is in a state of development. I am trying to learn and grow as a human by doing this…

Finally, this project was (and still is), something I am doing for myself, but clearly I have written it in a way that is directed at the reader. Who do I think that reader is? Is it me? Or do I think that someone, maybe a few people, will actually read this? I’m not quite sure… I do know that sometimes I will go back and read things I’ve written and find it interesting. Here’s one of the fun things about creating stuff – after a certain amount of time passes, you can go back and look at things you have done and wonder: Did I really do that? I guess I’m capable of more than I sometimes give myself credit for


Are they:

A) An apex life form capable of divine beauty and transcendent love?


B) An unstoppable malignant cancer that represents its own existential threat?


Having a Bad Day?

Stop, take a deep breath, and repeat after me:

  1. I am fucking alive
  2. This is the most interesting time in human history
  3. If you don’t understand #2, start paying attention
  4. Somebody cares about you, and if they don’t, get to work making that happen
  5. If you are broke, regroup and…
  6. Repeat #1

Feeling Stuck For Inspiration?

I just listened to a fascinating podcast interview with Chris Shiflett, and while discussing songwriting, he made this comment:

You just write until the good ideas come…”

Songwriting is a mysterious process, even to those who do it. There just isn’t really a quantifiable way to create anything. But the more you write, the more comfortable you become writing. You just have to face the reality that they aren’t all going to be winners, and sometimes you are going write things that just suck.  But that’s OK, it’s just part of the process. It never gets easy, but that’s part of the mystery.

Michael Beinhorn

I came across this really thoughtful post from record producer Michael Beinhorn in a thread about making “Superunknown” by the band Soundgarden that I think bears re-posting here:

“I have to respond to what you said about record making being amazing. It pains me to know that anyone can have a mediocre experience making a recording and I need to say something about it.

I realize that the recordings you’re asking me about were done 15-20 years ago when artists still had enormous recording budgets, so the scale isn’t really relative anymore. Additionally, there is little- no money in recording these days. In spite of this, there has to be some way that you can find enjoyment and fulfillment in this work- because it’s not just a utility. It’s meant to give something back- not just to the audience but to every person who’s doing it. If you find that feeling in your work, it’s worth more than gold.

The only way this can happen is if you’re able to take some time to get the best out of what you’re doing and to constantly learn as much as you can about how you like to work. By saying that, I don’t only mean learning the technical aspect, but from understanding what it is you’re after and why. If you’re open to examining this, you will never stop learning about or enjoying the process. It has the potential to be the most inspiring and wonderful thing you can ever experience- even in times like these. When I was getting my start, that feeling was virtually all I had to keep me going, but it was more than enough.

I felt compelled to say this, but it’s so important to find greatness in everything you do. This is how you will distinguish yourself from everyone else who does the same kind of work as you.”

Listen Closely…

Here’s a secret “life hack” that is so simple yet so powerful most people are unaware of it. I didn’t really discover it until I was in my 40’s, but I have literally used it several times a day since – to great effect.

So here’s the trick – you tell yourself ahead of time how you are going to feel, and your mind is now primed to interpret whatever experience happens with the perspective you have prepared it for.

In other words, you feel how you think you are going to feel.

The ramifications of this are obvious, and extremely powerful. To a large degree, we choose how we are going to interpret life. We are unfortunately unable to control many of the bad things that we experience in life. We would like to think we can control whether or not we get cancer, or whether a loved one dies, or any number of the horrible fucking things life throws at us. But the reality is that, for the most part, we can’t.

But we do have complete and total control of how we respond to these events, and that is something no one can ever take away from you.

Happy Accidents

How many great things in life are the result of happy accidents? Or are happy accidents actually just another way of saying “go through life open to the possibilities that present themselves, and pay attention.”

I went to see the great comedian Tommy Chong not that long ago, and he told a long story that ended with the statement:

“Someone will show up, coincidences will happen, and suddenly you’ll know life is exactly as you’ve planned it.”

How Much Information Can You Learn Quickly?

This is a somewhat rhetorical question, but it’s a good one to ponder. The short answer is “Probably more than you think…”

Some important variables to factor in here might include:

  1. How motivated are you to learn this information?
  2. What is your general level of intelligence?
  3. How interesting do you find the subject you are learning?
  4. What is your reason for learning this material?
  5. Do you think it’s possible to learn this information quickly?
  6. Are you simply memorizing or are you learning underlying concepts?

If I had to pick the most important factor it would undoubtedly be #1. Motivation trumps everything.

However, because I put a timeframe in the original question (quickly), of course #2 is going to be pretty important.

But, all things considered, the one who wants it the most wins…

Paying Respect

I met the woman who would become my mother-in-law 33 years ago. She died last year and I have traveled to honor her memory with the unveiling of her headstone tomorrow. I will forever be grateful to have known her – she treated me like a son from the moment I met her. She was a fiercely independent and highly intelligent woman who suffered no fools.

I loved her very much, and although I will always miss her, I feel so fortunate to have had her in my life for the time I did. I am a better man for it.