Resolution: Being a Failure in 2014

canstockphoto15625619I am not, in any external or commercial sense, a successful person. I am not a beauty queen, a math whiz, a super athlete, a great singer or any other Breakfast Club stereotype. I do not overwhelm people with my cult of personality or charisma. I’m an average student, a laissez-faire gardener and an inconsistent parent. I am, by all accounts and appearances, average.

In spite of all this mediocrity, I have a super power. I lose well. I lose repeatedly. And then I get up to lose again. The power of being average, of being a little strange under the surface, of never having success handed to you, is that you can be outrageously happy doing whatever loser thing you are doing. I don’t know if it is the tantalizing seduction of a mere possibility of success or if it’s simply doing something, that in that very moment, gives delight.

Whenever the resolution chatter rolls around at the beginning of each new year, I begin to think about intentions. I realized that the overwhelming theme of the upcoming year for me will be failure. Everything I intend on doing this year is unlikely to be a success. This is not false modesty. I’ve picked some projects that have the odds against them. There will be tremendous amounts of effort with slim chance of a jackpot at the end of the rainbow. I don’t find this notion depressing. I’m going to be doing some scary things this year and I think it will be awesome.

Readers of this blog know that I’m an aspiring writer. I’ve finished one draft of a novel and am bouncing around between a 2nd novel and short stories. Work must sooncanstockphoto13103442 equal some money, so now I have to run the wannabe published author gauntlet. While I’m chipping away at that work, I will be taking a run at my other fantasy job. It does not involve a pole, but it is fraught with huge amounts of humiliating failure all the same. I am attempting to perform stand up comedy this year. It should be quite horrible and devastating. And I’m looking forward to it.

Each time I resolve to do something I’m terrified of, I feel just a little bit stronger, a little more fearless, a little more free from the constraints in my head that whisper “you can’t do that”. I’m not funny under pressure. In fact, I’m terrified when speaking to a crowd. I’ve done some improv classes and comedy sketch writing workshops, but aside from listening to comedians most of my life, I have little in my experience to suggest I’d be funny.

But here’s the deal – I don’t want regrets. I don’t want to dance with the “what ifs” the rest of my life. I want to be excited and energized and engaged, even if it means I’m two steps from throwing up on myself from nauseating anxiety. I’m okay with losing. I’m not okay with not trying, not challenging myself, not learning new things. Fear is a fantastic antidote to complacency.

Amid all your good intent and resolutions, put something on that list that scares you just a little. It might seem tiny to the outside world. It may be insignificant compared to the grandiose accomplishments they give out prizes and paparazzi for, but if it takes the edge off the repetition of daily living, inspires and excites you, makes you breathe a little deeper, opens your world a little more, it will help to make you be a more successful human being. And that’s a resolution that can last year round.

How will you be a failure in 2014?

55 Comments on “Resolution: Being a Failure in 2014

  1. Michelle,
    Firstly, bonne année. May all your failures be epic.
    Goal? Hm. Be more agreeable with those I find disagreeable. I’m setting myself up for failure.
    Le Clown

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    • Happy New Year to you as well – I hope you have a very agreeable year or maybe a year that just agrees with you…or at least 5 minutes where you don’t want to punch someone. Let’s keep those expectations reasonable, mon ami!

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  2. Just to be contrary, I’d like to wish you a successful (and happy and healthy) New Year 🙂

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  3. This is very nice Mr. Average. It’s astonishing when you repeatedly say “me too” while reading others’ posts. I can say i’m also average; I don’t have super powers or extreme mind abilities and that’s what I think makes things more enjoyable because you’ll struggle to be either up or even down in life.

    I agree that you should add something scary to your resolutions list for the year, suddenly, after 364 days, you’ll remember someone who made it challenging for your year but you’ll like that person, you’ll like yourself 1 year ago.

    Have a great year and may all your dreams come true. Happy 2014 🙂

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    • You make an excellent point about liking the person you are – sometimes we can surprise ourselves by not only what we accomplish, but what we’re willing to try. Being average has so many advantages – you learn to live with reasonable expectations for life, so the things that thrill you are often small and the downs never take you too far down.

      Have a wonderful new year!

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  4. Happy New Year!

    I think I will try to finish the latest draft of my novel. Hopefully start editing another. I doubt either will be where I want them to be by the end of 2014. I can dream though 🙂

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    • I’m not sure my re-writes on the first or a completed 2nd draft will happen, but I’m going to enjoy the process. Really, it’s such a long road to getting published that we have to learn to enjoy getting there.
      Enjoy the process, Pete and I wish you a productive new year!

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  5. I’ve definitely got ‘scary’ on my 2014 resolutions list. Now let’s see if I have the guts to make it happen…Happy New Year to you! 🙂

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    • Excellent! I’m not sure what I’ll get done this year myself, but sometimes my process is a long one. Thinking about it now means it might happen in the next decade or so. Still, it does make life a little more interesting!
      Be brave and have a wonderful new year!

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  6. Success and failure are constructs we make. If you think you’ll succeed or you think you’ll fail, you’re right. Failure isn’t in my vocabulary any more. But that depends on how you define failure – if it means not living up to someone else’s definition of success then it isn’t a failure. And if you do fall short of your own expectations, but keep trying, then that isn’t a failure, either. And I never, ever, think of myself (or anyone else) as average – there’s no such thing. We are each unique with our own set of talents and quirks, and that’s what makes us special, not average.

    Just my two cents.

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    • I understand what you are saying, but I tend to write a bit tongue-in-cheek. I like to think of this from a Buddhist perspective – not being so invested in the outcome that I can’t enjoy the journey. My reference to being average is something I’m very comfortable with, as it defies this current social climate of all of us being so precious and special that we somehow should be held in higher esteem than our fellow human. I know that is not what you are suggesting, but it is how I arrived at my particular perspective.

      And Ruth, I’ll take your two cents over many people’s dollars any day! You always bring such thoughtfulness to the conversation. I hope you are having a good first day of the new year.

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  7. I love your idea of enjoying the journey. That’s what I want to try to do, enjoy the journey and the end result will be another journey someplace else. I want to finish and publish my first novel this year. For me that is scary stuff. As for being average, I don’t think any of us are ‘average’. I’m not even sure what average is. Good luck to all your scary stuff! I think it’s wonderful!

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    • One of the things about blogging and reading other writers’ blogs, is that I’ve learned a lot about the long and painful road to being published. I think it’s worth it to really sink in and enjoy the work, instead of worrying about the outcome. I think a worse place to be would be after the publication of the first book, especially if it’s successful – so much pressure!
      A couple of people have taken umbrage to my characterization of average – that just might inspire another post!
      Good luck to finishing your first novel – I hope that you have a productive and happy/scary year!

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      • I think no one really wants to think of themselves as ‘average’. I wish the same productive and happy/scary new year to you also!

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  8. I have never considered you average. Best of luck on the stand up comedy…. now THAT is scary.
    I am trying to finish a writing course (started it in 2003 and took a long leave of absence) and then attempt to publish some non-fiction articles. It is scary,too, but you are right…. enjoy the ride…. don’t worry about the outcome so much!

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    • I think, too, if one becomes too invested in the outcome, it really impacts one’s ability to be fearless while writing. And fearlessness in creativity seems critically important.
      Thanks for the wishes of good luck on doing some stand up. I feel a little sick thinking about it now, but that is sort of why I want to do it in the first place – the challenge of overcoming so much anxiety!

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  9. I keep saying I’m going to write and publish something but I don’t think I mean it. So I’ll change that to “I’m going to fail to publish something” and be wildly successful at that. Being average is so much better than being below average, right? Right. All the best to you Michelle. xxxoo

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    • Very funny – nothing like setting attainable goals! I’m cool with average, but I think it gets mistaken for negative self talk sometimes. On the other hand, if I described myself as below average, I might need to get a life coach and some self-esteem.
      I hope that you and Jazzy have a wonderful new year!

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  10. Oh, I’m all set up for “it”, failure. I have a draft of a novel and a poetry book, and said no to one too many consultancies this fall (who does that?) so they are not likely to trickle in this year. But somehow it’s not scary. For you, I’m sure the hard work will result in something good at the end of the rainbow. You love challenges and you’re good at tacking them – that’s how it seems to me. Stand-up comedy! Great!

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    • I quit a paying job to procrastinate finishing a novel. I love the hard work bit of things, so that makes it a much better, scary thing to do. Congrats on your drafts! I wish you a very fulfilling new year!

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  11. I love the dark humour of crashing hard into average and failing, all the while doing things worthy of failure. Enjoy the superpower!

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  12. You remind me that it is the journey, not the destination, that matters. As for as resolutions are concerned, I am resolving not to age another day this year.

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      • Instead of aging each day, I shall youth. Each day I will be a one day younger. From now, I shall do everything in reverse. Eat backwards, walk backwards, drive backwards. I may even type sdrawkcab. There is only one problem with this youthing business. I will have to go through puberty twice. A real bummer. Oh well, no pain no gain.

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  13. Anytime I’m in the mood to wallow in failure (and this happens more often than should be allowed), I just go find other blogs where the users get 250 likes and 150 comments on every post. That puts everything in a really crappy perspective, and then I pick myself up and move along anyway. It’s fun! Kind of. Infrequently.

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    • My spin on failure is that it pushes me to do more, write better and work harder. The trick is, of course, to not be demoralized by the success of others. I’ve seen those blogs and I can’t imagine how much time must be dedicated for that much traffic and interaction!

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  14. Stand up comedy! Wow, you are brave. I’m not afraid to get up in front of a crowd – did plays and such in high school and had a blast – but… this is different… it’s not lines, it’s YOU, and you have to come up with the material. I just don’t think I have what it takes to even know what would be funny, much less how to be consistently funny.

    I am rooting for your success! Tell us about the experience!

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    • I think of it as acting, especially since I feel intense anxiety about public speaking. When I’ve seen awful comics, they’ve been forgettable, so I’m really holding onto that idea. No one will remember me! I’m not looking for a career, just want to try it a few times. I think I’m hilarious in my head. We’ll see what happens when I say the words out loud. Plus, it will give me new material to write about here.

      Happy new year!

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  15. Great post, Michelle!
    I’m planning working on two long writing type things (memoir and a novel) and applying for the Clarion West Writers Workshop. If I fail? No biggie. Just got to keep trying.

    Good luck with the stand up! And the publishing!

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    • Thanks, Molly. I admire your determination and know that because of your perseverance, you’ll hit your stride at some point. I wish you a very happy, productive new year and I’ll make sure to check in and see how things are going. We can cheer each other on!

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  16. Average is not what springs to mind when I think of you, Michelle (Jeez, the crowd you must hang with!), but I catch your drift. The whole Zen attitude of journeys and outcomes is something I’ve claimed as well–if it feels like a failure, then I’m focused on the wrong aspect of the thing.

    And what a great reason to come to the Twin Cities! I want to be in the audience at your first gig!

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    • This average thing keeps cropping up and I feel a post in the near future. I love the concept of not being attached to outcomes. I haven’t mastered it, but that focus has become so much smaller over the years. People mistake it to mean not caring, but I think it is more about letting things go much more quickly, recovering faster, taking the needed lessons and moving on. It also allows us to be present and not as anxious.
      And now that I’ve mentioned being present, I intend on practicing stand up in small venue and open mike nights in complete anonymity. I’m horrified at the thought that anyone would possibly know me. However, if I get into the swing of things, you’ll be one of the first people I send an invite to. Deal?

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  17. Happy New (Average, Failing)Year ! My motto lately has been “keep failing on up!” Because, really, success comes from getting (or in your case, STANDING) up again and again. (bad puns are my favorite form of low-humor). Your followers will be cheering you on from the Internet side-lines. At least until you take your act out on the road and we can cheer for you in the reality.

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    • Happy new year to you as well! There really is something rewarding in being resilient. I just don’t want to be the idiot bashing her head against the wall repeatedly, when all I needed to do was walk around it. It’s a fine line!

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  18. Hi Michelle, For the person willing to endure intense public humiliation, I recommend running for public office. The smaller and more local the office, the better. Practically everyone in your hometown will know of your failure.

    I’ve ran for office twice, so I know whereof I speak. I’d do it again, if I weren’t feeling so old and feeble. (Excuses, excuses!) I did it for the reason you cite: I didn’t want to look back with regret and say, “I wish I’d been brave enough to . . .”

    To run for public office you need to have very thick skin, or be totally insensitive to rejection, or be fearless. Democracy requires only two things: voters and candidates. So to make it work, we need more fearless candidates.

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    • Wow – I admire anyone who has thick enough skin to run for public office. What a rough and tumble world that is! I think one must possess a real zeal for the game aspect of the system to prevent it from beating you up. Congrats, John, on having the courage to jump into the arena – very impressive!

      I have had the small scale experience of being the parent teacher organization president this year and that’s as political as I’ll ever get. Even a taste of navigating between the administrative bureaucracy and the wants and needs of multiple “citizen” entities is enough to convince me that politics is not an arena in which I’d excel.

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      • Yes, Michelle, I’m afraid politics has reached the point that only politicians are suited for it. Normal citizens are too . . . Normal . . . To survive the political climate for long.

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  19. Love this! I frequently do things that scare the poo out of me – and often berate myself for not doing them well enough. (Though to my credit, I still get up and do them again, but I’m chalking that up to a rather flat learning curve rather than any zen-like perspective. Kind of like the dog I once had that repeatedly ran into the glass sliding doors.) Still, as hard as it is to fail, it’s sure a lot better than sitting on my bum and watching life pass me by…

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    • Flat learning curve. I am screwed, because I think this phrase defines a lot of areas of my life. I say this, after forcing myself to walk through several problems manually converting Celsius to Fahrenheit and vice versa. There is a strong possibility that I might be stupid. Failure is at least a sure sign of doing something – where there is potential to gain skills or knowledge by trying it again and again. Or we could be like your dog, who was obviously just very optimistic about a different outcome!

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  20. Thomas Watson, Jr., of IBM (same guy who coined “THINK!”) was big on failure. You can find a number of quotes; here are some of my favorites:

    “It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You’re thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all.”

    “You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember that’s where you’ll find success. On the far side.”

    “It is better to aim at perfection and miss it than to aim at imperfection and hit it.”

    “If you stand up and be counted, from time to time you may get yourself knocked down. But remember this: A man flattened by an opponent can get up again. A man flattened by conformity stays down for good.”

    So good luck on failing successfully in 2014! 🙂

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