I’m an Expert Failure

I’m an expert failure.

There’s no way around it.  I’ve failed at so many things that it’s almost depressing.

Maybe you’re like me and you just feel like you can’t ever quite seem to get over the hump.  Success is always just right within arms reach but it’s just a bit too far off, or too fuzzy to make out.

Maybe you’re even more like me and success isn’t even around the corner.  You’ve failed so hard that you aren’t even sure which way is up anymore.  Success isn’t even on the horizon.  You’d just be thrilled with survival.

Everybody likes to talk about how Thomas Edison invented some katrillion ways to not make a light bulb and then they like to tell us that success is for the people that didn’t give up.  I really want to believe them but sometimes I’m just not feeling it.

I know a lot about failure though.  I could seriously get tenure at a major university if they needed a professor of failure.  I know how to fail at blogging, business, ministry, dating, marriage, parenting,  divorce, divorced parenting, divorced dating… Shoot I even know how to fail at little stuff like making mac ‘n cheeze. (You may not have thought that was possible but I am here to tell you that it is.)

I’ve come to believe though, that everybody fails just as often, and just as hard as I do.  It’s just only us brave folks that admit how often we fail.  Too many people out there are trying to hide their failures and to be honest, I’ve tried to hide mine too but it’s just way too much work.  My goal for tomorrow is to fail abysmally at hiding my failures.  I’m going to be honest and maybe, just maybe, if I start failing at hiding my failures I can start failing at failing.

Take your time….

… And now you’ve got it.

Who’s down to join me.  Lets start failing on purpose because Edison was right.  Failure is just knowledge of how not to do something.  The more knowledge we gain about failure the closer we come to finding the nuggets of non-failure.

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What are you missing when you are stressing

One of my favorite movies growing up was an indie film called Extreme Days.  It’s a corny Christian attempt at the road trip comedy genre with some extreme sports scenes scattered throughout to keep it interesting.

I loved it.  It was quotable, it was clean, and I had a huge crush on Jessie (Cassidy Rae).

I remember playing spoons with friends who hadn’t seen the movie and then showing them the spoons scene.  It was awesome.  My friends and I still quote Extreme Days almost 15 years later.

One of the best lines in the movie is a narration by Will.  As you watch their convertible Joyota drive through the mountains after a rainstorm that has left them all drenched and freezing he says this:

“We had some random things happen to us; some good, some bad, some u can’t explain, some u don’t want to, but one thing we did learn for sure…when God throws a curveball…don’t duck…u just might miss something.”

In the past two weeks I’ve had more curveballs than I know what to do with.  My Dad got an awesome promotion that is taking him to Texas which means the timeline for me to find my own place just shrunk drastically.

I thought I found a house, and got pretty stoked, only to get outbid.

My daughter, who is only 4 1/2 had to get a root canal on the day of her first ballet recital two weeks before her new dental coverage kicks in.

And that’s just been the big stuff.  It’s been crazy!

I’m doing a wedding this weekend and traveling to speak at a church in Ajo next weekend.  My schedule is filling up fast and my stress level is following suite.

All weekend I’ve been stressing out about houses and schedules and finances and my gut instinct has been to binge watch How I met your Mother on Netflix.

I sat down this morning to face the dreaded blank page, having not written anything in two weeks and realized that I’ve been ducking curveballs all weekend.

Curveballs are scary.  They start out coming right at your head and the only thing you can think is “BAIL OUT!!!!”   I tend to retreat into myself and pretend like the “stuff” that is happening, isn’t.  I binge watch netflix or zone out playing spider solitaire all in an effort to “decompress” but as soon as the episode is over or I realize that there are no longer any productive moves which means the ipad has bested me again… the stress comes back.

When you duck a curveball, that doesn’t stop you from having to stand in the box and get ready for the next pitch and to follow the metaphor all the way through, if you duck too many curveballs, chances are you strike out.

My encouragement to you, and challenge to myself, this week is to stand in there.  Duck your shoulder, pause for a split second to give that curveball time to dive into the zone and then swing for the fence and celebrate as the old time announcer screams “It’s got the distance… And YOU…. CAN…. KISS….. IT….. GOODBYE!!!!!!!!!!”

 

Photo by Carl Jones

How to make Alexander the Great give you anything you want.

So I like stories.  I’ve talked about that a bit.  Okay a lot.

But Legends are even cooler.

Legends are stories that told so well and for so long that they transcended the medium of story and we had to make up a new word to classify them.

Legends.

I found a particularly interesting legend while I was reading today.  Hope you like it.

Painting of Diogenes and Alexander

Painting of Diogenes and Alexander

“According to legend, Diogenes slept in a tub in the open air, carried food in a wallet and was not ashamed to beg alms.  Even his begging was unconventional. “My friend,” he once said to a miserly man who was slow to respond, “it’s for food I want, not funeral expenses.”

On another occasion he was found begging alms of a statue, “in order,” he said, “to get practice in being refused.” 

By the time Alexander had ascended the throne of Macedon, the fame of Diogenes, then some seventy years old, had spread throughout Greece.  One day, as the old philosopher lay sunning himself in his tub, Alexander rode up with his retinue.  Drawing rein in front of the tub, he announced: “I am Alexander the Great.” 
“And I,” replied the other composedly, “am Diogenes the Dog.”

“Are you not afraid of me?”  Alexander asked. 

“Why, what are you, something good or something evil?”

“Something good, of course.”

“Well,” retorted Diogenes, “Who would be so foolish as to fear anything good?”

Struck with admiration for this answer, Alexander exclaimed, “Ask anything you wish of me, and I will grant it.”

“Then be so kind,” said Diogenes, “as to get out of my sunlight.””

Diogenes was a contemporary of Plato and as a Philosopher, barely contributed anything positive to humanity, though he is well known for giving people the finger.

He spent most of his time as a philosopher begging for money and finding holes in the philosophies of others.  While Diogenes is far from a role model, there are at least 3 things that we can learn from this story.


 

1. Confidence

 

I mean lets be honest, the balls on this guy…

WOW!!!

I wish I were so bold.

Diogenes, at least according to legend, carries this air of confidence in himself that is pretty profound.

“Great to meet you.  Alexander the Great was it?  I am Diogenes the dog and no I’m not afraid of you but could you take a step to your right bro, you’re blocking the rays.”


 

 2. Humility

When humility is paired with confidence, leadership is born.

One of my fears as an author and business owner is that when I talk about my business I’ll sound arrogant and turn people off.

Diogenes is humble, at least in this story. He’s even polite.  He’s simple and the man knows what he wants.  He’s found a way to balance this simple humility with a confident and determination that causes Alexander to offer him anything he wants.

Sure his lifestyle choices are a bit odd but he’s content with them so quit judging.

His confidence doesn’t come across as arrogant because he balances the confidence with humility. 


 

 3. Don’t fear the good stuff

“Who would be so foolish as to fear anything good?” 

What a profound question.

As a questions so why is it so hard to answer?  We fear good things all the time.  We fear taking the next step in a relationship even when it’s a good one.

We fear moving toward our dreams.  Sometimes we fear that our dreams might fail which I get but we also fear that they might succeed, and that it might change everything. 


 

My encouragement to you this Friday is to learn from Diogenes the Dog and quit fearing good things. 

Diogenes, while sitting in a bath tub in front of Alexander the Great, was confident, he was humble, and he wasn’t afraid of something good.

Don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe.  Thanks so much for reading.

 

*The Legend of Diogenes was originally written by Will Durant in a book titled “The Mentions of Philosophy” in 1929 but I found it while reading a book called “The Making of a Martial Artist” by Sang Kyu Shim.

What Poems and People have in common

I mentioned in a post titled “I wish I could hate you” that I like poetry but dislike poems.  When I first wrote that, it served as a moment of self-discovery.  Part of me has always known this truth about myself, but writing it was like discovering it for the first time.  It made it real.

Admitting to not liking poems is kind of like admitting that you don’t like dogs.  Side note: I don’t like dogs, not even when they are puppies.  I know what you’re thinking but I’m not a cat person either and dislike cats even more than I dislike dogs.  I don’t like chocolate ice cream either.  Now that you are all enraged and confused, let’s talk about poetry.

Why do I like poetry?  Well I think it’s because I like things that fit.  Things that tie up or reconnect well.  Things that flow smoothly and then abruptly stop… only to pick back up again.

I like the poetry of life and the poetry of art.  I like the poetry of a great movie or a song that’s particularly touching, but it’s only on rare occasions that I actually appreciate the poetry of poems.

Why do I not like poems?  The majority of poems that I have read seem superficial and vapid.  I struggle to connect with them because many of them are void of context.

Don’t hear what I’m not saying.  There are some poems that I really love but I have to search hard to find a poem that makes an impact on my emotional psyche.

It is difficult, at least for me, to derive meaning outside of relationship and outside of story.  Reading poems outside of their authors context, places the burden of meaning on me and I don’t want that responsibility.  Many readers enjoy this burden because the poem inspires them to be creative and then they can manipulate the poem to mean whatever they need it to mean, but I hate it.

I want to know what the author meant.  I want to know who he or she is and how they felt writing their poem. I’ve found that when I do know the author, or at least something about the author, my enjoyment of their poetry is dramaticly increased.

As I think about my relationship to poems, I can’t help but draw a connection to my relationship with strangers. 

When I read a poem but don’t know the author, the poem becomes a fairly meaningless collection of consonants and vowels that struggle to make up words.

Similarly when I meet a stranger, but don’t know their story, they become just a body.  A collection of arms and legs that have the appearance of life but, at least to me, have not become a person yet.  A body, void of personality and story, is just a body.  It’s just flesh.  Easily objectified, judged, or ignored.  But add a back story, a personality, a sense of humor, and what was just a body or collection of words becomes a PERSON, becomes poetry.

It is a struggle to make the shift from seeing people as a just bodies.  It requires that we transcend the physical and look to the emotional and spiritual, and that has always been difficult for me. I’m clearly not the only one either.  Superficial objectification and judgment are not just my problems.  They are our society’s problems. 

It’s much easier to judge a book by its cover than it is to read the book and then review and interact with its content.  It’s easier to make assumptions based on a person’s clothing than it is to take the time to get to know their character.  It is much simpler to see stature than story, boobs than brains but I’m not satisfied seeing people this way and so I am working to push past the physical in order to connect on emotional and even spiritual levels.

I’m not perfect so I welcome ideas from any of you that have struggled with this.  I will say that the thing that has helped me the most recently is to notice a person’s eyes.

It’s been said that, “The eyes are the window to the soul” and so it is only natural that the eyes become the road that we travel on the journey from body to soul. Beatutiful Eyes Best Wallpapers 7

Eyes are emotional body parts.  They are first physical and therefore part of noticing the way someone looks but they also express and show the emotional side of a person.  Looking into a person’s eyes helps me transition from noticing their body to noticing their soul.

When I remember to notice a stranger’s eyes, it becomes much easier for me to connect with them and have conversations deeper than small talk about the weather.

What things help you connect to people and see them as more than just a collection of body parts?

I Wish I Could Hate You

I love poetry but don’t really like many poems. More on that later.

I did go through a poem writing phase in high school though. Who didn’t?

Most of them are garbage but I ran across one today while going through an old file that isn’t half bad.

It was inspired, like all good High School poetry is, by a girl who broke my heart.

Wish

I wish I could hate you, You broke my heart
I wish I could be mad at you 
For ripping my world apart
I wish I could ignore you, Forget you existed
I wish that it wasn’t but it is
And I’m pissed
I wish I could hate you, But I can’t let go inside
I wish I could run away 
Bring my pride, leave your side

I hate that I can’t hate you, I want to so bad
I hate that I can’t forget you 
Can’t get you out of my head
I hate that I can’t give up on you, My dumb ass keeps trying
I hate these damn tears 
But here I am crying
I hate settling for non-answers, I just want to know
I hate that I don’t hate you 
and that I can’t let you go

I struggled to move on from that heart break for a long time.  Mostly because it’s hard to process getting your heart broken, especially for the first time, but a lot because I just couldn’t let go.  Not being able to let go really hindered my ability to move on and grow as a person.

Looking back at my life I can unfortunately see a bit of a pattern. Holding on to things that should be let go of is a problem for me, and I think it’s a problem for most people.

Think about it.  We stay in abusive relationships.  We keep our closets stocked with clothes that don’t fit us and aren’t in style.  We look back and try incessantly to “re-live the glory days”.  We keep insane amounts of clutter.  We feed our habits and addictions when we know that feeding them only further imprisons us.

Why do we do this?

I think that one of the main reasons is fear. Fear of change, or fear of the unknown.

                               (Check out this post that I wrote about facing fears titled “Pee into the Wind”.)

While fear is a huge part of why we don’t let go, I think that it goes deeper.

The mistake that I’ve made for much of my life is that I try to diagnose myself logically when I should diagnose myself emotionally.

It didn’t make logical sense for me to still be in love with a girl that had led me on and then broken my heart, but it made perfect sense emotionally.  I was in love.

With hindsight being 20/20 and then adding what I hope is a bit of maturity, I can say that I was really only inlove with the idea of her.  But that idea was a happy, pretty, emotionally awesome thing to be in love with.  I didn’t want to let that go.

Now some things, are worth being held on to, but maybe today would be a good time to evaluate your life and ask yourself, “Am I holding on to something that is keeping me from achieving my goals?”

Maybe you are holding on to an overly idealized self-image, or a subconscious value that you no longer actually hold.  Maybe like High School Andrew, you are holding on to the idea of someone else and that ideal is making it harder for you to know them as they actually are.

Let me know what things you are holding on to in the comments and check back next week for a post all about how to actually let go.

PEE INTO THE WIND!

I’ve always been a huge fan of the TV show “Friends”.  I know that it’s not technically the most wholesome, or intelectually stimulating show, but I just love it.

In one particular episode, the One With the Metaphorical Tunnel, Joey is giving Chandler relationship advice.  (I actually cringed a little bit as I typed that last sentence.)

Chandler is scared to take a step of intimacy with a girl.  He’s afraid of the metephorical tunnel of commitment and what might be on the other side.  Commitment, emotional intimacy, love.  Joey’s advice is to, “Face your fear.”

“Go for it man! Jump off the high dive! Stare down the barrel of the gun… Pee into the wind!”  Chandler’s response is priceless.

“Ya Joe, I assure you, if I’m staring down the barrel of a gun I’m gonna be pretty much peeing every which way.”

It’s a goofy scene from a show with very little redemptive value but I think there is some truth to Joey’s advice.  Often times the single thing that keeps us from achieving our goals… is fear.

Maybe it’s fear of rejection or failure.  Maybe it’s fear of change or fear that we wont get the support we need or make enough money pursuing our passion, but it’s fear.  Plain and simple.

I want to challenge you to look at your goals for the year and identify what fears might be holding you back.  Maybe your afraid that you wont actually make it to the gym 3 times a week.  Maybe your afraid that you will fail, or that people wont like what you are working so hard to achieve.  Maybe you are afraid of success and how that will change the status quo.

Maybe you’re just plain old afraid of change.  Whatever it is, the first step is to identify the fear.

What’s the seccond step you ask?

PEE INTO THE WIND!!!!

So take the leap! Dive In! Stare down the barrel of the Gun! and Pee into the wind!

Face your fear and punch it right in the nose.  Too often fear sneaks into our lives and wrecks our dreams before we even notice that it’s there.  Don’t let that happen to you.

Identify your fear and then plot it’s demise. Plan out how you will systematically conquer whatever fear happens to get between you and your goals.

I’d love to hear any success stories of fears that have been faced.  If you’ve got one that needs to be faced but you don’t know how.  Comment below or PM me.  I’d love to help.