Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Finally, a Self Help Book for Happy Losers

Ah, those make-your-life-better publications abound don’t they? Until a few years ago, arrogant snot that I was, I didn’t give them much credit. That was before my great depression. Later, some hardbacks truly ‘showed me the way’ to get better whereas others regurgitated common sense. All a matter of perspective I suppose.

It’s uncanny that this business/self-help book happened into my goofy present outlook – How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams. Yes, the cartoonist of Dilbert.
Just weeks ago, I’d finally learned to quit yearning for carrots like a toothless mule and instead enjoy the ride. You see, my goal a few years before was to become a solvent writer if not published by New York. Moderate success came along, but not to my expectation. Oh the agony! Any genre that I thought could get me across the finish line is what I wrote. Go ahead. Call me a word slut. I’ve been a very bad boy and deserve it. Anyway, the work proved to be life consuming. Rarely did I have any fun. (Insert images of Nicholson maniacally typing ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ here). I love putting words on paper but gee whiz Beav, plotting novels, a humongous undertaking, started making my pea brain anguish over the dubious payoff – not to mention the weeks or months to complete the 1st draft. No wonder writers are always depressed!

So, comedy called me again. At first, if felt like going over to someone’s backyard to play horseshoes. Relaxed. Fun. It takes place at a neighborhood bar open mike. Because I’m not good at being idle, I soon schemed up some directions for my ‘hobby’. Now let’s get real. At 50, my chances of becoming the next Bill Murray is about as likely as Donald Trump learning modesty. That, and due to my failure to snag the gold with writing, I stopped short of declaring a goal.
I think I’ve stumbled on to something.

Scott Adams is a winner. Yet his take on ‘making it’ was refreshingly contrasting to most success advice. On goals he writes:
“To put it bluntly, goals are for losers. That’s literally true most of the time. For example, if your goal is to lose ten pounds, you will spend every moment until you reach that goal-if you reach it at all-feeling as if you were short of your goal. In other words, goal-oriented people exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that they hope will be temporary. That feeling wears on you. In time, it becomes heavy and uncomfortable. It might even drive you out of the game. If you achieve your goal, you celebrate and feel terrific, but only until you realize you just lost the thing that gave you purpose and direction.”

Adams suggests other ways to better yourself rather than obsessing on the end result. A touchy-feely, roll-with-it approach is what rewarded him after years of dinking around and constantly regrouping. I should point out that he owned two restaurants, designed video games, rose to middle management in banking, and numerous other ‘attempts’ that were most impressive.
I’ve had a scattered career life also, but for far too long I was hell-bent. Now, his words are preaching to the choir.

Check out his 2 cents on persistence. God, I love this:
“The smartest system for discerning your best path to success involves trying lots of different things-sampling, if you will. For entrepreneurial ventures it might mean quickly bailing out of things that don’t come together quickly. That approach might conflict with the advice you’ve heard all your life-that sticking with something, no matter the obstacles, is important to success. Indeed, most successful people had to chew through a wall at some point. Overcoming obstacles is normally an unavoidable part of the process. But you also need to know when to quit. Persistence is useful, but there’s no point in being an idiot about it.”

My Dad was a Mr. fix-it, Grandpa a carpenter. In a respectable trade, persistence is a virtue and it was instilled in me like Adams touched on. Unfortunately, I carried it with me into the arts thinking it would guarantee progress. It took a while, but I wound up proverbially following Hank Williams’ lyrics to “scat right back to my pappy’s farm.”
Adams has solidified the optimistic view of my experiences though. With all these failures, I’m ready to play them for their true worth. I invite you to give How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big a read. You may find that you're actually a conqueror.

Gusto Dave (Taylor Swift's male opposite...Tyler Slow)


Sisters of the Quill said...

Goals are for losers. Never thought of it that way. I agree that one can combat the feeling of failure by trying new things. I teach a class about exactly that...parlaying your skills. I've certainly done it too... it is easier to name the genres I haven't tried... and I've found teaching, editing, trying new formats like screenwriting, and venues like magazines and newspapers. I'm all about trying new things and taking full advantage of novelty for stimulation and exposure to something perhaps more suitable. Glass half full (and trying different drinks) is best for me. Karen

Julie Luek said...

This has such a peaceful view of pursuing our dreams/passions. I like it-- the joy is in the journey and if something doesn't "succeed" or go the way we had hoped, we can just change courses and enjoy that journey too. Can't wait to read the book. As always, glad to be on this journey with you.