Have you ever seen that movie about the boxer who was born into a wealthy family, does really well in school, gets every girl he wants, wins all his fights, and becomes the heavyweight champ? What about the musician who forms a band, practices in a garage for a couple of weeks, and then gets discovered, becomes a rock star and sells out Madison Square Garden in a couple of months? Me neither. The reason is because they don’t exist, and even if they do, they are not captivating enough to move individuals. And that is what we want, to be moved and inspired.
All stories of greatness come with at least some degree of crappiness, sadness, darkness, and defeat. It is unavoidable. I take great comfort in this. I need to know that failure and defeat is part of success, so I can better absorb the blow. Knowing that each swing-and-miss, face-plant, belly-flop, and air-ball that I put out there is part of a really great story. I must look at my life as an ongoing book, which I want my children to someday read. I want my children to read this book when they are old enough to read books about real-life, and not try to pass a fairy-tale onto them as adults, because any adult knows that fairy-tales are not real. In fairy-tales, they don’t show the prince at the therapist’s office, discussing his sex and love addiction, while drinking straight from the bottle of Burnett’s that he keeps in his vest. Fairy tales don’t show the princess with her finger down her throat, purging her last meal and fighting through her bulimia because the pressure of life is just too great. However, as individuals, we think that we are expected to live the fairy tale, and if we, God forbid, have to endure some real life experiences, than it makes us failures. We don’t want to experience real-life, because that involves being vulnerable… and nobody wants to do that.
Dr. Brene Brown, have you ever heard of her? I love her. I think she is wonderful. She is a speaker/storyteller/social worker/author, who has done extensive research on vulnerability and the part it plays in finding fulfillment in the lives of humans. At the referral of a dear friend of mine, I am in the middle of her book, “Daring Greatly”, and totally loving it.
Dr. Brown gave a TED talk (technology, entertainment, and design) on the power of vulnerability as well as listening to shame. What Dr. Brown finds to be clear is that in order for people to speak about success, they must first experience failure, those who speak of love, first talk of heartbreak, and those who speak of happiness, have endured a period of deep sadness. Basically what she is saying is that there is a toll to be paid in order to cross over the bridge to happiness and fulfillment. It is a price that everyone must pay, and that bridge is out there publicly for the world to see. Anyone can cross it, but anyone can watch. Vulnerability is the price, and that don’t come cheap.
Here is what I take from this. In order to be really good at something, you have to risk being really bad at that thing. You don’t really know for sure how good or bad you will be until you try it. If you are going to be good by comparison, then you have a vested interest in their being other people who are not good. The failures play a huge part in making someone great. In order to leave a legacy of greatness, not only is failure possible, it is eminent. If anyone is going to relate to your story on a human level, there had better be some relate-able content, and by relate-able, I mean failure.
So this is my take, to be really good at something, you must risk being really bad at something. In order to find out where you stand after the cards have been dealt, you must be something at something. The only way to avoid being something at something, whether that something is really good or really bad, is to be nothing at nothing. Not trying to find a place, not consciously trying to discover where you rank in some area of your life, will leave you feeling like you are nothing at nothing. I know this feeling, and it hurts like hell, but I did not know how to recognize it.
You are far from nothing, and owe it to yourself to find your rank in as many areas of your life as possible. Be aware that there is a demand for failures in every area of life in order for success, so don’t get all bent outta shape, if that is your first role in your first performance. You will bounce back. Be something at something, not nothing at nothing.
What are three areas outside of work and home where you are “something at something”? What are your passions, hobbies, and pursuits? I think it is important to have them.