Tag Archives: success

Change: Brought to You by Failure

When you are caught up with mistakes in life, you never realize how much it really takes to free you from them. I failed because I haven’t been able to let go of the past. I failed because I wanted to categorize my success in ways that other people do. Lots of people fail, but many don’t completely come back to a place that enables them to succeed.

I hadn’t taken the time to step back and actually consider what makes me happy. What I want to spend the rest of my life doing. I haven’t considered on which terms I want to live my life. So I procrastinated, found projects to occupy my time, and wasted countless hours on meaningless things that will not change my life or outlook on it.

I am taking responsibility for my life right now. Hate your job? Find something you love doing , because no one but you is making you work there. Don’t know what you want to do with your life? Figure it out, because no one else is going to shape your future. Caught up in the past? Now is the perfect time to realize that it’s holding you back from leading the life you truly want, and move on. 

Last night while I was driving, I had a passing thought. I am 22 years old and just for that moment, I wanted my struggles to end. I was sick of fighting and losing, and I could think of few things that would motivate me enough to continue living. And there in two very telling words, lies my problem and solution: “continue living”. I don’t want to just continue living. I want to live a life that I look forward to living everyday. Underneath this static facade, I want to be dynamic. I want to be energetic, learn new things, and  desire new knowledge and enjoy my life. I want to meet people that change the way I think. I want the world to see the best version of me possible. Simply continuing to live won’t allow me to do that. I only hope I still have time. My failures thus far have taken me to a point where I can’t ignore myself any longer. As JK Rowling said in an epic commencement speech:

“Failure means a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.”

My failure led me to this moment, and to this blog post.From now on, my energy will be spent on things that move me. Things that make me happy and fulfilled. Things that will bring me knowledge and joy. I am using this public blog post as a way to acknowledge that I do not live a life I am content with, and as an agent of change. I am not afraid of failing, because it is better than the static position I find myself in now. I define my success and determine my happiness, and I will define my terms to get there. Why waste the only life you have doing anything else?

“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.”

Can’t Get Enough of Excellence.

We thrive on excellence. We suck in the achievements of others. We live vicariously through their sexual conquests. It’s like drinking adrenaline through a straw. It’s like having success on tap. And I do not condone this. But it does make me consider how we measure excellence – and why our culture glorifies it so.

James Bond. Suave. Excellence.

James Bond. Suave. Excellence.

I like James Bond, because he’s suave and smooth and he’s the secret agent that everyone wants to be… or wants to kill. But either way, he has all of the answers. He always knows what to say (Um… is um, not a part of his suave vocabulary). He KNOWS what he’s doing with his life. He doesn’t get emotionally connected – he hooks up with whoever, whenever. And who cares? In the time it takes to pop in another James Bond movie, the screenwriters will have erased and rewritten all of his previous emotional attachments.

It’s also reminiscent of the characters in Ayn Rand books. I admire their excellence, impeccable morals, and untouchable values. I like that they do not apologize for anything, but rather, they have the courage and morals to stand up for what they KNOW that they are good at. They are damn good at what they do and they don’t care about what society dictates is acceptable.

Howard Roark. An Upstanding Gentlemen from the Fountainhead

Howard Roark exemplifies architectural excellence in the Fountainhead.

Why did I write an entire post on excellence and its place in our society and culture? To be honest, I had some free time. But more importantly, our ideals play a huge role in what we like. I rent James Bond movies and buy Ayn Rand books to reinforce ideals that have, but I will never become or achieve. The best in my field? Great thing to aspire towards, but I don’t even know what my future holds. I am not as clearly defined or as emotionally unattached as the characters of excellence I idealize. Our culture cultivates excellence so that we can be continually disappointed in ourselves. So that we can look at magazines and know that we will never be as perfectly airbrushed as the model so seductively posed on the cover. So that we will consume and desire more, and think about ourselves and reality less. It’s humanly impossible not to ever feel guilty. It’s impossible to avoid rejection. And who would want to? Now that I think about it, we would be nothing without the highs and lows that help to define us – the daily nuances that the characters of such “excellence” we so long for have never experienced, or probably would not appreciate.

What kind of excellence do you consume? Why?

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You WANT To Be

I’m reading this book for my Creative Processes class. Boring? Think again.

I would recommend reading It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be to pretty much anyone who wants to be successful in their chosen field. It’s not a very intense read – I’ve just been flipping through pages that look interesting.

Here’s an excerpt from a chapter entitled “My Finest Hour”:

“I remember the moment vividly.

My feet seemed not to touch the pavement and I thought, ‘I am going to be fired for these pictures.’

Would I rather be fired for having done them or not be fired having not done them?

There was no doubt in my mind. I would rather be fired.

Those few seconds on 74th Street were my greatest moment in advertising.

When I got back and showed them to my partner he thought I was mad.

Fortunately the client loved them. ‘This is art,’ he said.

They won every award there was to be won.

The sad conclusion is the client got fired.”

That was almost all of the chapter right there. He (Paul Arden) makes his point in the title of the chapter and gives you inspiration and wisdom in just a few sentences.

Ayn Rand Gets Me Everytime.

“A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.”

-Ayn Rand

How to Live Meaningfully

This is probably the hardest thing of all to learn, and the least taught.

Living meaningfully is actually a combination of several things. It is, in one sense, your dedication to some purpose or goal. But it is also your sense of appreciation and dedication to the here and now. And finally, it is the realization that your place in the world, your meaningfulness, is something you must create for yourself.

Too many people live for no reason at all. They seek to make more and more money, or they seek to make themselves famous, or to become powerful, and whether or not they attain these objectives, they find their lives empty and meaningless. This is because they have confused means and ends – money, fame and power are things people seek in order to do what is worth doing.

What is worth doing?

That is up to you to decide. I have chosen to dedicate my life to helping people obtain an education. Others seek to cure diseases, to explore space, to worship God, to raise a family, to design cars, or to attain enlightenment.

If you don’t decide what is worth doing, someone will decide for you, and at some point in your life you will realize that you haven’t done what is worth doing at all. So spend some time, today, thinking about what is worth doing. You can change your mind tomorrow. But begin, at least, to guide yourself somewhere.

The second thing is sometimes thought of as ‘living in the moment’. It is essentially an understanding that you control your thoughts. Your thoughts have no power over you; the only thing that matters at all is this present moment. If you think about something – some hope, some failure, some fear – that thought cannot hurt you, and you choose how much or how little to trust that thought.

Another aspect of this is the following: what you are doing right now is the thing that you most want to do. Now you may be thinking, “No way! I’d rather be on Malibu Beach!” But if you really wanted to be on Malibu Beach, you’d be there. The reason you are not is because you have chosen other priorities in your life – to your family, to your job, to your country.

When you realize you have the power to choose what you are doing, you realize you have the power to choose the consequences. Which means that consequences – even bad consequences – are for the most part a matter of choice.

That said, this understanding is very liberating.

Think about it, as a reader – what it means is that what I most wanted to do with my time right now is to write this article so that you – yes, you – would read it. And even more amazingly, I know, as a writer, that the thing you most want to do right now, even more than you want to be in Malibu, is to read my words. It makes me want to write something meaningful – and it gives me a way to put meaning into my life.

– Stephen Downes