The always wonderful Hairpin posted an article earlier this year titled “How to Fail for a Month, Year, or Decade and Be Okay.” Author Christina Fitzpatrick opens the piece with this: “I’ve been a published fiction writer for the past 12 years and haven’t published a new book in 10 of those, which is not to say I haven’t written more material, it’s just that everything I write is consistently, unanimously rejected.” So she knows from failure, although it doesn’t sound like she’s given up. It’s a bracing read, and I highly recommend you read the whole thing.
I’ve condensed her rules into list form here with just a bit of commentary from myself, a lifelong underachiever.
Rule 1: No matter what your situation, believe that you will be failure for only a few more days. You know, to some extent the brain can’t actually distinguish between what is real and what is imagined; this is why visualization is such an effective method for increasing the success rate of physical endeavors. Pro athletes use this method all the time; they practice their moves mentally to trick their bodies into thinking they’ve had extra practice in the physical world. If you don’t want to wallow in your current state of failure but try to move through it, you’ll need to trick yourself into optimism. If it’s happy days in your brain, it’s happy days in your life. Why not take advantage of that?
Rule 2: Learn something else. As Fitzpatrick points out, learning something new is a great way to remind yourself that progress in any area necessitates failure; therefore, you might also remember that everyone experiences failure to some extent. I need the reminder, personally, or I’ll feel like the only overeducated and underemployed person around.
Rule 3: Volunteer. The most useful truism in life for me is this: perspective is everything. Nothing gives you perspective (and thus appreciation for what you have and who you are) like helping others. Even a fluffy volunteer job can lift your spirits; I once turned my whole week around by volunteering at a triathlon. My job was to tell the folks on the bike course to go right at a certain spot but mostly I was cheering them on,which ultimately cheered me right up too.
Rule 4: Seek out immediate gratification. A shot in the arm, is what she means here. Go get some kind of praise for what you want to be good at.
Rule 5: Don’t let any kind of relationship eat your time. Following through on this step can have unintended consequences, as you might find that someone who takes up a lot of your time ultimately just has to go, period. Once you start setting boundaries and find that you enjoy the new acreage, you might want to expand your holdings and evict tenants who aren’t paying enough rent. Just saying.
Rule 6: Avoid shitty people. Well, this rule just goes for everyone in all situations. Show no mercy in the culling of crappy people who traffic in negativity, even if or especially if they are related to you.
Rule 7: Get high. OK, by “get high,” she means indulge in some liberatingly bad behavior. Take a vacation from yourself. I find just picking up a novel is often vacation enough, but indulge in something vicier if it stimulates your senses and hits your reset button.