Holy monkeys, I just reread my 8-things post below. Looks like a bear of a project for the weekend.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this past week+ of writing is the veracity of the idea that you have to fail to succeed. This does not mean that it’s okay if you stumble once or twice on the way to success, so don’t be embarrassed, it happens to everyone, look at Thomas Edison and the light bulb, blah, blah, blah.
It means that you HAVE TO FAIL to succeed. You have to try something, ANYTHING, to move you toward your goal. And you have to start right now.
Years ago, while working my second full-time job in my second year out of college, I read the Hagakure, a Tokugawa-era book of aphorisms intended for samurai warriors. Among the ideas that stuck with me, perhaps because they were repeated over and over again in the book with subtle variations on the theme, were “start each day by contemplating your own death” and “when they find your body, let it be facing in the direction of your enemy.”
At that time, I was really starting to hate my job. It was boring. It was not intellectually challenging. It seemed so…conventional, in the sense that everyone seemed trapped in a conventional mode of thought, and yet no one seemed happy about how things were going.
So I decided to get myself fired.
I said to myself: “Look, self. You don’t like this job, but you don’t want to seem like a quitter, or like this job “conquered” you somehow. So what you’re going to do is this. Your going to act crazy, but all the while keep the company and it’s clients’ best interest in mind. You’re going to break the mould, then you’re going to grind it under your heel and sprinkle the ashes on your bosses’ heads. You’re going to be the clown, the nut, but the most brilliant one there. Come to work each day contemplating your termination, think of a thousand things you can do to get fired while still being a fundamentally good person, and have fun.”
Long story short, I had the time of my life, and people were amazed at my initiative. I fumbled a few times, but because I was having fun doing it, and because I was clearly actively engaged in the process, I was a more fun person to be around, so I was forgiven. I’ve attempted to carry that same attitude into every job I’ve had since, and when I’ve succeeded in maintaining that “get yourself fired” attitude, I’ve succeeded marvelously in the job as well.
You know the saying that “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission”? I think when people are unhappy with their progress toward a goal, it’s because they’re always asking themselves in small ways, “Is it okay to proceed?” “No, self, not today. That would upset your other plans or pull you too far out of your comfort zone. Ask yourself again tomorrow.”
What about that group-therapy drivel, “Give yourself permission to fail”?
Forget that. Don’t give yourself permission to do anything. Just act. Do something now. Actively try to fail (by acting imperfectly, not by inaction ) at something that’s important to you. Resolve to ask yourself for forgiveness later. Resolve to forgive yourself in the future. And for crying out loud, get off your a$$. Doing nothing in service of your dreams is the only thing you shouldn’t forgive.