Archive for the ‘success’ Category

Failure is not the most humbling thing, usually — success is.

Not for everybody of course, but for all of us, if we are willing to look success in the eye — and not blink.

The other day I succeed in hiring a new staff member for my organization, a young woman with little experience but a beautifully inspiring persona that perfectly matches the work she will do. It was very humbling.

I knew how to do this by previously failing at doing this, and then succeeding at it a few times, which has made me super-aware that no matter how well you vet a potential hire, you don’t know them until you know them — over time — or you intuit them precisely and accurately, or you get lucky.

Most every success is born of some failure and includes within it some failure so it contains both success and failure. This helps with the humility thing.

Take me. I am a modestly successful writer. I have failed at this writing thing more than I have succeeded. I have written much more that has remained unpublished than has been published. I have written a few things well, and many things in a mediocre fashion. Interestingly, my best work is unplublished — except as it exists in blog form — written for a small following. I consider it successful just to have written it, even if it were read by no one.  My best writing is a personal success, not a public success, quite humble in impact and influence, but hugely satisfying to me.

Success, furthermore — when it is rightly considered — is also humbling because it is communal. We can’t take the credit alone. Each and everyone of our successes follows and builds on someone else’s previous success, on their nurture of us, on their input, their contribution, their support, often their collaboration with us.

I recently oversaw a rather large building project — a beautiful, interior garden courtyard. It was all others — their money, their expertise, their volunteerism, their passion, their aesthetic, their labor.

It is always like that.

I am a teacher. I know how to do the teacherly thing. Every teacher I have ever had — from first grade through graduate school — made me a teacher. All their input, modeling, nuturing and care — as well as that of my family and my many friends — this support made me a into a reasonably effective pedagogue.

Finally, much of our success — as previously noted — is luck, or chance or providence. It is not us, and we know it. Anyone who has made it will tell you that. To come on the scene at the right time, to be the right fit, to have an opportunity come our way — so much literally falls into our laps, or it doesn’t.

My current job — which I absolutely adore, mostly — and which has contained much success — was handed to me. I did nothing to get it. All God, I’d say, and a few other odd, painful and interesting circumstances.

Success — it’s a form of humility.

If we don’t know that, we know nothing of success.

“If you run after them then you create false sincerity,” she said — straight up, just  perfectly, “What?” — just what I needed to hear.

My brain turned over, picked up this verbal dollop, this insight topping, this perfectly selected accent of sweet wisdom, applied it to the person I have been over-pursuing, and laid it down in a neural groove for later retrieval.


The neurons are firing now.

I’ve have learned the “false sincerity” lesson before, by another name, but I have forgotten it before too, and when she said it just right, I added the “false sincerity” moniker to my labeling file and considered it the morning’s bon mot, cup of proverbial tea, fine phrase and then I took it under advisement — and it helped.

Be advised.

Helping people is an fine art, a subtle art, a nuanced art.  If you do too much for them, if they do too little, if you ask them to do stuff like come to the recovery group, come to church, come to water aerobics, but too much, and they don’t want to, often they will still come — but with false sincerity, to please you, to assauage guilt, to look good — and then they won’t come again until asked again, shamed again or bribed.

All this wastes everybody’s time and trashes hope too. People must want to change to change. They must get it, inside, and want it, in their deep brain, and intend to go after it with all they have, or they won’t.

Sincerity of the real, good, person-changing type is self-motivated.

This week I watched a documentary on the Eagles, that great rock-and-roll machine that cranked out the hits and the hopes of the 1970’s.

The Eagles made it to the big time, became one of the best selling bands of all time and then came apart at the relational seams. I find this kind of thing fascinating. Apparently public success for some of us is as hard to handle as public failure.

When publicly successful, some of us tend to suffer a kind of craziness over the public exposure that comes with it. At first our social success creates an astonishing soul energy — we are loved! — but then later, away from the lights, a deep soul deficit may surface. To recover from what is perhaps removed from us by adulation and disapproval we may tend to seek out addictive, harmful solaces.

We brood, and we suffer the angst of the known hero. We suffer foolishness. We may suffer harmful competitions, insane jealousies, massive insecurities, twisted self evaluations. We may complicate concerning our ability to make and sustain our place in the world.

As a result of the pressures public success brings, many people avoid it. They know they can’t handle it. Maybe they can’t. That is perhaps too bad for some, especially those who could survive it and do some amazing things.

To explore this I wrote a modern fable chronicling the rise and fall of the Eagles. In doing this, I invented some new words. This is my attempt at success. I’m not afraid of success. Now I think I’ll go eat!

A Modern Fable

First, there was that pondiferous moment in Los Angeles when it all matriculated and then superwonkified at the Troubadour.

Then there was the exhaustification in London when it didn’t.

And then there is how if you skip to the end it is actually very hard to say what the freakin’ rockstar happened – – the mind-wrestling complications that came with the fore-waiting, the madly intensifying pressure of the creative wars, the wasting psychic metastacision of the alpha male ego and the final terrifying stages of group PTSD.

If you work under the huge, bright lights, if your own face becomes a series of a thousands dazed smiles, if naked women dance on your stage, if you find yourself running in the halls and vaulting into the waiting cars — the berzerkified, ernifricating cocaine craziness afterwards — just maybe then, you might begin to come unhinged too.

It goes back. From the time he was a little boy, from the time he got his first set of drums, from the moment they first heard him play the electric guitar like he was emptying his soul, from the time they heard him sing, from the instant they saw each other’s id in the Hotel California, the oddishly combinicated way in which they met others who wishified to performicate in public at a world-tour level and the weird chancification whereby they womped into a guy who also had the same mad, mad, insanified vision, how they dug the businessman who thought it all might work if they found their signature soul — it was star-crazy, supercool, madman upsetting!

They literally hissed, hogged and hated each other off the stage.

It can be narrificated and then expliconicated as the inevitable brain-damaging trauma of sudden success, or it can be psycho-differentiated as a mental heart attack, but in reality, at its core, it is about the desoulification that comes from not knowing who you are when they parade you before the adoring masses as who you aren’t.

Later the lead singer said, “We made it, and it ate us.”

If you’d like to read more of my fables, please visit my fables website at

I received several email rejection notices recently.

Some of my soliloquies and anti-fables — ones I had sent out for consideration — were rejected by literary magazines of some repute.

This stung, but it was also bracing, a little bit, in that way that serves me notice that I’m out there, risking and scraping for a voice. I’m still offering, after all this time, some thin, cracked, painted shards of myself to the world.

I know a little bit of literary publication success, and I also know literary disappointment. Sometimes in the moments of disappointment I fear not getting enough opportunity to contribute to the public discourse about life. I badly want to share —  proverbs, soliloquies, fables, stories, essays, sermons, lessons and any other genre that fits me —  in the conversation about reality and what is astonishingly mysterious.

Rejection is not fun. “Not accepted” is reality for many of us, and it can have damning effects, flushing us with shame, the shame of not being enough, of not being good enough.

I suffer this, along with the rest of the race, the I’m-not-enough experience of life, but not so much anymore.

I am finally beginning to do what I do because I cannot, not do it, not because it pleases someone else. I read and write because I want to, and because I have to, for myself, to stay sane, and to stay in tune with the muses within. Words are life, they are bread to me, even when they don’t provide bread. Words in themselves, as I discover them, as they uniquely proceed from me, are enough motivation for more words.

Last year I finished up either watching or reading all of Shakespeare’s plays. I couldn’t not! Shakespeare is one of my muses. No one gets it better than the shaker. He shakes and spears his plays veneers, and out falls human nature, human motivation, passion, eloquence, dark evil and bright good with a beautiful clatter and clamor that I cannot ignore.

Shakespeare inspires me to keep shaking the linguistic tree, until the literary fruit falls — or I do.

Here is the deal. We face down “not enough” with “enough.”  I may not get enough recognition for my own writing, but I will write enough anyway. I will pour out my words in public talks, lessons, private conversations, blogs and micro-blogs.

All artists throwing paint, words, song or food might do well come to this, to not do what we do because we are receiving some kind of affirmation, but because we are giving a gift, to ourselves first and then to the universe, and because we can’t, not.

The doing of the creative things we were made to do is a reward in itself. There is no shame in being expressive. The artistry is often enough to maintain the art.

Rejection —  it’s just a splash in my face as I throw myself down the crazy, wild, hilariously steep slope of the next thing I have to say.

When we occasionally glance ahead, look down the garden path, attempt to peer ’round the blind corner — perhaps we are at a wedding or funeral or looking over water or falling off the edge of day and almost asleep — we sometimes startle and steel ourselves, for just head it comes to us that there might possibly be bits and pieces of difficulty, minor disturbances, a war, aging, another recession, even the annoying matter of dying.

But do we ever, and perhaps we just might need to, steel ourselves, in quiet moment of reflection, for success?

Success needs to be braced for, because it isn’t ease. It isn’t a non-stressing event, the calm of anonymity, the hide-and-seek moment of repose found in not having yet been found. Success isn’t business-as-usual, the casual kiss upon arriving home again at night to old, familiar, comforting foods and loves.

Success is adrenaline. Success is life — caffeinated. Success is an aphrodisiac. Success is a tyrant. Success is the stress of living, not dying, the crazy, hyper-active moment of being found, of jumping up and running hard, the anxiety present in the award, the demanding residue resident in the encore, the infectious blush of being kissed by strangers, of being expected to appear, over and over and over again.

Most people run from this.

But success is life, saddled up and riding right along side of failure, and one should expect success, steel oneself for it, lean into it, if nothing else than because of the inevitability of it, and for the kicks present in it, for the laughs, for the poof and goof and sheer outrageous broad smile and back-stage-arm-pump of it.

We will succeed, if we don’t sabotage our own success out of the fear of not being able to handle it. We will succeed, if we are willing. And success will change us, but in good ways, not destructive ways, if we get our heads first spun right for it.

How? This: We can survive success by means of humility. We can steel ourselves for success by putting a knife to our own throats, by first fencing in our own lust and greed so that we don’t harm ourselves and others with it. We can best prepare ourselves for awards by dressing up and putting on the demeanor of waitresses, janitors, busboys, Motel 6 housekeepers, slaves.

The survive-the-success-thing is found in this, to abstain from what we most want to eat by making friends with not eating. To prepare for banquets, we must first get used to gut-gnawing hunger and stomach cramps, so that when the feast is set for us, and our forks are raised to eat whatever we want, we won’t.

And we may also do this, get ready, by screwing our heads on straight concerning the sources of success.

Every success is a gift, given not by ourselves to ourselves, but given by others, by life, and by God. We will not, nor ever will do, anything that should make us preferred, over and above anyone else, since it does not originate in us but outside of us and in them. It is all given, the DNA, the birth place, the stretch and wave of time, the procreative influences, the mentors provided, the unsought opportunities, the universally salutary milieu, the open sea, shore, boat, wind and clear sky of it.

So, do — steel, brace, prepare, bow, receive, enter and humbly enjoy — success, when it is given to you.