a DNA that says oops

One of the many dichotomies of life: How failure really isn’t as bad as we make it out to be, while comfort is not really our friend.

Comfort Zones Suck (our lives away)

Feeling for a moment like a big fucking failure, I started re-reading one of my many success self-help books, because no one’s going to read it for me. I’m barely into the first chapter, when a sleepy creature groans and pokes it head above the debris of my life, peering out with bleary eyes.

Oh, wow, I haven’t seen this critter in a while! It’s my Hunger to Succeed.

It seems my comfort zone had been quietly lulling her to sleep with Lo-Fi music and stacking distractions up around her to hide her from view, once more trying to keep me from that scary thing called Change. Comfort zones do that. It’s their purpose, to shield us from the saber tooth tiger outside the cave.

“Just stay by the fire,” it says in our ear. “I know you’re hungry, but let someone else go hunt for food and possibly not come back. Be safe, don’t risk it.”

The comfort zone’s job is to protect us, keep us safely ensconced in our easy chairs in front of the television, where no one can break our hearts or tread on our egos. The people on the screen do all that for us now. No need to risk it ourselves anymore.

Our comfort zones are adept at sapping our confidence so we don’t put ourselves out there, and risk that most fearful of all creatures: Failure. But this is just silly.

It may sound ironic or even crazy, but without failure we’ll never know Success.

We can emulate others all we want, read their books, watch their YouTube videos, but until we put ourselves out there and actively fail at things, we won’t learn who we are, what we can do, what actually works for us in life. What our purpose is.

When We Learn to Hate Failure

Unless we were lucky enough to have a set of those truly inspired parents and teachers who know the score, most of us are brought up in a failure-unfriendly environment.

  • Classmates who jeer when you fall down, tripping up and bullying the one who fails–the supposed weak one–to keep the focus away from their own weaknesses.
  • Teachers and coaches who actively tear you down for coloring outside their lines, thinking outside their boxes, doing anything that might show you can be better at something than them.
  • Online peers who enjoy trolling and flaming your troubles as well as your accomplishments, to take the spotlight off of their own failed lives (otherwise they’d have more positive things to do and say).
  • Media content bent on Success, Success, Success! It’s all about Winning! Heaven forbid you fail at anything.
  • Commercial content bent on telling you what a failure you are … if you don’t buy and use their product to “fix” the situation.
  • Loving parents who only want to protect their offspring from harm, from the heartbreak of being a “failure”, so they try to teach them how important it is to win at all costs.

These are not easy things to put behind us when they are ingrained in us so young. I know: I am fighting this fear of failure on a daily basis, when I’m aware I’m giving in to the fear at all.

The Face of Failure

Failure is that awkward geeky kid with the big glasses who never gets picked for the team. The kid who now owns a multi-million-dollar corporation he started in his garage. All because he didn’t waste his time conforming.

Failure is that quirky kid who made jokes in class and drew pictures in her notebook instead of memorizing dates and names she would never ever need in real life; whose paintings now hang on a gallery wall and will create their own history.

Failure is how entrepreneurs become millionaires–or happy average people living their dreams. These people try everything, embrace the entire process as an adventure, including the failures. They know every attempt provides a lesson in what does and doesn’t work.

I want to be like them when I grow up.

It’s In Our DNA

There’s this string of organic programming that defines the form of all life on this planet, a string of molecules so complex it takes a supercomputer to unravel–and it was created from failure.

DNA makes mistakes all the time, called mutations. All life on this planet evolved from our DNA “learning” which of these random “defects” thrived. Without these mutations, life never would have happened, much less become anything complex or sentient.

We were created to fail! And that’s awesome. The problem is our view of failure, as a negative thing.

Our comfort zone, and the comfort zones of many of the people around us, cry out for safety. Don’t risk anything. Stay out of harm’s way. Don’t live. Don’t evolve. Die safe and unhappy and unfulfilled.

Wait… is this what we’re here for?

Find Success through Failure

Fuck that. Fail. Fail with abandon! Try awesome impossible things bound to fail!

Because once you get that forward momentum going, the little successes will start happening, too, more and more often as you learn what didn’t work; because, like Captain Marvel, you didn’t give up.

The only real failure is giving up before you get there.

And when you accidentally fall across one of those crazy impossible things that doesn’t fail? Then you will have found a thing no one else has found, because they were afraid to try: Your seed to Success.

If at first you don’t succeed; keep on sucking ’til you do succeed!

— Curly, from The Three Stooges

Evolution: It’s not just for DNA anymore.

Prius pic, torn in half

When the world is being mean to us for no reason, is it actually trying to wake up our Inner Hero?

An Ode to my 2nd-Gen Prius,

… may she rest in pieces.

A few days ago, some lovely example of humankind made away with a piece of my car in the night. It wasn’t a pretty piece by any means. It didn’t play music or gleam in the sun or make my tires stay round. It was just a metal blob of environmental piping covered in road grime underneath. It also helped my little Prius not to sound like a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Which it did when I started it up the next day.

Someone had cased my car, waited for darkness, jacked it up enough to get under it, and hacked away my catalytic converter. All within a few feet of my apartment.

I can only imagine how tough the job was for the poor criminal, on his back on wet gravelly asphalt in the cold drizzle of night, making all that racket sawing metal that should have woke the neighbors–or me. Just for a few hundred dollars in precious metal.

I almost feel bad for them.

No, that’s a lie. Despite my usual empathetic, compassionate nature, I cannot condone their sheer selfishness, taking away my hard-earned (and under-insured) mode of transport. I think it warrants a little ire. I think I could happily have squirted lighter fluid in their crotch and applied a burning match.

Allow me to savor that image for a moment before the guilt sets in…

Empathy and Other Lost Arts

Despite my vengeful imagery, Empathy is important to me. I personally believe that it is the one trait living creatures are gifted with that has the power to save this world. If only we exercised a little more of it.

So, the image of flaming nether regions will remain in my imagination for now (although I’m hoping karma will have its day with that person).

Instead of stepping on each other and one-upping each other to get ahead, we should be reaching out to pull each other up, so we can all get ahead together. I think we will get there so much faster that way, too. It’s a shame so many religions and governments seem to be bent on keeping that from ever happening.

Damage Done

This particular act of local selfishness won’t be passed on to an insurance company, sadly. Since I’ve been doing the starving artist thing, I unwisely decided not to cover my car for damage, thinking it too old and unvaluable. I should have thought a little harder on that.

Moral: If you own an older Prius, get comprehensive coverage. Don’t be an idiot like me.

Ten minutes of shady work turned my trustworthy steed into an overly large parking lot paperweight. A perfectly running car that can’t be fixed, because repairs would cost more than the car is worth. More than I’m worth at the moment.

It still sits out in the parking lot, all cute and curvy, hinting at a nice wash and wax for spring. But all I can envision for it now is being stacked in a junk yard with a few dozen others of its kind, all missing the same part.

I wonder if she’ll miss me. Ugh. I should never name my cars.

When Bad Things Happen for Good

It is a difficult exercise trying to envision something good coming out of this, as painful and undeserving as it feels right now.

But I know from experience, time has a way of showing us that it sometimes takes bad things to knock us out of the ruts and unproductive grooves we get ourselves coasting down for the sake of our comfort zone.

Comfort zones are nasty little life-eaters we think are so lovely, until we look back on them in regret.

Most of us hate change. And yet most of us secretly pine away for something to change. We’re just afraid to do it, or clueless as to what to do to make it happen in the right direction.

So, life steps in.

As a writer who often writes about life, if there’s one thing I’ve noticed it is that Life (substitute Universe, God, guardian angels, wombat spirits, or whatever form they take for you) doesn’t care about Things. Those will be dust in a blink of an eye, from its perspective. Life cares about You. And me. It cares about small actions that make big changes in our history, in our survival as creatures sharing this big blue rock.

It takes action to affect the path of living history. Usually uncomfortable, heroic action, like in the movies we all watch so much.

A Fun Exercise

Go watch any movie. It doesn’t matter which one.

Within the first 15 or 20 minutes, our hapless protagonist is going to have something taken away from them, like Indiana Jones, or Marty McFly, or Luke Skywalker; and this sends them onto an uncomfortable and unwanted path toward Change.

And it always seems to be the change they needed from the beginning.

Why do we love watching movies that do this over and over? I think it is because we all know deep down this is the way our life works. We identify with it. We want it, if only we can be as brave as our heroes on the screen to go for it.

Think about how many real life people they’ve made movies about, whose story started with a small tragedy that began their battle to become who they are now. Tell me on some level you don’t want that to happen to you, too, scary as it sounds.

I believe we all have inner heroes waiting to come out to make our dreams come true, to rescue us from living lives beneath those dreams. And this world we live in is trying its best to help, with nasty little Inciting Incidents, like mine, when we don’t make the effort on our own. I figure if I don’t do something about this one, it’ll be worse next time. Life can be mean when it loves you so much.

Wish me luck. I’m going to need it … and some lighter fluid.