Someone else who believes in Embrace The Suck.

It’s a powerful lesson: Accept failure. Enjoy it, even. Embrace the suck, for the suck is part of the process. – A.J. Jacobs

One of my new favorite blogs is the one written by laidnyc. Please note that it’s occasionally NSFW. But today his post resonates extraordinarily well with the concept of Embrace The Suck that I posted about here and here and here.

Excerpts from laidnyc, tweaked slightly for context:

See, there are two types of people.

People who are incapable of admitting that they are responsible for their failures, and the rest.

The foundation of self-improvement is taking responsibility.

Do not blame your genes.

Do not blame your environment.

Do not blame the opposite sex or your boss or your parents.

Do not blame the information you receive.

Do not blame the government or media.

There is only one thing to blame for your failures:  You.

But failing to take responsibility isn’t always about blame, is it?  Not everyone who fails is resentful. Some people have a lack of responsibility that is wrapped in good vibes:

Fate.

God.

Hope.

You don’t have to accept that you are a failure if you believe some big and mysterious force is controlling all of your outcomes.

See, I believe you can’t teach anyone anything.  They learn what they want to learn, when they’re humble and realistic enough to learn it.

The first step to getting great at something is to admit you currently suck at it.

The road to confidence starts first with humbleness.


Embrace The Suck: Number 23

Image from Getty Images

Previously I discussed the importance of Embracing The Suck. This week many tributes have been aired and published in honor of Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday, and it’s been recounted many times how one summer Michael chose to embrace the suck at the prime of his basketball career.

In 1993, the greatest player in the history of the game quit. Walked away. He wanted to do something different, something he knew that he would very likely suck at. He wanted to play baseball.

Michael’s father had been murdered that summer. Michael was devastated. He idolized his dad, even imitating how his dad stuck out his tongue while engrossed in his work. Michael adopted that and made it part of his signature move when he drove to the basket.

The elder Jordan’s dream was that Michael would be a baseball star. That was all the incentive Michael needed to quit the Bulls and sign a minor-league contract with the White Sox. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Jerry Reinsdorf owned both teams.

A former high school pitcher and NBA burnout, Jordan had traded his high-tops for a pair of spikes. Shaken by his father’s murder and emotionally frail after three consecutive NBA titles, Jordan retired from basketball in the fall of ’93. He’d instead chase those dreamy last conversations he’d had with his father, the ones where they’d muse over leaving basketball, playing baseball, discovering a fresh thirst for an unconquerable game… By the standards of his previous job, Michael Jordan was going to fail – wholly, miserably, and publicly. – Tim Brown

By the standards of you and me, mere mortals, Jordan distinguished himself reasonably well. In 127 games with the Double-A Birmingham Barons he batted .202, struck out 114 times, and committed 11 errors. He also stole 30 bases, drove in 51 runs, and hit three home runs.

Image from Getty Images

By the standards of Number 23, though, he sucked. Wholly, miserably, and publicly. Like Superman without his powers. Jordan was mocked in the stands and in the press. And guess what else: he didn’t care. It didn’t matter to him. He was relentless. He humbled himself. He attached his heart and soul to the game of baseball and gave it his all.

Tens of thousands came to witness one of the great athletes of his generation loop a single into right-center field. Tens of thousands more, perhaps, came to see him strike out. Often, they left happy. – Tim Brown

By the end of the summer Michael knew it was time to return to basketball. He announced it in a two-word press release: “I’m back.”

So what’s the point? It’s this: Jordan put his all, his heart and soul, into something he knew he was probably going to suck at. He didn’t require baseball not to suck. He accepted the suck. He embraced the suck. At the end, he took pride in having survived the suck.

It’s a powerful lesson: Accept failure. Enjoy it, even. Embrace the suck, for the suck is part of the process. – A.J. Jacobs

If you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something. – Neil Gaiman

Image from ickscorner.com

If Air Jordan can walk away from something he excelled at, deliberately put himself into a suck situation, embrace it, and survive it, so can I. So can you. Let’s do this. Be like Mike.


A follow-up to 2012: Embrace The Suck

Image from neilgaiman.com

Neil Gaiman, one of my favorite writers, posted this in his journal at the end of 2011. It fits very nicely with my last post:

And for this year, my wish for each of us is small and very simple.

And it’s this.

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.


2012: Embrace The Suck

Image from cartoonstock.com

Image from cartoonstock.com

2012. What a year. To steal a line from Queen Elizabeth, 2012 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure: in many ways it was an “annus horribilis.” The Year Of The Suck, Mostly. Too goddamn many “life lessons” tossed rapidly into my path this year, thankyouverymuch.

It would be cute to channel Pollyanna The Glad Girl and believe that “there’s nowhere to go but up.” Cute, but not entirely truthful. There are other places to go besides “up”: it’s possible for things to stay stuck on suck. To quote my friend Melissa, every silver lining has a cloud.

I keep waiting for this year’s sucktacular events and life lessons to make sense, to understand how they all fit into The Great Scheme Of Things™, but they’re not going to un-suck just because I wish them to. Still, some positive things happened. I rocked the 902, and set a goal to move to Cape Breton by the end of 2016. President Obama won re-election. I watched my nephew namesake graduate high school with honors in San Antonio (he’s now at Baylor). I made friends with some great new people, and renewed friendships with some others. I have a house and a job, and will soon have a car again. I get to spend a lot of time doing the thing I love the most. I have a family who loves one another, and a circle of friends who have each others’ backs. And to quote The Boss, I strolled all alone through a fallout zone and came out with my soul untouched.

Back in May, writer/editor A.J. Jacobs wrote an article in Real Simple magazine wherein he wrote a few lines that turned my head around:

“It’s a powerful lesson: Accept failure. Enjoy it, even. Embrace the suck, for the suck is part of the process.”

Don’t require things not to suck. Accept the suck. Take pride in surviving the suck. Might as well, you know, because the suck is going to suck regardless. I can comfort myself with the belief that this year’s suck is all part of the process, some process, and that it all will prove worthwhile someday. That’s one very slender reed there, but it beats kicking holes in the sheet rock. And it seems to be another of those life lessons.

Image from The New Yorker

Till then, here’s Eytan Mirsky to greet the new year. Here’s hopes that 2013 will not be the suck for you, me, or any of us.  If it does, may we embrace the suck and take pride in surviving the suck. And buckle your seat belts tonight, goddamnit. Accidents suck.

And now we’ve reached December
And it’s been so disappointing
That we’re glad this sorry year’s about to end
But in just a little while
We’ll be back in January
And you know we’re gonna start it all again
And we’ll say:

This year’s gonna be our year
Don’t you know it’s gonna be our year, now
Much better than last year
And the year before
This year’s gonna be our year
Don’t you know it’s gonna be our year, now
Much better than last year
Which wasn’t good at all


I tumbled onto a brilliant blog today.

“Doodle Alley,” by Stephen McCranie. Stephen is not only a very talented artist, but an astute observer of the human condition.

Take a look at his blog, I know you’ll enjoy it as much as I have. One piece in particular, “Be Friends With Failure,” fits very well with my mantra, “Embrace The Suck.”

Click here for more.


Sometimes when you fall, you fly: thoughts on letting go

Image from ign.com

I’ve been planning for a time to post about Neil Gaiman’s graphic-novel series The Sandman. I consider it not just a classic of fantasy and of “comics and sequential art,” but a classic of late 20th-century English-language literature. When I’m able to sum up the scope of this collection of work in one brief blog entry, it will follow. Lately, though, this episode has been on my mind. It deals with letting go.

Dream is the lord of a world called the Dreaming. Over the years Dream acquired other names: Morpheus, the Dream King, the Prince of Stories, and of course The Sandman. Dream’s realm is where we mortals go when we sleep. Occasionally he appears to us there: more often, though, he monitors and shapes our dreams.

Most stories in The Sandman fit within multi-part story arcs. A few are free-standing, which serve as backstories and to advance the mythos of Dream and his siblings, known as The Endless. This story, “Fear Of Falling,” is one of those.

Todd Faber is the writer and director of an off-Broadway play.  Things aren’t going well. He’s afraid of the play’s possible failure, yet is also anxious about the demands of its possible success.  Todd is on the verge of pulling the plug and cancelling the production.

At home, asleep, in his dreams Todd finds himself climbing to meet Dream. This is unusual, because Todd is afraid of heights. He tells Dream the story of how these terrors stemmed from a childhood nightmare. Todd grew up believing, like many of us, that if you dream of falling and you actually hit the ground in your dream, you will die in real life. In the childhood dream, he was trapped in a house with three witches. He managed to escape and climb to the roof of the house, but the roof shifted beneath him… and he falls. Todd (the child) was able to escape from the falling dream, but not to wake himself up. Aware, but immobile.

“I didn’t dare go back to the dream: I’d die. But I didn’t know how to wake myself up. I tried to scream, hoping I’d wake someone up who’d come and wake me up. I tried to thrash about. It was the longest, scariest time I’ve ever spent, trapped in my head, in the dark. And eventually, somehow, I did manage to open my eyes. I was soaked in sweat, and I started crying, partly because I hadn’t died and partly because I was alive.”

Dream tells Todd, “It is sometimes a mistake to climb. It is always a mistake never even to make the attempt. If you do not climb you will not fall. This is true. But is it that bad to fall, that hard to fall?”

Sandman_Fear_of_Falling_p05

Sandman_Fear_of_Falling_p06

Sandman_Fear_of_Falling_p07

Sometimes we must let go of things in life, fall away from them, do without their support. Some are things that offer us genuine security, and some are “truths” we comfort ourselves with. Both are supports that help us climb to the place we are. And either way, letting go is hard. To fall is terrifying. And we can end up like Todd as a kid, relieved to survive the letting go but wondering if it’s worth going on without that which had supported us. “Fear of Falling” is about keeping on going when fear tells us to stop, because sometimes we fly.

More on The Sandman coming soon.

Page images from comicoo.com.


Past masters: John Steinbeck

And now that you don't

Image from quoteswave.com

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”

Steinbeck is one of my half-dozen favorite authors, which you probably already know about me. I first read “East Of Eden” about six years ago while in the waning days of my marriage. I badly needed a distraction from the ongoing struggles of my own tumultuous life, and what better than the ongoing struggles of other people’s tumultuous lives?! It’s a slow-moving read with many, many characters, but small bits of it like this quote seemed to seep into my consciousness. Popped into my brain again today, apropos of nothing… but who knows, maybe it was apropos of something I’ll figure out later. It does seem to go hand-in-hand with my previous posts about embracing the suck.

Bantam - East of Eden - John Steinbeck

Image from coverbrowser.com

It’s amazing how authors can, almost nonchalantly, throw such loaded statements into dialogue… Lee, the philosophical servant china-man, is making an observation of Abra’s life. The comment struck me because, not only is it profound in the context of the book, it resonates with me and my experiences. Perfection will never be attained by any of us, not on this earth. What a frustrating endeavor, trying to attain it! It’s like climbing up an endless staircase, falling down seven steps then making it up nine. I think the futility of it all can easily result in just giving up, throwing up the hands, and returning to poor habits and choices. Perfection seems like such pressure to me. I can’t stand the idea of tiptoeing around, holding my breath, afraid to make a mistake. When that burden is removed, I feel that I can finally breathe. Like Abra, I can be good. – Legacy of Stone

“East of Eden” is all about characters discovering that they aren’t perfect, they can’t earn love, and life doesn’t always happen the way they’d like it to. In that disappointment, characters have a choice to make between grace and jealousy, forgiveness and guilt, love and bitterness, and those choices affect the rest of their lives and relationships. I think that’s why “East of Eden” is so compelling. Everyone can relate to discovering imperfection – either in ourselves or those around us – and everyone has made a choice, consciously or not, about how to live within that truth of imperfection. – (near)pandemonium

Ultimately, when we try to be perfect we find it impossible to be good. The pretense of perfection leads people to be legalistic, judgmental, proud, duplicitous, depressed, and generally screwed up from the cognitive dissonance of an expectation that is cruelly contradicted by reality. “Perfect” people cannot be good. – Brian Zahnd

As an aside, another quote from that book gained immediate usefulness during those waning marriage days. In the story, brothers Adam and Charles were discussing the recent death of their father. Charles was interrogating Adam for details about his relationship with their dad, and Adam replied:

“I won’t answer you until I know what you’re getting at.”

I quoted that while undergoing a “line of questioning” from my ex. It was surprisingly successful. Who says literature is meaningless in the modern age?