Carpe Aeternum

Finding the Eternal in the Every Day

Archive for the tag “failure”

Do It Poorly

My pastor made an odd statement. “Anything worth doing, is worth doing poorly.” It surprised me at first. I kept thinking about it until I decided what my response needed to be.

Many people are shocked by such a statement. Others scandalized. Immediately, I fell somewhere in between those. This is not our cultural norm. This is not what I had been taught growing up. “If something is worth doing, it is worth doing well.” Is what I heard. The idea being: “don’t half-ass what you do.”

I have tried to impart this concept to my kids. Do your best at whatever you do. You don’t have to be the best. It’s even okay if you are the worst if you tried to the best of your abilities.

But this path leads to perfectionism and immobilization.

It is easy to slip from doing my best to being the best. Or to constantly question if what you just did really, truly is your best. Once that loop starts you may never finish because you continue to try to improve something and never finish. The first time I tried to right a novel, I rewrote the first chapter twelve times before I realized I would never get to chapter two at this pace.

Knowing that you will never be happy with your results, leads to not even trying. Why start if you can’t finish? Makes sense in most decision making logic.

But the intent of my pastor’s statement falls more to the side of, anything helps.

There is an old tale of a man walking along a beach at low tide, picking up sea stars stranded on the sand and tossing them into the water. Another fellow sees him doing it and the enormity of the task at hand. Thousands of sea stars were stranded. There was no way the first man could save them all. The second man pointed this out, telling the first, “there are too many; you will never make a difference.” The first man picked up another and tossed it into the sea. “Made a difference to that one.”

Often the idea of trying to do something doesn’t seem possible, so it isn’t worth starting. I can’t make a difference in the big picture.

Often, the thought of not being able to do something well or perfectly, prevents us from ever starting.

Sometimes, we just have to suck at something to learn how to do it. We can’t figure out how to do it perfectly before we start or we will never start.

For most people, giving a speech is terrifying. They dread speaking. And the idea that they will probably flounder makes them more scared. The problem is, to get good at speaking, you have to speak. Often. That means, somewhere along the line, you have to give a first speech. And probably suck at it. If speaking is worth doing, you have to do it. You have to start poorly and work your way up.

If cancer research waited for a solution to begin searching for the solution it would never happen. The starting point is ignorance and guesses and certain failure. But starting is crucial to ever having a path to lead to success.

The same is true of any artistic endeavor, athletic challenge and even some business situations.

Sure, you can learn and prepare. You can develop your plan from other people’s successes and failures. But you have to step out and stumble along your own path.

Risk is a value at the core of this. If something matters to you, try it. If you want to see the world become a better place, try creating or perpetuating that change. Even if you fail at it at first.

If it is something worth doing, something that really matters to you, do it. Start poorly. Learn and grow as you continue. Don’t try to get it all figured out perfectly first. Do it now.


Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 23

As I watch my girls engage with life, I notice that things I dream for them are changing. I dream that they will succeed at their endeavors, that they will know success in their lives. More and more, however, I find gladness in their failures.
I knew a girl in college who abounded with talents and skills and she excelled at all she tried. Her life was forged by success. In high school, she was the best of the best. At our college she was better than most at all she did. She planned to get a masters degree in broadcast journalism after we graduated. For whatever reason, despite her accomplishments, talents and academic prowess, the school she applied to didn’t think she fit their program. They rejected her and she was devastated. She seemed unable to recover from this setback.
I realized then that she didn’t have skills or experience to deal with this. She had never failed before.
I, however, failed often. My life is rife with flops and foibles. Rejection visited so often, I gave him a drawer in my dresser. Failing was a lifelong pursuit. I had literally been planning my whole life for the moment that a grad school rejected me. I was equipped to deal with it.
My friend’s first failure was colossal. How can anyone recover from that? I’m glad I had practice at recovering, at dealing with disappointment, at trying again, at staring anew. I am glad my daughters are learning these skills too.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 17

We watch Biggest Looser in my house and I entertain fantasies of getting fit while watching. Some days I’m even motivated to exercise. Gradually, I’m creating a lifestyle that is more health focused. More active anyway.
One of the things that drives me nuts with the show is when people whine and quit in the middle of a workout. Let me say now, and first of all, that I am fully aware of my hypocrisy as I bail on workouts all the time. Actually, I might cut 5 minutes, or reduce the intensity level on the elliptical part of the way through. That said, I once was a fitness stud and I understand the importance of pushing through to the end. I get that I need to persevere rather than quit.
I remembered what it was like to play ball in college and when we had three-a-days for training camp. That last practice each day was a matter of will, not strength. We did what we did because we forced our bodies to do them. The sprints at the end were the worst. I literally had no energy to run forty yards, much less do it again and again. But I did it. Somehow, I did it, just as all of my teammates did. We whined and moaned. We never cried because we were men, manly men. But we suffered and pushed through.
Sure, I wanted to quit. I wanted to with every step. But I didn’t.
At this point in my life, if I ever am to have a life as I often propose in this blog, I need to rediscover that ability. To be able to push on by will when my strength and courage are gone, that is a virtue that I have let atrophy beyond recognition. Perhaps I would have finished a novel or two. Perhaps I would have pushed through to publication. Perhaps I would have not gotten fat and lazy and stuck in a rut.
More importantly is, “what the hell am I going to do about it now?” I’ve gotten myself into this rut and I’m in process of getting out. Maybe someday, and hopefully soon, I can recover my strength of will and push forward. It may start with not lowering the intensity of my elliptical work. It may begin with actually hitting my self imposed deadlines on this blog. Whatever it is, this resuscitation needs to happen. If I am to get a life that is.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 8

Paulo Coelho in his book The Alchemist expresses the belief that if you state your dreams out load and make them a goal, the universe will conspire with you to make them happen. A wonderful sentiment that I decided to try. My experience is that if you state a dream as a goal, the world will conspire to prevent it from happening.
It seems that everyone around you immediately tells you it can’t be done. Some will encourage but armies will discourage. But then, other interactions with the encouragers make clear that they are patronizing you. Of course there will be a few that really mean it and truly hope and maybe even pray that you succeed or that you at least try well and gain satisfaction from the effort.
Why are so many people against dreams? Is it because they have none? Or that they’ve given up on them? I’ve tried giving up on my dreams but life was too bleak. I can’t survive bleak. I can survive failure so I’d rather flounder in a morass of failure and maintain some sort of dream rather than embrace bleakness.
Because life needs something. Some kind of hope or aspiration to hang onto or it withers away and nothing is left. Why live then.
I hate mediocrity but I also can live with achieving my best even if it is merely mediocre. But it takes risk to even boldly pursue mediocrity. It takes risk to fail. Sure it takes risk to succeed but since I don’t have a lot of history with success, I’ll leave that to someone else to discuss.
But I’m trying to live life here and I can’t do it without my silly dreams. So onward I rush into the foolishness of my efforts. But they keep me alive. And I can live with the world against me if I can dream. So let them conspire against me. The stories are going to come.

Post Navigation