Monday, January 3, 2011

Success is Temporary, Failure is Temporary, Leave Me Alone!

It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, "Always do what you are afraid to do."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash.
-George S. Patton

If you do not hope, you will not find what is beyond your hopes.
-St. Clement of Alexandra

We are all inventors, each sailing out on a voyage of discovery, guided each by a private chart, of which there is no duplicate. The world is all gates, all opportunities.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

That's a small sampling from a motivational quotes website. Gee. Charming.

We're in a new year. 2011 is supposed to be better and brighter and more wonderful than 2010.


Oh, I can't say that it won't be in absolute terms. I don't have a crystal ball or any other way to see into the future. But just because it's early January doesn't mean that the New Year is full of promise only because most of the year hasn't happened yet. I mean, with each new year, everyone thinks it's going to be great. But is that how the year turns out?

Just look at last year. Try to remember the beginning of 2010. Obama was President (still is). Pelosi was the Speaker of the House (now she's not). The "progressives" were in charge of everything and we all know that means everything that changes, changes for the better (as defined by a bunch of politicians and myopic optimists). How many people died in Afghanistan and Iraq? How many suicide bombings were there in the Middle East? How many people died in car accidents? How many little kids were diagnosed with cancer? How many people are out of work? Homeless? Sick? Dying?

Yes, I'm grumpy. I'm grumpy because, like Christmas, everyone expects you to feel a certain way, as if it's the only way to feel, just because of a date on a calendar. Also, all these motivational people, sites, and sayings make just tons and tons of assumptions about people. If you aren't actually motivated by their popular drivel, then you're bad or evil or something. After all, these people make money by being motivational, so how dare you fail to be motivated by them. What they really want is to motivate you to give them your money.

How about an example of motivational drivel. Let's take a look at one popular motivational phrase:

Success isn't permanent, and failure isn't fatal.
-Mike Ditka US football player & coach

I'll totally buy the first part. No matter how well you do at something, it doesn't last. Just look at actors and politicians. No matter how good your last movie was, the next one could suck. No matter how many promises you made on the campaign trail that got you elected, your actions once you get in office will not always be popular (look how far Obama has fallen in the "popularity polls").

Failure isn't fatal. Well, that depends. If we're talking about skydiving or bungie cord jumping, then failure can damn well be fatal. If you're Superman, Batman, or Green Lantern and some series of bad guys are always trying to kill you, failure can almost assuredly be fatal.

But most of us don't have life threatening hobbies or happen to be superheroes, so no, failing won't really kill us.

It will just make us feel like we want to be dead.

Your boss always wants you to be successful at work (productive, whatever). Your boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, lover, spouse, mutant parasite wants you to always be successful in attending to their wants, needs, and desires. The credit card company wants you to be successful in paying your bills on time. Everybody wants you to be universally successful and will punish you in varying ways and in varying degrees if you fail.

No, it won't kill you, but you'll wish you were dead.

I've noticed that motivational phrases, websites, and people rarely provide practical advice, they just ramble off pie-in-the-sky platitudes. They're like comic book characters. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman all have perfect bodies. Except for Batman, you never see them dieting or working out to achieve and maintain those bodies. They just have them. Success and failure are fictional illustions that happen on pages of paper covered with ink. While they can be inspirations, they also can point out that, by comparision, our little lives are pretty dull, boring, and our problems, though not on a magnificent scale most of the time, aren't very easy to solve (nor as dramatically solved).

So next time those of you who produce your motivational books and websites get the bright idea to give some advice to the rest of us, come down to earth first. Learn what it feels like to live with chronic depression or some sort of physical disability. Find out what it's like to have few friends, to live on a budget (a small one), to struggle to pay bills, to disappoint your spouse, to be called "a failure".

Success isn't permanent but failure is a label that, once stuck to your back with super glue, hangs on in your reputation and in your emotions for a long, long time.

Bite me, motivational people.

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