There is a piece on Neil Young in this week’s Times Magazine. I wrote the post below before I started reading the article but this paragraph below jumped out of me. Neil Young has been a hero to me since I was very young.
His longtime manager and friend Elliot Roberts describes Young as “always willing to roll the dice and lose” and says: “He has no problem with failure as long as he is doing work he is happy with. Whether it ends up as a win or loss on a consumer level is not as much of an interest to him as one might think.”
Back when I owned a yoga center (another lifetime ago), I made and sold shirts with assorted phrases on them— No Peaks W/Out Valleys™, There’s No I in Yoga™, and the big seller which might be making a comeback, Failure is My Friend™.
I am a major failure. I love failing. I have taught myself to do many things which involved a whole lot of failing. Around the time I got married I decided it was time to learn how to cook. It wasn’t pretty. My poor wife lived through a good eighteen months of edible food that bordered on bad. Less is always more but I have had to learn that over and over again through so many different failures.
Before I became a yoga teacher, and I am still amazed that I happened into what I do, I had ten years from twenty-five to thirty-five when I did anything that came to mind while supporting myself as a carpenter and waiter. I had pretensions of being an artist and I pursued and failed at so many forms. Failure is relative because there were two things going on in all of the art work I did which included, writing screenplays and novels, taking photographs, making sculptures and putting on plays.
One, only the writing sucked completely (the stories were solid it is just that writing is hard), everything else was mediocre with hints of possibility. And two, I loved doing every minute of every creative thing I worked on. I never made a dime from any of it, nor did I deserve to, or try.
The world is full of great artists that never become because they are afraid to be bad before they are good. Failure should be a joy to embrace because success is so boring. An artist who remains interested in the finished canvas doesn’t interest me much; process is everything and process is all about failing until you think something is done and move on.
I have an amazing life. At forty-nine I have an incredible wife, two amazing kids and two jobs that I look forward to always— I teach walking/yoga and I parent my two children. I’m pretty good at the walking/yoga stuff though I have my moments of failure in that as well.
Artist me was the young me, happy to try to happy to fail. Older adult me plays in a different arena from which to confront failure: parenting. Parenting is a crazy full-time job that never ends. I embrace the idea of being a good parent but fail constantly. On one level good parenting is about consistency and though I know it, I don’t live it. I can’t believe the things I say and do as a parent; things that very often resemble what my mother and father said and did to me.
My parents were of a very different generation when it comes to self-awareness and I forgive them all of their transgressions. They did their best though their best kind of blew. I don’t believe I deserve the same excuses. I was born into a world of so much available knowledge and even with all the information that is available in terms of knowing and understanding, I know I am stuck in some very similar patterns. I only hope I can spare my children some of that. My kids are four and seven and the seven-year old is whip smart. When I have conflict with her she is invariably right and I have to suffer through the humiliation of acknowledging my intransigence yet again. My son is four so he doesn’t count in this regard yet because he is four and he is intransigent.
The failure I am confronted with in parenting is so humbling because it isn’t something I can discard or try again. The results of my current failures are indelibly marked on my children psyches. And yet, I embrace the journey because I am a cockeyed optimist and I figure I am hopefully getting it right a little more often that I get it wrong. Embracing Failure is a embracing a willingness to live.
Failure will be my friend until I fail to take my last breath.