It Is Good To Fail Occasionally

I never thought I would be making a statement like that…it sounds vaguely memetic and that is really only one letter removed from emetic. But I have made a few blunders and errors in the last few months that have given me to think.

When I am riding high and doing all the things I want to, it all gets too seductive. I start to get arrogant and flippant with others. They generally don’t know it as I keep it to myself, but it still poisons my perceptions – both of them and of myself. I need a little failure to remind me that I am, as stated before, a plain bun.

Fortunately no-one got hurt and nothing got spoiled by my mistakes. It was a nuisance, but not a disaster. And I can do something that mends the faults in the future. I can also be darned grateful that the times when I really did mess up either did not get noticed or go through to completion. I think I got saved by a number of bells.

Here’s a final thought to send you all off thoughtfully sucking on the end of either a pen or a dagger – we often make ” B-for-Bucket ” lists of things we want to do in life to tease ourselves into action. Or we make ” F” lists to tell us things we do not want to do or people we don’t want to deal with. All good so far. We’re about as likely to follow one list as the other…

But how about making an” M ” list for yourself – call it a Muckit list – a list of mistakes that you have made in your life. You can make it as vague or as specific as you like, but when you’ve got the first part you should make a matching section that tells you what you’ve learned from each blunder.

Like the “B ” and ” F ” lists, the ” M ” list should be strictly hidden and kept a secret from everyone else. If they are going to see anything, let them see you getting better and better for a mysterious reason.

Make A List

Despite what James Dean said about lists in ” Rebel Without A Cause ” – and wasn’t he the one to talk – they are a very good idea for people with either no time to spare or all the time in the world. Lists organise, monitor, and reward. You can live a happier life with lists:

a. Make a list last thing at night of what you wish to accomplish tomorrow.

b. Look at it – recognise that you are only fooling yourself – then cut it down to three do-able things.

c. Get up in the morning, consult the list and set about doing the three things.

Even if you are interrupted, go back to the list and do the three things before the end of the day. If your day ends at midnight with you collapsing in a heap on the floor, you’ll have time to dawdle. If it ends at 4:00 when you mix a cocktail, you’ll have to have been a bit zippier with the early part of the day.

You decide whether you’d like exhaustion or a cocktail and work accordingly.

d. Tick off the list. Really, tick it off on a sheet of paper and you’ll feel a glow of accomplishment. It will reinforce your will and make it easier to persevere next time.

e. Save the list. Whether it is saved in  paper form or on some electronic instrument, it means that you can go back at the end of the week, month, and year and see the vast number of things that you have accomplished. This will boost your morale no end. And you don’t need to depend upon anyone else’s approval or reward – you reward yourself.

f. Tomorrow is another day. Make tonight’s list.

The Untouchable List – Part Three – One From Column A and One From Column B…

If you are going to make up a menu of displeasure for yourself you need to actually understand what it is that makes you happy/unhappy. If you make that list unbeknownst to others you have a better chance of making an honest one – you are not trying to impress the crowd. If you are strong-minded you will not try to impress yourself.

Is there an underlying theme to your aversions? There are a number of classic ones:

a. Disgust. You might have had a childhood experience that has left you with a horror of something. It could be as simple as illness, saliva, regurgitation, noise, etc. Others may not notice it at all – if it is real to you, however, it is real and you are wise to honestly admit it to yourself.

b. Disdain. You might have experienced it from both sides – given or received. Contempt is one of the most powerful distresses one can experience and one that lasts the longest. It can engender the most inveterate hate.

c. Fear. Mostly physical, as in the fear that has been associated with bullying. Sometimes psychological, as in the fear of rejection or betrayal. It also drives a hatred that can last a long time. In some cases it also drives a desire for revenge.

d. Loss. Have you been robbed? Cheated? Underpaid? Swindled?  You’d be a fortunate person who never had any of this happen to you. Most people can recall monetary loss and it is something that can generally be sheeted home accurately. Many times it is irrecoverable.

Note that in all these there is no mention specifically of jealousy – you might have thought of it yourself, but then jealousy is so often an incomplete emotion – we never know the sorrows of the person whose joys we envy. Were we required to shoulder their burdens as well as share their rewards, they might never make it to any list at all.

Note as well that there is no mention of politics or religion. You can hate someone’s choice or avowal as much as you like, but it is rarely a thing for a personal list. Disapproval can safely be left to journalists and other commentators, and the consequences of anyone’s choices are generally on their own heads. Just stand clear and wipe your clothing down with a damp cloth…

The Untouchable List – Part Two – Cause and Effect

I realised that when I wrote the titles for this series of columns that the words ” Untouchable ” had an echo within the caste system on the Indian subcontinent. No such connection was intended – those who worry about it can comfort themselves that the actual caste or class situation is covered by a series of words in Hindi and the other subcontinental languages – ” Untouchable ” is just a good cover word in English for the concept. Peace, Brothers.

Making a list of unpleasant things, people, places, and situations sounds like nothing but trouble – a procedure that could only make us feel bad. Possibly for some people, but in my case it is having a positive effect on me. I am feeling better.

Perhaps it is like the business of lying on a psychiatrist’s couch and rambling onwards. Talk long enough and you let slip the root causes of your problems – and possibly let the therapist find some way of easing them. Think long and write an honest list and you might be able to see clearly into your own mind…and do a similar amount of good for yourself.

You’ll be asking yourself some serious questions:

Do you hate thinking or dealing with a particular topic? Ditto about certain people? Real hate?

Why? There might be a very good reasonIf so, recognise this and carry on. You know your own life better than anyone.

Is this hatred affecting you now? How? How long has it been going on?

If you write it down and encapsulate it in a list, can you go on even further and leave it in the past?

Saints and philosophers might be able to look at that list, crumple it up, and throw it away. Those of us who are not on that elevated plane of piety or knowledge would to well to keep it – well hidden – and to use it as a warning device in our daily lives. It might save our social standing and credibility.

There’s a terrible temptation abroad in the aether to air all our opinions on social media. We lay ourselves open to all the other people who want to express an opinion, and some of them are just looking for a chance to make us feel small. If we let them see the list we give them valuable targeting information about ourselves, and it always comes back to bite. We do far better to honestly make our list, honestly abide by it, and do so in strict secrecy.

Part three – are you on my list yet?  Would you like to be?


The Untouchable List – Part One – Opening The Jar

Glory be! I’m getting smarter in my old age!

I’ve finally realised that there are some things that are untouchable – and for darned good reason. I’ve compiled a list of them for myself and will be adding to it as time goes on. Currently the divisions include discussion topics and people, but I will be expanding it to include places, things, and experiences.

It’s a totally subjective list – I would advocate that other people also make lists, but they are free to put whatever they want on theirs – and I think it might do them a world of good to do so…as it has done for me. But it must be deliberate.

You see, until you actually think long about this sort of idea, you are unlikely to benefit from it. You’ll have aversions that come up quickly and then go away just as fast. You’ll have momentary hates without keeping them long enough to make pets of them – and nowhere near long enough to benefit from them. You need to consider the business soberly.

” Soberly ” can also include thinking outside of a stiff drink of rye whiskey. If you are one of the people whom it takes favourably, it may strip just enough of your inhibitions to allow you to see what you really do feel and think. Just make sure that when you do cocktail meditation that you do it alone, and that you write your conclusions in secret. You may need to revise them and you do not need everyone to see what your original thoughts were.

The list should be drawn in such a way that it can be altered easily as new aversions make themselves known or as old ones are discovered to be harmless. I’ve removed a person from the list after realising that there was no need for them to be there. It was not that they did not deserve to be on it to start with, but they have since ceased to be objectionable. No point in bearing a grudge if it has no substance.

In the next part, we examine what the list does for and to you…