0255 – fail forward

What is it that influences my volume of writing? How do I write more, faster? It makes me sad to think that I might take years and years to complete my 1000 vomits. A part of me wishes I could be done with it over a weekend and some serious amounts of coffee.

Now that I think is a fractal representation of my greater problem in life. I’m impatient, but I’m also a perfectionist. Both of those things are bad. Perfectionism is really a kind of avoidance. Few things can be perfect, outside of really artificial environments. Very simple games, very simple circumstances. Most of reality is complex, and I’m going to have to settle for suboptimal things. I remember telling my wife at some point that she should learn to satisfice instead of optimize everything– it’s a simple matter of factoring in the cost of time.

Remember the story of the pottery class? Half the class would be graded on the quality of one single pot they made, and the other half would be graded on the quantity of pots they made– and those that made over 50 pots ALL made at least a few pots that were better than the best pot made by the best pot class. Why? Iteration. You learn things from making your first pot that inform your second pot. So you can never get things perfect on your first attempt, and there’s really no sense in trying (except in those edge cases where you have lots of time and the cost of failure is incredibly high.)

Even failure can be divided into “failure to meet objective” and “catastrophic failure”, and one thing I know for sure is that my brain always conflates the two. By that I mean… I equate failure to meet objective with catastrophic failure– you’re going to horribly disappoint people, they’re going to laugh at you, nobody’s ever going to want to be your friend.

But the thing is… I do know intellectually that I actually have failed at a lot of things. I failed to do super-well for my PSLE. I failed to make it to Raffles Institution. I failed to keep my spot in the GEP. I failed to qualify for VJC or SAJC, where I wanted to go for some reason. I failed to pass my first year in JC, and had to repeat. I failed to do well for my A levels. I failed to get into University. I failed at my re-attempt at doing my A’s. My first live music show was an embarrassing train wreck, and we had many more trainwrecks together. We failed to win any competition we competed in. We were asked to stop playing at one particular gig, because we were so bad. I’ve failed to make the cut for many, many different things. I failed at getting into the student council executive committee. I failed to be there for some of my friends when they needed me. I failed to finish my band’s EP. I failed. I failed to do my IPPT, twice in a row.

I failed. I failed. I failed.

And yet I’m still here. I’m still alive. Despite everything. I still have chances. I still get job offers (probably because they don’t know what a fail I am, I convince myself. I’ve gotten good at pretending to be good on the outside, I’m a total imposter.)

So why am I so worried about failure? I’ve already been laughed at. I’ve already been rejected. There will always be rejections. There will always be failure. I’m going to continue to fail and get laughed at, over and over again. I will lose the respect of the people who matter to me. So what? Suppose I destroy all my personal relationships, then what? Suppose I embarrass my family and loved ones and none of them ever want to have anything to do with me ever again. Again, so fucking what?

Fear of failure is so irrational. It’s imagined. “I’ve experienced a great many tragedies in my life, some of which actually happened.” I’m tired of that shit. I’ve survived most of these failures. I’m still here. Things can get messy, awkward, ugly, but fuck it, I’m still here. I’m still breathing. I’m still healthy, awake. I can still turn things around. In fact, “turn things around” is a misnomer. There is nothing to turn around. The failures are in the past– every day is a new day, every moment is a new moment.

As Fake Grimlock put it, stop trying to be smart! Stupid wins smart, because smart tries not to be stupid but stupid doesn’t give a shit because it’s already stupid. So goddamnit, stop trying to be smart. Stop trying to win. Just go out there and fail, and fail and fail over and over again at great velocity. That’s what these vomits are supposed to teach me. Hardly any of these vomits matter to anybody– most of them are worthless– and yet a couple of them took off. One got to the front page of Hacker News. One got widely shared on medium. One just mysteriously took off by itself. And while those things were nice, I return to this center where I’m writing because I goddamn want to be a writer. I goddamn want to write and so I write even if it fails. I’m training myself here to be indifferent to rejection.

So this here again is hopefully a shining example for needs to happen in my life. I need to write these vomits every single day. At least one vomit a day, and it doesn’t matter if it’s not deep or profound. I don’t care. I don’t need to hit home runs. I just need to hit the ball over and over again. Some of them will be home runs and I won’t know in advance which they will be. I’ve read all the advice I ever need to read– I just need to write these things down so I internalize them. And I will, through repetition. I will repeat myself over and over and over if I have to. But I will prevail, or die trying, and it will be a good life for having tried.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *