Are You Willing to Fail
It’s Been Awhile
I have been stuck in my head about a lot of things since my last post because much has been happening.
Financial issues. Moving further in the divorce process. Continuously listening to podcasts on improving my belief in my self-worth. I could not prioritize what to post.
As I type this now, I have no idea what or when I wrote and posted last. I’ll be sure to check on that after I post this.
One of the things I haven’t posted and has been poking me to be let out is Music Post. I haven’t recorded any music. Not even a music doodle, which was my last Music Post.
I’ve been learning a new song but I continue to not post because I don’t like the warts this song has. I am struggling with the timing of the chord changes and how to sing the lyrics. It sounds more like a train wreck than an attempt at a song by a musical novice.
Perhaps, I could post my struggle? Post my process of working on this song?
That would be different. That would allow me to post the train wreck and to formulate it into a piece of art. I’ve read on James Altucher’s blog, and heard him say a few times on his podcast, that “process is art”.
If I can hold myself to use that term, I think I could post my recent musical struggle.
The song I am struggling to learn is Package Thief by Superchunk. It is basically power chords. I just can’t seem to get the timing right.
Take a listen here https://youtu.be/GRQbuWxi0SI to the original song.
I’m not interested in learning the lead guitar part, just the chords and lyrics.
I’m liking this “process is art” approach the more I think about it. I think I will begin this approach this weekend. It is my weekend with the kids and I can get them to help.
Seems I just needed to write this out to gain a better perspective on this issue.
I am thankful for having this space and to make this available to anybody who might find this helpful in their own creative struggle.
Time is Pricelss
Your attention and time are the most precious things you have. You have given some of that to me and I appreciate it.
I believe that when time is given to me the best way to show my appreciation is to give my time to you.
I have visited some of the blogs of those who have visited mine. I dove into more than one posting by some of you. I really like a lot of what I have read; especially, those posts where you have shared about yourself and your struggles. The most impressive writings to me have been where you have shared what you have done to be good to you.
Choosing yourself in order to be available to others is an inspiration to me. One of my reasons for writing this blog is to be more honest with myself through my writing. I’m still working on this.
Life is tough and rough and we have to treat ourselves well.
If I don’t stop telling myself “I’m not worthy of things”, then why should I expect anybody else to think me worthy. I say some pretty horrible things to myself. If I were to say those things to my friends, I would not have any friends. If I were to say those things to my kids, I would be a horrible father and my kids’ self-esteem and self-image would crumble. Thinking about that happening to my kids breaks my heart. I would want to punch myself in the face if I said those things to my kids. So, why doesn’t it break my heart when I say those things to me? It does break my spirit. I should probably punch myself in the face for having such negativity towards me.
But physical violence only begets physical violence. We see it happening every day. Negativity begets negativity. It happens in my head all the time. That negativity has kept me from striving to do more. I have backed away from many challenges in my life because I didn’t fully believe I was worth it.
Personal examples in my creative life:
I’ve written two novels and a script for a graphic novel. I’ve attempted to get agents for one of my novels. I even knew someone who worked for a literary agency and she submitted my manuscript. It never went anywhere.
I reached out to a few artists to collaborate on my graphic novel. One artist just stopped communicating with me and another did not get back to me. It never went anywhere.
So, I’ve been knocked down and was left rejected. However, there are two points about the above.
One, I could have done a better job of following up by asking more questions. I wasn’t told my work sucked. I just wasn’t told anything. What else could I think?
Two, my passion level was not high for what I had created and promoted. It wasn’t that I didn’t want my creations to go to the next step. I just didn’t believe in myself enough to advocate more strongly for them. I didn’t give myself enough worth. I didn’t give my work enough worth.
This is something that I recently began to understand about myself. I’m a low-key guy most of the time. I can get heated and excited but mostly I try to keep my “cool”. This is not a good thing when I am trying to promote myself and my creations. How can I get others excited about what I created if I’m not getting excited about it?
I would smack my forehead, if violence didn’t beget violence. And you know what, passion and excitement begets passion and excitement. It’s those mirror neurons everybody is talking about. (You know, everybody.) If I’m acting excited then it is almost (almost) impossible for someone in my presence to not feel a little bit of that and not get a little excited themselves.
Time for low-key Nate to get out of my way to make room for passionate Nate. Excited Nate. Enthusiastic Nate. The Nate who believes his work has worth. My work does have worth.
Your work has worth. Why create it in the first place if it didn’t?
Let’s be good to us. Keep writing. Keep creating. It is worth it.
The Four Agreements
I seem to be drawn to reading things on how I can change my perspective about my life in order to improve myself. I want to think myself healthier, think myself happier, and, in some cases, to stop thinking so much and just start doing.
In Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements he presents a simple formula to follow that seems to offer a way for me to combine thinking and doing.
Perhaps, using the term formula is not correct. But I don’t know what else to call it. Maybe a process. A reprogramming. He does use computer terminology, such as, our old agreements being a virus in our programming as humans.
Miguel states that we have agreements within our minds that allow us to accept the ways things are, the negative things we believe, and the way people treat us. And no matter how detrimental those beliefs may be to or for us, we will continue to agree with them.
Miguel says there are four agreements that we can use to combat the negative agreements within ourselves. The Four Agreements are:
Be impeccable to your word
Don’t take things personally
Don’t make assumptions
Always do your best
They seem pretty straight forward and can leave you saying to yourself, “Well, of course that’s all you gotta do. Easy, so easy.”
But you have to explore them deeper, which Miguel does in his book. He explores the depths of what those agreements mean and what you must do in order to adopt them into your programming.
I am aware much more now than I ever was in my past about the negative agreements I hold onto about myself and other people. I know I am folly when it comes to talking to and about myself. My thoughts are not nice.
Over the past few months I have been able to recognize my negative self-talk about me. The power of my rationalization to not do things out of fear. I know better how to recognize my fear. How the fear plays its hand in my decision making.
Fear has played a part in most of the decisions I have made in my life. Fear has powered my rationalization to not speak, not change, and not do.
And I know so much better now that even though I know this, I am not free from the power of fear. I still watch it and let it control me.
I let fear use rationalization most recently to not play my guitar with my friend in his band. He had offered and I had gladly accepted. I’ve played with him several times live in the past. But for some reason I let fear tell me “no” this time. It told me that I wasn’t good enough. That I should go to support him and his band, but I was not good enough to play.
I ended up spending much of that day with my kids at my ex’s house, knowing that I was supposed to play that evening with my friend, but fear told me to stay longer and longer because “I’m not going to play. I’m tired. I can’t solo as well as my friend. My guitar never sounds good. My guitar is a bit dusty from sitting out and my friend my see it and make fun. The other band members will wonder why I’m there and why would my friend invite me to sit in. Just stay here with my kids for as long as I can. I’m not going to play. I just tell my friend I didn’t have time to stop off at home to get my guitar. I’ll sit on my ass and watch him play because I know I am not good enough.”
And that’s what I did.
I let the fear rationalize and put me down and talk me out of playing. And lie to my friend.
The lying makes me feel badly about me. It also makes me upset with myself for letting my fear make me miss out on another experience.
I may not be the best guitar player but I cannot let that be fuel for my fear to stop me from doing something that I really do enjoy doing.
I was not impeccable to my word. I made an assumption about what others would think of me and I didn’t do my best.
Miguel points out in his book is that we can expect to slip up and not follow those new agreements at times, maybe a lot of times, but to not get discouraged because we can always start again. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to get it right every time.
Miguel also let’s me know to be aware of the Judge, Victim and belief system within me. It is like a Bizarro World Holy Trinity. Not that Miguel describes it that way.
The Judge bestows guilt and shame. The Victim agrees to the verdict of guilty and accepts the shame. The belief system is the agreements that are in place that allows the Judge and the Victim to play their roles.
In the coming weeks and months I will continue to explore and write about how my Fear and the Bizarro World Holy Trinity (BWHT) attempt to keep me from Action.
Some of my thoughts on the Four Agreements.
Be impeccable to your word – I am doing that each morning. I write my three morning pages. I treat my inner artist to creative dates.
Don’t take things personally – This is difficult. As much as I may say to myself, “this isn’t about me” I still think things that happen to me are about me.
Don’t make assumptions – This is part of what I do as a therapist. I make assumptions based on people’s behaviors and what they tell me. If we know what motivates us, or other people, we can make an assumption as to how we will react or respond to situations and people in our lives. This can be very helpful. But it does not mean our assumptions will be true.
Always do your best – I like this one just as much as the first agreement. Miguel says that our best will be different for every situation due to many factors about ourselves including emotions and health at the time we are to deliver our best. Some days our best is not going to be good enough to achieve something that we want.
If we can agree that we did the best we were capable of doing at that time, then we should be satisfied. There should be no looking back. No placing blame or guilt on ourselves because we gave all we had at that time. It is okay that our best isn’t going to be good enough every time. We don’t always have to succeed, get “it” right or be perfect.
We should accept ourselves warts and all.
Recently, I woke up in the morning with almost paralyzing anxiety. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to go to work. I wanted to call out sick. I wanted to just stay in bed.
I was sick. I was in a grip of hopelessness.
There have been some changes happening at my place of employment and I am overwhelmed.
I’m a manager and whenever there is change, I am one of a few who have to coordinate the change among our limited staff and resources.
And I am worn out.
One of the other managers is moving on and out of the company. She is number four of those who have moved on within the past two years. Every time one of them has moved on, more change has occurred.
And I’m worn out.
In the mornings, I wake up to NPR playing on my clock radio. It’s news I can listen to. Normally. But that particular morning it was one bad headline after another. Budgets that support big business. Political support of child and women molesters. Repeal of protected lands so oil and gas companies can drill.
I had watched a Netflix documentary that past evening, “Saving Capitalism.” If you want to know what it’s about, just see my description of NPR’s news cast in the last paragraph.
A raping of society in several ways that keeps getting worse. Nothing was right or fair in the world.
And I am worn out.
I eventually got up and out of bed. I’m not truly sure how I did it but I did. I showered and even managed to get food in me. My anxiety usually suppresses my appetite, but I made myself eat.
I took many deep breaths along the way. I used all my coping techniques that I could think of to get me through.
Then while getting my shoes on, my wall broke down. My skills were of no use to me anymore at that moment.
The tears came. Real crying came. Not just watery eyes and feeling overtaxed. But real crying. Sound and all.
I hated being brought to that point. Why had I been brought to that point?
The crying felt good. I obviously needed to cry. I was hurting inside. For many reasons. I had been strong for so long. I had to stop being strong. It was hurting me.
I’m still hurting. I’m still getting up each day. I am still worn out, but I’m looking forward.
It is time. Time that I was looking and attempting to move on from my pain.
After watching another two episodes in Season 2 of Game of Thrones and not blogging about how I continue to fail at learning a song per week, I decided to watch a TED Talk from the TED app on my Amazon Fire Stick. (Shameless plugs or just part of everyday lexicon?)
I was feeling frisky and in the mood for anything, I chose the Watch Anything option. Why not let TED pick for me. It chose Esther Perel’s The Secret Desire in a Long Term Relationship. I looked forward to uncovering the nugget of information I’d get from this talk. Though, I had watched it before I thought I might be inspired by some new, personal interpretation. So, I paused the talk and started writing this post in anticipation. But I took so long constructing this introduction that the Fire Stick screen saver came on.
I had been booted out.
When I went back into the app Esther’s talk was gone and I had to chose the Watch Anything option again. This time Aakash Odedra’s A Dance in a Hurricane of Paper, Wind and Light came on. I figured since I was in the mood for anything, I would accept this option.
The dance piece was called “Murmur”.
I won’t try to interpret what he did. He has his message in his language and it should be interpreted by those who watch it to decipher the meaning they pull out of it.
To me, it was a man who put his art out there for anyone to see. He created. For himself. Allowed others to view it. That is courage. That is what creatives are meant to do.
I think this falls in line with a recent post by James Altucher. James said “Process is art.” The act of creating something is the art itself. The product is the end result. Just like learning and education. It isn’t just that you made something and say “hey, look what I did.” Or in the case of education, “hey, look what I know.”
Posting the work as you go. Talking through the work, about the work, is just as important.
I say all this and want to believe it, but I don’t do it. I want to say, “hey, look what I did.” But if I don’t think somebody is watching or going to see what I did, my motivation, or interest, wanes. That is not loving the process of art. That is not believing in the art. That isn’t anywhere near it.
I’ve finished projects. And thinking on it now, I finished those projects because I loved the process. The process of wrighting my two novels. The process of writing my graphic novel. They were stories within me that I nutured as they grew out of me. I wrote out many scenes. I edited, added and cut and deleted. Then added again.
Thought, time and effort went into those projects. And who read them but a few. I didn’t write so others would approve. I wrote because I loved it. I wanted to see what was at the end of the process. I said to myself, “hey, look what you did.”
Of course, I would like for these stories to be out there in the world for others to read. I want others to like them. I think some people would. I think others wouldn’t and I don’t want my babies judged by haters. My work doesn’t deserve that. No one’s work does.
Sending our babies, our children, out into the real world is scary. I mean this in the creative sense for both our flesh and blood children and the children we put our blood, sweat and tears into.
Fear of judgment. How it keeps us from taking those risks that are part of the process to achieve our goals, dreams or whatever you want to call what you are after.
That is what I got out of this TED Talk. So, I’m going to post my process on the Green Day song. It is just the guitar part and it is all I have completed for now.
Will you read the next post and listen to my process? I hope so, but if not that’s ok. It’s not about you.
I won’t get into how I came to listen to The Art of Charm podcast. That is a topic for another time. Right now, this is about their Minisode Monday #73 that I just listened to: The Positive Intent of Emotion.
My interpretation of the message is that every emotion is intended to produce a positive outcome. Our happiness, sadness, anger, etc. are produced in our brains to create a positive outcome for us.
That would mean that our brain is capable of helping us survive. I can see this technique used by people who suffer though trauma. Their strength and resilience lay within their ability to reinterpret the emotional pain they experience in the moments of the trauma and after.
I have lived through my own traumas and the ability to keep moving forward has been key to my survival. But I did not know the science behind it or see what I did as being a positive coping skill. I just did it.
For others, they may need to develop the understanding that a “behavior” their brain is to create emotions so they survive the ordeals in which they find themselves.
However, there are brains, like mine, that don’t seem to work in such a perfect way. Sometimes I act in ways that seem totally selfish and self-centered to get my own needs and wants met.
Maybe that’s what’s supposed to happen. In order for the host body to survive the brain must produce the emotions and thoughts it needs to keep the host body alive.
That makes sense. But what doesn’t make sense is when the brain produces emotions and thoughts that cause people to want to end their lives.
Why does my brain produce thoughts of self-harm and suicide? That is not going to prolong the life of my brain’s host body. Those thoughts come and go. Even when there doesn’t seem to be a reason. So, why do they happen?
Perhaps, the negative emotion that feeds the negative thoughts can be filtered through a more positive lense. I think that is the suggestion from Jordan on The Art of Charm. He has interviewed many doctors and scientists over the years that study human nature and the brain. They have done the research and experiments. They have written about their findings.
Life changes through explosions. One type of explosion is education. Another is application of what we learn.
I have put forth effort to seek out the books written by those specialists. I have a willingness to try the methods about which they write.
So, now, my effort will be to rethink my emotional responses (especially the negative ones) to make them work positively for me After all, my brain is trying to tell me something. Perhaps, I should listen.
In Damon Davis’s TED Talk, Courage is Contagious, he names fear and courage as having a contagious effect on people in groups. I think not only are those things contagious, they also cause movement in people to act. Act is part of action. Action is what people do, even if you think they are not doing anything. Action is walking towards something or walking away. Even inaction is an action. The stillness we exhibit to think or the standing by as something happens and we do nothing. Desicion to do or not do is an action.
Sometimes inaction causes us to jugde and place shame. Shame on the person who didn’t act how we thought they should act. Shame on them. Because if we were there we would have done something.
But what if doing nothing, inaction, is contagious? Then doing nothing can infected those around it. If fear is contagious and we believe that it is, should we shame others for catching it? Was it their fault?
Maybe they were never inoculated from it. Maybe it has already effected them so much their bodies are riddled with inaction.
We don’t shame others when they get cancer. Why shame someone when they are infected by fear? Perhaps, we can help them get treated. We can help inoculate them with courage. That would mean giving of ourselves to infecting another.
Can we do that?
Shame is thrown too quickly onto others who fail to act within at particular time frame; a matter of seconds. Or onto those who don’t act at all. Assumption and shame are precursors to the spread of fear.
Fear has three symptoms: fight, flight and freeze. You don’t know which fear you or someone else will get or how the body will react. All infections are like that. Unpredictable.
If we can see these contagious behaviors as changeable with support, care and love, then the infection won’t spend so much or so quickly.
We can help each other. I believe we all want to help each other. What infection inside of us keeps us from doing that?
My take away from these thoughts and Damon Davis’s talk is that we have the inoculation already inside of us. Courage. Two easy things we can do to get at it: search within ourselves or search for others who have it.