Sunday, June 22, 2014

Constant Failure

I live a pretty mediocre life by design.

I'm always failing at something: having fun, writing a book, saving money, wearing pants in public, remembering to buy milk, whatever.

Is there a verb similar to "winning" which is at an exact midpoint between "win" and "fail"? Because that's me.

If you were to corner me in the middle of the street and demand what's going great in my life, you're going to get a blank stare because I generally don't know what's great about what I'm currently doing. I could tell you exactly what's going wrong at any given moment. Great, however? Nope.

My life is a never-ending apocalypse.

I nearly pulled a muscle in my right shoulder doing some rows in the gym the other day. My weekly grocery expenses are slightly too high, which has eaten into my goal of stashing some extra money into my savings account this month. I only did, like, five hundred words yesterday and I'm not really enchanted with the current chapter of my book. I could be outside slightly more, enjoying more summer weather, but spent that time inside looking at pictures of cats on the internet and playing a video game I've come to hate. I don't run nearly enough. I need new socks. Did I remember to brush my teeth today?

I hardly ever stop and notice what I'm doing well--it's one big parade of things I'm fucking up or in danger of fucking up or I could just flat-out do better than how I'm currently doing. At any given point in my life, I'm screwing something up and it's kind of eating my brain.

And, in spite of what you might think, that's not a bad way to go through life.

Over the years, I've come to the conclusion that constant failure like this is kind of necessary. If I'm not pissed off, slightly, about something I've done or not done well enough, I'm probably not making progress because I'm not setting the bar very high.

If I've got a bug up my ass about some perceived failure, I jump back into the fray and start kicking ass again. It's just the way my brain works.

I once read an article from a strength expert...Bill Starr, I think...who said that you can categorize workouts as good, bad or mediocre. For ever day you have in the gym where you feel great and you kick ass seven days to Sunday, you'll have two which are completely awful and will cripple your will to live. For every completely awful workout, you have another three which are just plain hard work. You drag yourself to the gym, grind your way through your sets and then go home without much to point to to justify your time spent.

When you do the math, it works out to one good day, two bad days, six mediocre/soul-crushing days. That's only one day out of ten when you feel on your game, and nine other days when you feel like just calling it all all off.

Just about everything I do falls into that pattern, at least the worthwhile things. The short-term bad/dull days are a bit soul-crushing but I've had to learn to laugh them off and enjoy them as part of the challenge of the process. Chalk them off as paving stones on the road stepped over, time I've put in.

You have to learn to enjoy it a bit, that sense of constantly teetering on the verge of crushing failure, that feeling you get when you get up at the ass-crack of dawn, slouch over to the laptop and stare at a blank page and wonder what the hell you're going to fill it with.

Or that feeling you get when you make a bit of progress but walk away at the end of your daily input feeling maybe you could've done it a bit better, worked that extra five minutes. Dug a bit deeper for inspiration.

Because long-term, that shit matters, especially the bad days. If you wait for a good day, that one day in ten you feel on the ball, you're not going to get anywhere because that's ignoring the other ninety percent of your days.

When you look at it in the long-term, and I'm talking long-term in the sense of using math, objective tracking, whatever you do to measure progress in what you're doing...it all evens out. Or works out better than you might expect. Those bad days? Not as bad as you're thinking. The mediocre days? It's all progress and, in some cases, it might work way better than you thought they did. And the good days? Sometimes your good days are pretty lousy, work-wise.

You just don't know when you're in the thick of things. You just have to grind out the mileage.

Totals for this week:  527, 598, 692, 753, 561, 565, and 808. Not bad.

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