September 22, 2011

Fuzziness Fights Failure

I've been thinking.

My blog gives the impression that I'm a well sorted sort of person with comprehensive and clear thoughts on many things in life.

Not really?
Not even a little bit?!?
Okay … I just thought….
Never mind.

Either way…
Lots of times, I'm all preachy and pedantic.

But here's a confession.
The truth that I haven't spoken about.
Until now.


Oh you knew that already?!
Wow.. I had NO idea.

I'm a huge failure, by current standards of success.

At this pivotal juncture in my life… I've achieved nothing I can boast about.
Forget boast, I can't even talk about anything worth talking about.

At a time when people my age are settling down into stable, secure and lucrative careers; when they're investing in pension funds and planning their families- I'm struggling to keep  my head above the water.
I have my fingers stuck in four or five different things- each of which give me immense joy but no money.
No dough. No dice.
No fridge. No ice.
No pizza. No slice.

I'll stop now.

As hard as it is to believe… I don't make a living out of my geniusness.
Geniusness can't make you rich.
Only brilliant.

If someone asks me what I 'do' today- I fumble.

Half my brain begins praying for a divine interruption.
Preferably Ryan Reynolds and George Clooney air-lifting me out after proclaiming to everyone that I'm the coolest person they know.

But anything would do.
Beggars can't be choosers. 

The other half stumbles over itself to come up with a cohesive response.

Should I mention the blog?! Nope. That's stupid. Don't talk about the blog. Everyone blogs. Should I say home accessory design? Well… it's not like you're designing right now. Or that you've sold your first collection. That's like a caterpillar calling himself a butterfly. Should I say I trade forex? Are you sure you want to do that? Coz then they'll just ask for your view on different currency markets and you won't have a view coz you only day trade … and then they're going to think you're lying. Or stupid. Or lying. Or both.

Footnote: How smart is my brain for coming up with the caterpillar-butterfly analogy?!?

Then after a few sheepish smiles and a gazillion 'ums' and 'uhs' and floundering around like a flibbertigibbet (more on that word, later) - the person loses interest and starts talking to someone else.
And my brain goes- 'YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!' complete with the fist punch in the air.
And then it does the Cleopatra dance- although I'm not sure that's got anything to do with anything.
So I am one person that knows failure well.
I can't say that we are friends.
Failure and I.

More like failure's the annoying guy with body odor that I keep bumping in to in the elevator.
Or the neighbors dog who keeps peeing on my car tire every morning.
What's the deal with that ?!
The car is MINE.

To the extent that- when everyone else thought that I had succeeded, I had actually failed. I'm talking - as usual- about my glamorous banking job in London.
I know.
I just can't seem to talk enough about it.

So in this post, I speak with more authority than ever before.
Failure, as a topic of discussion, is my forte.
Even more than geniusness or theories of eating or anger or hard work.

And I'm going to draw on my life experiences to prove my point.
I'll leave out the gory details for your benefit.

My first venture.
The restaurant.

My business partner and I knew exactly what it was that we wanted.
We wanted a cafĂ©…
We knew the colors we wanted on the walls and the furniture; we knew exactly what we wanted on the menu; we had excel spreadsheets and million folders with all the details; we knew what we wanted- dang it!  
And we were more focused than bees on flowers.
Or honey.
Or bears on honey.
Or bees on bears that are stealing the honey.

We had expectations from our efforts.
Clear cut and unambiguous.
Anything else would be a failure.

And that's what it was.
A failure.
Because we eventually gave up.
At least at that time.

I guess what I'm trying to say two things… which are:

  • You obviously haven't failed until you've given up.
If you haven't given up- then you're still trying.
Which means you haven't failed yet.
If A=B and B=C then A=C

A being Not giving up
B being Still trying
C being Not failed

There you go.
Simple calculus.
I was a math whiz in high school.

  • The more clear cut your expectations are from your efforts- the higher the likelihood of failure.
Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment.
 -Mahatma Gandhi
And how do I know this is true?
Other than the fact that Mahatma Gandhi never lied…

Life has taught me.

Everything I've done since then- has been with zero expectations.

Case no. 1.
When I started studying technical analysis- I didn't have a purpose in mind.
I mean sure I could get a job.
Or use it some other way.
Or become a self-employed technical trader.

Things were fuzzy though.
Not 'cute teddy bear' fuzzy.
More like 'I can't see, I'm getting a head-ache' fuzzy.
Or 'HELP ME! I'm falling into the deep abyss of self-doubt' fuzzy.

There are so many different types of fuzzy- it's important to clarify.

What happened?
I studied hard for the love of the subject more than anything else.

And then what happened?
I won a prestigious award for getting the highest score in 2010, the world over.
I'm not even kidding.

And it's not like I abandoned it after that.
I still try to trade as much as I can- I'm in the learning phase.
Have been for like 18 months now.
But that's besides the point.

The point is- can you say that I've failed as a trader?!?
I mean, those of you who try to actually 'say it' say it-  sure you can say it.
You can say anything you want.
Except … maybe… saying flibbertigibbet ten times without getting tongue tied.
But can you mean it?

I haven't succeeded yet.
I agree.
But I haven't really failed.

Case no. 2.
When I saw all the waste wood lying around the house - during our renovation work. And I began designing stuff out of it. And I did the whole catalogue and sent it out to a bunch of places.

I didn't think I had any idea of
(a) designing stuff;
(b) taking photographs;
(c) writing out and putting together a whole catalogue.

Did I think anyone was going to buy this stuff?
Well, yeah.
I was hoping.

To be honest I thought I'd just use the stuff in my own house, if no one else wanted it.
I quite like the stuff.

But my expectations were…. You guessed it…. FUZZY.

What happened?
I did it anyway.
And I did it for the fun of it.
I ate, talked, walked and slept design- if you know what I mean.
I, practically had wooden pieces floating around my head 24 hours of the day.
I loved it.

And then what happened?
I got a few responses from companies.
They didn't work out because of export technicalities- but my work was appreciated
And I still keep sending the catalogue out to new people.

So can you say I failed as a home accessory designer?
I know.
I know you can say it.

But is it accurate to say that I failed?

I haven't stopped trying yet.
So I haven't succeeded- but I haven't exactly failed.

I have more cases. But I think you get the point.

The point is:
Remember in the Social Network movie- when the friend wants to monetize 'The Facebook' and Mark Zuckerberg says:

'We don’t even know what it is yet. We don’t know what it is, we don’t know what it can be, we don’t know what it will be.'

Not knowing 'what it is or will be' is the best thing that could happen to you.

Having said all of this.
Here's another truth, that I'm only too familiar with.

Expectations are not really under our control.
You begin expecting stuff without even realizing it.
It's called fantasizing.
Or dreaming.

It originates in our brain.
And I've already demonstrated that our brain is totally out of our control.
So I suggest a game of Whack-a-mole.
Except with expectations.
Like 'whack-an-expectation'.
You couldn't come up with a wittier name - if you tried.
And you know it.
I am a self-proclaimed goal opponent.
I think it does more damage than good.
And 'expectation' is a longer version of the word 'goal'.

Sure they goad you towards action.
But I think your goal should be the action itself.

You know the saying, shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it-
you will land among the stars?!

That's all okay.
What it doesn't tell you is that when you expect the moon and only get a star- you feel like a failure. You're disappointed and hurt.
Your star looks like mud to you.

Before everyone jumps on me and says that low aims only serve to perpetuate mediocrity- I'll tell ya.
I couldn't agree more.

I'm just saying that goals limit you.
Irrespective of whether it's high or low.
Not having a goal- and just doing what you love - with a fuzzy goal-
lets you achieve a lot more without imposing the limit of a goal.

No one travels so high as he who knows not whither he is going.
And he's the guy that had the guts to overthrow the British monarchy in the 17th century.
And he was voted one of top 10 greatest Britons in history, in 2002- about 400 years after he died.

I digress.

The point of this post is this:

Failure and expectations are buddies.
They work together.
Together they'll trick you into jumping off the cliff of depression.
Like in cartoon shows.
Fuzziness and failure- are enemies.
They fight each other.
Try as hard as it might, if you have fuzziness by your side- failure can't touch you.

Unless you're a flibbertigibbet.

I khudn'th shay ith thhen thiimes…
My thongue ish thied.

By the way… this isn't over.

I still have more to say on the matter- but a little later.
Need to get my thoughts together.

I have lots of thoughts, if you haven't noticed.


You may notice that there's a difference in the cartoons in this post.
Don't worry.
Nothing's wrong.

I just got a new ream of paper.
So you won't find those annoying notebook lines in the cartoons anymore.
Until I run out of paper again.
And then there's no saying WHAT will happen.

But you can breathe easy.
For now.

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The Pious Hippie by Ms. Pious Hippie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.