Over the next week, I’m going to talk about making brave art and making art bravely and today that means talking about my fail fast resolutions.
Here’s the thing: not only am I not perfect, I fail often and I fail fast. And if you’re looking for some image of perfection, this blog will continue to let you down. It’s the reason I’ve almost never shared pictures of family vacations or adventures I’ve gone on with my bride. It’s the reason I don’t share that many photos of meals I’ve made or experiences I’ve had — all in all, I fail more than I succeed. And failing well is my success.
You’ll see it there at the bottom of my published works page: I thought it absolutely necessary to keep the first thing I ever published — a really shitty poem in my highschool newspaper — on the bottom of the list. I want you to see the warts, the cracks, the seams in the scaffolding. I want you to know just how jacked up I can really get. I’m not really interested in sharing pictures of my dog, my kids, my house projects. In the words of Elenor Roosevelt:
Morons talk about people.
Smart people talk about events.
Geniuses talk about ideas.
I’ve often said that I joke about most of the things people take too seriously — their careers, their families, their business, their football games — while I myself take their opinions seriously. I myself am the joke, but their opinion is a matter of life and death. I really don’t care about your March Madness, but I’ll fight you to the death if you say, “It is what it is.” In fact it could be argued that the real madness of March isn’t the frenzy of basketball team on basketball team, but rather of minds left wide open for the stupidest phrases to sneak into their vernacular through basketball commercials and announcements.
And so I’m quite happy to tell you how horrible my free throw is. How much my business struggles through feast and famine. How jacked up my family can be. How my career seems to take its sweet time in developing like a drill with drips of oil.
Part of the reason is that I never want this site to become a place where the furniture stores and lifestyle brands buy me off. I want to be honest with you guys.
Part of the reason is because there’s just too much bad irony in our world and not enough raw, unfiltered humanity — flesh-eating infections and all.
But the main reason is image curation. I want to fall by the wayside so that the ideas can have room to shine. I’m happy to show you how I’ve failed — how where most artists are too insecure to release something, I’m too insecure to keep something out there once I’ve released it. How I get bitter or wrathful or unforgiving or paranoid rather than kind, merciful, forgiving, and loving. I don’t want this to ever become the place where I confuse the real me with the internet me. And that’s precisely why I don’t want you to see the best first, but the worst.
So here’s how I failed this year. And here’s what I learned from it:
I failed to write 300 letters because I failed to understand that without a lifestyle change, there’s no possible way for me to finish something like that. If I don’t change my habits, it really doesn’t matter what I resolve to do. No more New Year’s Resolutions, I want New Year’s Habits — fail fast habits. Moving forward, I hope to focus on small, achievable goals: this year if I pray, lift, read, blog, and write every day, that’s enough. Even most days, it’s enough. No worry about output, the slow and long obedience in the same direction is all that matters.
I failed to give more grace and space for the Alaska film to thrive because I over-committed myself and because I tend to steamroll people and leave them behind on big projects. As much as I love delegating to other artists, commissioning other artists, I’m shit at collaboration. Most of that has little to do with artistic preference and everything to do with a character flaw: I don’t play nice with others when creating. Moving forward, I hope to yield up control in order to see the beauty in the vision of another because — let’s face it — I don’t have a monopoly on beauty and truth because I am a finite creature.
I failed to call up my brother for a whole year after a political debate kept us from speaking to one another. I failed to bridge that gap earlier than I should have while I lost a whole year with my two-year-old nephew. And with my brother — a man who understands the hell inside of me better than most of my bipolar philosopher and artist friends simply because my brother lived through the exact same hell. Moving forward, I want to fail a little faster — forgive a little quicker, explain how I feel wronged a little gentler, and remove inflammatory language from conversations about the things that matter most in order that I might win people over with wit and wisdom rather than verbal vitriol and violence.
I failed to set boundaries with family and visitors so that I could take quarterly weekend retreats with my wife as is desperately needed. I did this because I’m insecure about needing people to need me, to see me succeed, and to experience everything I enjoy. In reality, the world is too damn big for me to save (I’m not God, I’m only a man), too hard for me to succeed even most of the time, and too rich for me to have the capacity to hold its experiences in a sampler buffet from which everyone I know my taste and see. “Keeping my options open” is euphemistic way of saying “closing myself off from those most committed to me.” Moving forward, I hope to release that in order to return to the optimal living that defined my youth.
Which is the biggest piece of sharing my failures.
I want to start showing that it’s okay to live with a sort of reckless abandon.
I want to encourage others to make brave art.
I want to demonstrate how often I throw caution to the wind after weighing the risk.
I want to at very least put my life on display as one way to live free from concern. And that starts with releasing the concern of what you guys will think of me when I fail. The biggest piece in the last two years was the album kickstarter: in reality it failed because no one knows me as a songwriter. My songs aren’t even that great.
And yet I did it anyways.
Not just the kickstarter, I actually went forward and cobbled together a professionally produced and mixed album.
I did it because I like writing songs, it’s literally my job to encourage everyone I meet to create and play, and because a handful of friends and family like the songs that I wrote. And it is now in a final mix in spite of getting zero dollars from a failed kickstarter and I plan to release it sometime in 2018. Because it’s going to be the best album ever? No. Because I want to shift into touring? Oh Good Lord, no, heaven forbid I lug instruments all over God’s green creation.
I did it because a man free from concern who has the means to cut an album of songs he wrote should do so.
Not to become a professional musician.
Not to even supplement his other work (which this does, by the way, in a narrative sense).
Simply because it’s inside of him. I’m no mathematician, but I still practice math. I’m no analyst, and yet I practice finance. I’m no full-time activist, and yet I’ve blocked some streets. I’m no journalist, and yet I’ve investigated some things that matter to me. I’m no poker shark, and yet it seemed fitting to try to write a piece for the World Series Edition of Poker Pro. I’m no chef, but I’ve tried several different recipes at our Third Saturday brunches. These things are parts of the whole that is me and if there’s one thing I want to do, it’s let myself be myself in a unified public and private life as my work moves a little more into the public eye. That means sharing what I made not to show you how awesome I am, but to show you exactly where I failed and why I tried it anyways.
I am not a brand.
Neither are you.
We try. We fail.
And moving forward we live free from concern.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen — how you doing tonight? Alrighty then.