Anti-Inspiration Guardian


No, not a deordorant. But a new approach to self-help embracing failure.

If Botton redefines looking at your own success, Oliver Burkeman’s Guardian piece “This column will change your life: anti-inspiration” redefines looking at other people’s success..

  • “I’ve found myself collecting more and more examples of a genre that should probably be labelled "anti-inspiration": tales of high achievers and history-makers that reveal them to be as insecure, disorganised or lazy as the rest of us. Flippant though this may sound, anti-inspiration really can be more cheering – even more inspiring – than the positive kind. To hear Sir Richard opine that "being unafraid of failure is one of the most important qualities of a champion" might help you cope with a setback or two. (Just as long as you don’t think too hard about the ‘survivor bias’, that is. Branson thinks that learning to tolerate failure helped make him a winner, but who knows how many would-be Bransons learned to tolerate failure, then just failed?). But it’s surely vastly more reassuring to learn that by 1883, having published The Portrait Of A Lady, Henry James still believed he was a failure. ‘I must make some great efforts during the next few years… if I wish not to have been on the whole a great failure,’ he wrote in his journal. ‘I shall have been a failure unless I do something great!’ The point here isn’t that berating yourself is a good thing, still less that engaging in self-beration will make you a great novelist. The purpose of anti-inspiration is simply to remind you that your inner mental weather is a terribly unreliable guide to your accomplishments.”