The for most, the Academy Awards tonight will be the successful culmination of a life’s work and dreams, but I was particularly struck by last year’s acceptance by Matthew McConaughey’s of the award for Best Actor embracing failure in his own way…
- “I had a very important person in my life come to me and say ‘Who’s your hero?’…I said, ‘I’ve thought about it and you know who it is? It’s me in 10 years. So I turned 25 (10 years later) and the same person comes to me and says ‘So are you a hero?’ I said, ‘I’m not even close. No, no, no.’ She said, ‘Why’. I said, ‘Because my hero is me at 35.’ So you see every day, every week, every month and every year of my life, my hero is always 10 years away. I’m never going to be my hero. I’m never going to attain that. I know I’m not. And I’m just fine with that because that keeps me with someone to keep on chasing.”
McConaughey’s anti-goal is very aligned to Scott Adam’s “System Principle” (eg. “goals are for losers”) and reminds me of a recent piece by Hugh McLeod…
- “I spend a great deal of time every day, telling myself how much better I could be doing. In life, in relationships, in career, there’s no shortage of reasons to feel inadequate…It’s not all bad news. The good news is,this itch is also what keeps us moving forward.”
Happy Birthday Cindy Crawford. This beauty icon won’t be fudging the number of candles on her cake. She has embracing her imperfections for years and won’t be embarrassed by her number of years (49… real 49, not euphemism).
But her embrace of beauty failings go way back as described in the article “My Mom Convinced Me to Keep My Mole”
- “Cindy Crawford is the envy of many a lady (and the love of many a Pepsi drinker), but the brunette beauty, 48, wasn’t always enthused about her looks, most notably her trademark mole. In a recent interview with Into the Gloss, the former supermodel discusses how she got a little family support when it came to self-criticism during her youth. ‘[My mother] talked me out of getting my ‘ugly mark’ — as my sister called it — removed,’ she said of her mole. "Apparently if it was on the right side it was a beauty mark, and if it was on the left it was an ugly mark. I would get teased by the other kids in school, so I definitely wanted to get it removed.’ But, thankfully, Crawford’s mother made her ponder the alternative: what would she look like without it? ‘My mother always said, ‘You know what your mole looks like, you don’t know what the scar is going to look like.’’ Today, says Crawford, the mole is so much a (welcome) part of her face — a characteristic that undoubtedly helped launch her decades-long career. "It’s the thing that made people remember me, and it made a lot of women who also have beauty marks identify with me. They set you apart."
In fact, this week, pictures have been spreading virally displaying her un-retouched middle age self in full bikini swagger proudly showing off her mature look…
- “No matter where the photo came from, it’s an enlightenment—we’ve always known Crawford was beautiful, but seeing her like this only makes us love her more. And as she told us at the premiere of her new documentary last week: “I really think—at any age—it’s learning to be comfortable in your own skin. …If women would treat themselves with the same kind of love they give to their friends, that would be such a great gift we could give ourselves. …What makes you the most attractive is self-confidence. That’s what people see.”
Life’s not fair!
One of the standard lessons from every Mom is the failure of fairness. And Stephen Asma’s piece “Come on, be fair — the world’s a better place with inequality” embraces that failure…
- “’It’s not fair, Dad!” This is my son’s favourite phrase. Last week alone I was told ‘it’s not fair’ that he has to practise the piano and it’s not fair that other kids get to play video games and (my favourite) it is not fair that classmates who are better than him at sport are more popular at school. When he grows up he will probably add some other complaints, such as ‘romantic life isn’t fair’ and ‘worklife isn’t fair’. Every parent has heard this f-word intoned ad nauseam by their negotiating offspring…Western schools tend to codify all this envy into an officially sanctioned, aggressive egalitarianism…Favouritism, however, is not the great evil that western culture pretends…Other elementary school policies, designed to protect self-esteem, foster the dogma of fairness. Sports and games have been modified so no one scores, or at least the score is not kept or tallied…Second, learning (in the worst-case scenario) that you fail at all sports is important as you claw your way towards some juvenile identity. Praising the tough love of ugly truths, the writer James Poniewozik quipped that ‘encouragement helps us reach for the stars; realism prevents us from pursuing a mid-life career change as an astronaut’.
One of my interpretations for this shunning of failure in schools is laziness. Not by the kids, but by the teachers. As someone who has been instructing children as a sports coach and Sunday school leader for many years, I appreciate the intensity of effort required to treat each student as an individual. To scrutinize them in order to find the strengths they do have, and give them praise and encouragement that they both deserve and is tailored to them. To support them without being patronizing with candid dialogue about their weaknesses and ways to overcome them. It is so much easier for a coach/teacher to just throw everyone in a race and declare everyone ‘a winner’. It may be easier, but it doesn’t build self-esteem (the usual justification) and it doesn’t grow the child. It also presupposes ‘fairness’ as ‘uniformity’ which it is not. It is really unfair to the fastest child to not get recognition with the only ribbon.
Today ushers in the Chinese Year of the Goat (perhaps a year of embracing failure since a “Goat” is often a symbol of failure at least in the West). The Chinese present a wholly different model of “fairness” in the classrooms…
- “The contrast of our fairness system with the merit-based Chinese pre-school system is astounding…[I]n China, where collective criticism is par for the course — even for four-year-olds. At Daguan Elementary School in Kunming, this daily ordeal is called the ‘storyteller king’. Each pupil gets up and tells a story to the whole class and fellow pupils and teachers then dissect the offerings with brutal honesty. Western teachers who saw this exercise were horrified. But it is indicative of China’s merit-based culture, sculpted by centuries of Confucianism. The influence of Confucius has also made Chinese culture much more accepting of hierarchical favouritism, whether it is deserved by merit or not. Now we begin to see the positive aspects of unfairness. We have long recognised that merit-based rewards duly violate the more aggressive forms of egalitarianism, but we have forgotten about the deep ethics of favouritism. Your family and friends, for example, love you even when you do not ‘deserve’ it.”
Embrace the Goat in all of us.
For many Christians today is the beginning of misery. Not recovering from the hangover of Carnivale, but rather starting with the 40 day self-deprivation over Lent.
Many religions feature periods of deprivation – Islamic Ramadan, Jewish Yom Kippur, What is it that makes such a painful tradition so pervasive and enduring?
Perhaps is the strength such deprivation gives us. Nassim Taleb describes in his book “Antifragile”…
- “Deprivation is a stressor…There is this antifragility to the stressor of the fast, as it makes the wanted food taste better and can produce euphoria in one’s system. Breaking a fast feels like the exact opposite of a hangover.”
My most acute experience with such deprivation was living for a year in Togo, West Africa in the early 1980s. The world was a lot less “global” back then and there are no Internet, no Starbucks, no McDonalds in Togo even. In fact, I can’t remember anything from the USA sold in the stores there. They did have a few grocery stores with a limited stock targeted at the upper crust ex-pats and government officials, but priced way out of my budget. So I enjoyed the local fare. But when an American visitor arrived with something like Oreos or M&Ms, it was like manna from heaven. Rarely in my life has anything tasted so euphorically delicious as that single Oreo cookie I was offered.
Absence may make the heart grow fonder, and abstinence makes the appreciation grow stronger.
Happy Valentines Day. Traditionally, the day for sweet chocolates and fragrant bouquets. But according to Jesse Parent, just maybe the time for the “Love Test” as he so eloquently describes in hit spoken word piece “Hotbox Love”…
- “This is about those less than ideal moments. Those times when we are simply human…If you can’t love me in this awkward space, just live in this filthy stinky moment, what are you going to do when it really gets bad? Can you still love me throwing up every hour, my bedside table a heap of prescription bottles…”
(Warning: The “Duvet Test” could literally backfire and contribute to the post-Valentines Day romance casualties)
Valentines Eve, aka “National Break Up Day”. According to Virgin, the day before Valentines is the most popular time to break up with someone. Reason? To save money. The prospect of having to splash out forces people questioning their relationship to ask themselves “Is this person really worth a dozen roses and a box of chocolates?”
As it happens, the day after Valentines Day is also distinguished by the most people filing for divorce during the year (I guess that romantic gift of a fire extinguisher was not such a great ideas). According to CNN’s post “Day after Valentine’s kicks off divorce season”
- “A study of divorce filings in New York, Illinois and California by AttorneyFee.com, a legal referral site, found that February is the busiest month of the year for divorce filings, up about 18% from the average month. And those seeking referrals for a divorce lawyer on the site increase 38% following the holiday, with the biggest spike on the day after Valentine’s. Another legal site, Avvo.com, reports a 40% increase in those seeking information and advice about divorce in the period right after Valentine’s Day.”
Either way, the “Museum of Broken Relationships” in Zagreb, Croatia pays homage to both days…
National Pizza Day today and an opportunity to showcase the king of Pizza’s, Dominos, celebration of failure in its “Failure is an Option” advert.