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How to be a success at failure

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 11:27 a.m. CDT

Sorry, prettykittyselfies.com, I have a new favorite website.

It’s tinybuddha.com, and I think you’re going to love it as much as I do. After decades of being inundated and intimidated by verbose verbiage from all kinds of wildly successful executives and entrepreneurs, preaching all kinds of self-help, be-positive-and-you-can-be-a-success-like-me claptrap, it’s refreshing to discover an online resource for advice from people whose lives are strings of endless failures.

At least, this was my impression when I found Anne Samoilov’s big article on littlebuddha.com, titled “3 Simple Steps to Turn Failure Into Success.”

Heaven knows Ms. Samoilov has had her share of failures. “So, even though there are reasons I didn’t make it big as a recording star,” she writes, “and that my Pilates business didn’t fulfill me, and that I’ve experienced the sting of working at companies that decided to shut down, I have always refused to simply shrug my shoulders and say, ‘Oh, well.’”

Oh, well, that’s nice. And while I think it would be even nicer if Samoilov figured out that it was her singing on the job, while doing Pilates on job, that forced the companies that had hired her to decide to shut down, her out-of-tune warbling still reverberating in the ears of her out-of-work colleagues. She definitely has learned something from these experiences.

“Failure is a step towards your ultimate success,” she concludes. “It’s a lesson. A challenge. A choice.”

One choice that Samoilov should make immediately is to get together with Jamie Flexman, another tinybuddha.com writer, and ta-da, another notable failure.

In his recent littlebuddha.com article, “Keep Moving Toward Success, One Failure at a Time,” Flexman describes his own life of constant failure, starting in his 20s, when, as an aspiring guitar player, his application to enter music school was surprisingly rejected simply because he “sucked.”

Flexman did not take this rejection well. “I wandered around these unfamiliar surroundings for almost an hour before catching the train home. This was to be one of the longest journeys of my life, not because of the mileage, but because I felt utterly dejected.”

I suppose we should have sympathy for poor Jamie, but it isn’t easy. You and I have spent decades dealing with constant rejection, so it’s difficult to conjure up a lot of empathy for a 20-something who had a rough 60 minutes and finds himself “utterly dejected.”

Still, you can see why Flexman and Samoilov should hook up. She’s a failure as a singer. He’s a failure as a guitar player. If they can find themselves a failure of a record producer, they could make a big fat failure of an album.

And, really, I don’t think Samoilov’s failure in her music career, and her Pilates career, and her other careers, would be a deal-breaker for Jamie, who counts among his personal failure hit list the fact that he has “genuinely lost count of the number of women who have turned me down.”

I can’t imagine why this would be. What woman wouldn’t be attracted to a gloomy, unsuccessful navel-gazer who spends his days drenched in self-pity?

I don’t think it will surprise you to learn that both Flexman and Samoilov are leveraging their lives of nonstop failure to tell you what to do with your miserable life.

Samoilov’s mantra is: “Reframe. Revise. Refocus.” You “reframe” your failure by getting objective, harsh feedback. This way you can understand that you failed because you are a miserable human being who will never succeed at anything. This will allow you to “revise” your future plans and “refocus” on a life plan that is better suited to your lack of gifts.

It’s not a terrible idea! How do you think I decided to become a workplace humor columnist?

Flexman’s prescription is to “keep putting one foot in front of another. Don’t allow anyone to knock you off the goal that you see in your mind’s eye. This journey is yours and nobody has the right to change your destination.”

I love this advice, too. And it worked so well for Gen. George Custer.

Today, in addition to writing on littlebuddha.com, Flexman and Samoilov both have websites, and eBooks, and will soon be marketing all the other accruements of business success, like T-shirts and coffee mugs, and beer can cozies.

They’re trying to monetize their failures and want us to pay the bill. The least we can do is sincerely hope they stay true to form and fail miserably.

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