Failure is an Option

Promises, promises. They are easy to make, especially around the New Year, but much harder to keep. Maybe you have pledged to get a better attitude, lose some weight, or work on your relationship with a significant other. A couple of weeks into 2016, however, things might not be looking so good. Now you could beat yourself up about not meeting your goal, but maybe it is time to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective.

Here’s a radical idea: maybe failure isn’t such a bad thing. In fact, failure might be the best way to succeed, the kick-start you need to find true love, the cornerstone of scientific progress and the best thing about competitive sports. Don’t take my word for it though, check out these books from your local library and see for yourself.

Failure, the Key to Success

Alright, let’s face it, you have failed at something. As the experts say, admitting the problem is half the solution. Also, take a look at these three books to gain some perspective and move forward.

F1

Very Good Lives: the Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling
Failure is not a term you would normally associate with the creator of Harry Potter, but it has been a key component of Rowling’s life and success. Learn all about it in this commencement speech she gave at Harvard University.

Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better by Pema Chödrön
Another commencement speech, this time given at Naropa University, that stresses the importance of failure as the way to becoming a complete and fulfilled human being. In addition to being a prolific author, Chödrön is also a Buddhist nun and resident teacher at Gampo Abbey Monastery in Nova Scotia.

Black Box Thinking: Why Some People Never Learn from their Mistakes–but Some Do by Matthew Syed
For Syed, failure is inevitable for everyone at some point. The problem comes when mistakes aren’t acknowledged and people refuse to examine their failure and learn from it. Much like the black box of a commercial aircraft, the data needs to be analyzed to find out what went wrong when a failure occurs.

Burning Love

Things don’t always work out. Happily ever after can be a long time coming. While you wait, take a look at these books to help you cope with a failed relationship.

F2

It Ended Badly: Thirteen of the Worst Breakups in History by Jennifer Wright.
While a relationship crashing and burning is never a pretty sight, Wright points out that there is always a historical example of something far worse. Each chapter title pairs a specific romantic blunder with an appropriate historical example such as “If you have just sent your ex a very intense emotional email, Read about Caroline Lamb and Lord Byron.”

Conscious Uncoupling: 5 Steps to Living Happily Ever After by Katherine Woodward Thomas
If you want to take the high road when it comes to a breakup, this is the book for you. Promising to show you how to ‘break up in a whole new way’, Thomas advises both parties to avoid bitterness and anger and focus on what was positive in the former relationship.

Dump ’em: How to Break up with Anyone from your Best Friend to your Hairdresser by Jodyne Speyer
Sometimes you have to be the one to end things. Not an easy task, but this book has got you covered. Chock full of personal stories, useful scripts and interviews with experts, Speyer’s book will show you how to break up with almost anyone.

Blinded with Science

The discipline that brought you successes such as medicine, technology and a way of building knowledge about the universe is fueled by a surprising concept: failure. Take a look at these books to find out why.

F3

Failure: Why Science Is So Successful by Stuart Firestein
The image of an infallible truth-dispensing scientist in a white lab coat is an illusion, argues Firestein. Instead science is a process of trial and error that produces many failures. These failures are crucial in producing an ultimate success.

Brilliant Blunders: from Darwin to Einstein–Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists that Changed our Understanding of Life and the Universe by Mario Livio
It is not only the humble that make mistakes, many of the scientific greats did as well. Charles Darwin, Lord Kelvin, Linus Pauling, and Albert Einstein all made significant blunders on their way to genius status. Clearly there is hope for all of us.

Discarded Science: Ideas that Seemed Good at the Time by John Grant
This book is a true rogue’s gallery of failed ideas and bogus theories that were once deemed plausible. From the flat earth theory to phrenology, every dubious theory that was once thought of as ‘scientific’ is examined and explored.

The Agony of Defeat

I’ve never been much of a sports fan, but I have always had a soft spot for teams, and the fans who support them, that almost never seem to win. Call it the nobility of continual failure. Here are three examples.

F4

Shipwrecked: a Peoples’ History of the Seattle Mariners by Jon Wells
Since the team rarely finishes a season above .500, Mariners fans are a long-suffering, but in my view, admirable bunch. Learn all about their trials and travails in this colorful history of the team. The author has been covering the Mariners for over 15 years and has his own theories of why the team can never seem to win.

We Believe [DVD]
The Chicago Cubs are arguably the original sports team that never seems to catch a break. This DVD, narrated by Gary Sinise no less, documents the few ups and many downs of the team and its fans. You know there will be a clip of Harry Caray, preferably after having a few beers after the seventh inning stretch, singing ‘take me out to the ball game’.

Green Bay Packers: Trials, Triumphs, and Tradition by William Povletich.
I know the Packers currently are far from being failures, but when I lived in Title Town (the late 70s and 80s) they, quite frankly, sucked most of the time. It was hard not to have a grudging admiration for the fans who stuck with them through all those fallow years. Interestingly, the team starting doing really well once I left. Coincidence? I think not.

So clearly, as all of these materials demonstrate, you have no reason to feel bad about any recent failures that might have come your way. As always, the EPL has got your back.

Sportz

We Like Sportz (and we don’t care who knows)

I’ve played sports for much of my life but I would not consider myself a “jock”. That’s one of the reasons the above-referenced Lonely Island lyric, from the album Incredibad, cracks me up every time I hear it (the visual is even funnier, watch the video here). I’m not a sports fan, but I love a good game. And so I love a good sports film.

Most people are familiar with the classic sports films such as The Bad News Bears, Field of Dreams, Miracle, The Natural, Hoop Dreams, maybe even the more recent films The Fighter and Million Dollar Baby. I’ve seen The Hustler and Raging Bull on some lists of great sports films, but I myself would not deign to pigeon-hole them as sports film…but I digress.

There are three sports documentaries that have been released within the last 5 years or so that you may have missed, and are well-worth a watch.

My favorite of the three is the documentary Harvard Beats Yale 29-29. The film contains a  fascinating amount of original footage depicting the drama of a notorious 1968 football game, played in the midst of anti-war conflict, resulting in a headline from which the film title is drawn. I loved this film partly because it gave me insight into the culture of the two schools  (who knew that Harvard considers themselves a working class school, in opposition to Yale’s school of bluebloods?) and the it’s-a-small-world insight into George W. Bush, Al Gore, and Tommy Lee Jones’ backgrounds; but there’s plenty of other drama to the story to keep you interested.

Close behind Harvard Beats Yale is a local story, a documentary about the intense rivalry between Seattle’s Garfield and Roosevelt Girls Basketball teams titled The Heart of the Game. This movie is at once inspirational, sad, heart-pumping, maddening and reflective.

The third is a film I’d only recently become aware of called Senna. Senna, a well-to-do Brazilian, was/is a legend in Formula One racing. If I’ve started to lose you here, I understand – but try to hang on. This documentary is about old-school car racing, when driver skill (and not vehicle technology) made all the difference in a race. The footage is all original, from the 1970’s and 1980’s, and the filmmakers do a fantastic job illuminating the tension amongst Senna and his career-long arch nemesis Alain Prost. Huge egos battling each other… and battling it out at alarming speeds – it’s incredible to watch.

As any fan of sports film knows, most great sports films are about so much more than the sport they portray. Many tackle complex social issues that incorporate socio-economics, race, and gender. Sadly, many good films are made and never make it to distribution. One such film that I had the opportunity to see  is a 2001 documentary Rocks with Wings, about a girls basketball team in Shiprock, NM. The team is made up of Navajo girls, and their coach is a black 24-year-old male. If you ever have a chance to see it, I recommend it!

Kate