Celebrating Failure

Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value

-Albert Einstein

The aspiration of success is killing me. This isn’t so much a surprise, as it is a calling. It’s been robbing me of life for years. It may very much be the root of my depression. For a long time I wanted to be on Saturday Night Live, I probably still do. But a specific memory, that’s actually quite sad comes to my mind. This one particular summer my agency sent in tapes of several of their clients. My agent told me “they’ve said no to everybody but you.” Turns out…I eventually also got a no. But for a brief time, I thought I was on the road to my dreams coming true. It was in this state of ecstasy, that I remember a conversation with a friend. I said, “Man, I may actually have a shot at auditioning for SNL.” And he said, “Good, then you may actually be happy.” I knew he wasn’t so much congratulating me, as he was pointing to a more important truth.

I know the truth that he was talking about. It’s not a what, but a who. Yet abiding in the truth, is easier said than done especially when you have a heart that is prone to wander. I think living in and out of truth that provides emotional clarity is actually quite rare for me. Intellectual, and even transformational clarity is aside the point. The emotional clarity can get dim. Like a bathroom mirror fogged by the steam of a hot shower. You know what’s in the mirror even though you can’t see, but still…

Emotional clarity, when it happens is so rare, that it’s more equatable to a lightning striking and lighting up a night sky. It doesn’t happen very much, but when it does everything becomes clear. Even if it only lasts seconds. For me at least.

But something wonderful happened today. My lovely bride let me get away to have a few hours alone. I went to see a movie by myself. Some are embarrassed to do this, but not me. I love the movies. I love sitting in a movie theater, with my popcorn, and a coke. I love the experience. But on my drive to the movie theater, I said to myself: “The problem isn’t that I want to be an actor. The problem isn’t that I want to be an artist. The problem is that I want to be successful.” What if I traded in success for failure? Don’t get me wrong I’m not advocating laziness or proclaiming the danger of drivenness, although it can be dangerous. I think that’s a wiring thing. I’m a driven person. I don’t know how to turn that switch off. I’m not even sure I’m supposed to. That may just be how I’m made. But what if I just let it go, really surrendered this whole idea of “making it.”

These were the type of thoughts I had, so as an experiment I just went, “Screw it. Let it go.” And as I was walking from my car to the movie theater, I walked by this man who was moping the steps that I was about to walk up, and I looked at him and said “Hi” and he said hello back, then I said, “How are you today?” and you could see the strange shock in his eyes, as with his reply almost expressed a delightful gratitude.  As I walked away I saw that he was smiling.

As I walked on, I thought for no other reason, than to make room for compassion I need to give up this whole thing called, “the pursuit of success.” I wonder if I’ll even work harder, and more focused if I give it up. Because glory for self will no longer be in the equation. I may have room in my heart to care more for …well, for really everything else. I think it was C.S. Lewis that said, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but just thinking of yourself less.”

It’s not so much charity, or even integrity why I want to give up this idol called success, but for life itself. I want more life, and it seems when my head is filled with ambition, it adds up to a lot of wasted time. Time that could be spent loving, laughing, and living. And making people smile. Oh no, I sound like those crapy cliche pieces of plywood you nail up in your living room. But I think I’m okay with that. I’d rather be cliche and alive vs unpredictable and dead. I’m sick of not being the guy that doesn’t stop and smell the roses. That doesn’t just enjoy the wind on his face when he’s at the ocean. Instead I end up thinking about my “to-do list”. I want to take longer walks, have more beer, an extra slice of pizza, and sleep more so I can dream more. And maybe the more I dream, the larger my roadmap will be to the life I will live.

I don’t know. I’m just sick of not feeling alive. I’m hungering for more than 30 seconds of lit up sky. I’m not giving up being an struggling artist. I’m sure I’ll continue to struggle. But I’d rather struggle to become a better artist than chasing some hologram of whatever I have defined in my head of “making it”. I’d rather be a failure, if that means I can have a shot at being alive. Really alive. Maybe that’s where joy is…it lies at the tail end of surrender. It waits till you’re weak enough till you can’t hold on any longer, till you have no choice but to really let go. And then, and maybe, only then will I be able to smile without an ounce of politeness, and it will be instead replaced with genuine giddiness. God, give me failure if that means life. And never let me be successful if that means death.

Celebrating failure,

David Leo Schultz


~ by David Leo Schultz on April 18, 2015.

3 Responses to “Celebrating Failure”

  1. If a desire to be successful is your goal in life, you may end up with success , but little else. thanks for some good words and thoughts

  2. I love this so much!!! It never fails to amaze me how God’s kingdom is an upside down kingdom. Giving up the love of success actually means you are successful, in life. Thanks for writing this!

  3. I read something the other day that helped me when I get caught up in what “success” is supposed to look like…
    “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it”
    – Maya Angelou

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: