Last night I heard one of the most glorious stories of epic failure ever conjured by reality. It's so rare that you get something so juicy without a script, but this gem was mined straight from headlines.
Sir John Gurdon, is a British stem-cell researcher. Unless you're a bio-engineering groupie, however, his name might not ring any bells. Doctor Gurdon attended Eton, Oxford and is a Fellow of the Royal Society. His work has garnered several awards over the years, most recently the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. Pretty impressive resume, I'd say. However, before he was "Sir" Gurdon, Johnny caused some trouble for his teachers. In fact, one of his high school science teachers said that since Gurdon preferred to "do things his own way" it would be a waste of time for him to continue learning the sciences. Hell, the professor continued saying that it would be a horribly bad idea for anyone who tried to teach this boy science. For sixty years, Sir John Gurdon has carried that report card with him. And now, he's a Nobel Laureate.
That's 1952... That teacher's nay-saying voice has been rattling around this man's head for as long as my mother has been alive. That in and of itself boggles my mind. There were no men on the moon when he took that report card home. Kennedy was alive and not even on the political radar. There were no Beatles. Not even Quarrymen! Just remnant shock from World War II and poodle skirts.
We hear this story--or variations on it--all the time. It's part of the underdog fixation. Tell someone they can't and watch them exceed expectations, right? Hell, I have been told that by a few people in my time. We've all been told at some point that we aren't enough. Most people believe this about themselves and just stop there, letting the broken record of it play into perpetuity. Believe me, I know this. Self-deprecation is the basis of my sense of humor. Without it, I'm a talentless hack whose only chance at a funny bone is banging a circus clown. Anyway, these rejections and slights from childhood/adolescence stick with us. Over time, those infinite loops of "you're not good enough" can erode one's bliss......or it can strengthen it.
You can choose how you let those voices control you. You can choose to listen to those report cards, or you can box them up and ship them straight off to Hell.
This is something I'm consciously working on right now in my personal life. I've got a lot of fat-shaming voices in my head that I'm trying to snuff out, but their roots run deep. Like first grade deep. I have to do this, though. I have to eradicate that shit because it's not healthy. It's not productive...even if it has been worth hours of jokes at my own expense over the past few decades. For a long time, those particular voices have not been helpful, they've hurt me. I've said for a while now that of all the wounds I've survived, I've inflicted most of them upon myself.
It takes work to tell the "good" voices from the "bad" ones. Snarky inner dialogue is a constant for me and is a good motivator. It's what keeps me going. The voices that tell me I am a "talentless, ass-dragging sea creature who couldn't write her way out of a wet paper sack" are toothless tigers at this point in my life. I can laugh at them and gain strength from the knowledge that they're wrong. But it's not always so easy to deal with.
I know authors and artists that are dealing with this, too. I know that every query rejection is another voice to add to the chorus of fear in your head. You get enough of these voices together and it can paralyze you. Don't let it. "What if they laugh at me? What if I fail? What if I'm not good enough?"
Who cares? Fail! Fail gloriously! Write the words you want to write, tell your story, paint your masterpiece, sing your arias and dance rings around the world if that's where it's at for you, but do it. If you fall on your face, you get back up. If you fail, do it with style and pinache. Do it, learn from it, and do it again...only this time better.
That's what goes into every brick on your path. Try try again.
Don't be afraid to fail. Aim for the sun, shoot for the moon, give it everything you can...but just fucking do it. Failure is its own success, so it is always an option. What about you? What voices are you trying to kick in the junk and evict from your brainpan?
Nerdmaste, my friends.