There’s No Success Like Failure And Failure’s No Success at All

I’m probably not the first person to argue the fact that fear of success can easily generate the same crippling level of anxiety, in the mind of any given individual, that fear of failure can.

The trappings of success stand to ensnare us, just as equally as they have the potential to liberate us from our mundane ordinariness.

Which makes me think, as artists, we writer-types are oftentimes supreme masters of self-sabotage. I suppose, what I’m really trying to say is that we set ourselves up to fail. Almost as a method of self-preservation, I’d put it to you.

Because how else is it that what we create doesn’t succeed? Once the basics of grammar and structure are grasped, what makes the work of one writer outshine that of another? I mean, there are only 12 or so different storylines in the history of written language. In fact, Shakespeare himself, for instance, failed to come up with a single original plot throughout the duration of his much celebrated career.

So, therefore, I suspect, success actually equates with unshakeable self-belief. And this is what is meant by the idea that somebody is not yet ready to step up to the plate, as a writer or artist, to claim their rightful place amongst other successful luminaries in his or her field. It means they don’t believe themselves to be worthy yet.

But just how is this feeling of unworthiness expressed in unconscious acts of self-sabotage, exactly? Well, the simple act of repeatedly not meeting a daily word-count goal is a simple example of this.

As is my wont, I have found a counterexample to this kind of self-defeating thinking, from within the world of music and musicians. And I often reflect on the message that this counterexample contains, when contemplating my own lack of success in my creative life. It’s basically a quote from legendary guitarist Carlos Santana, in which he says that one day he simply realized he was too good to be washing dishes for a living.

I think he’s long since proved his point, wouldn’t you say? And I’m hoping I’ve also succeeded in making mine somewhere along the way within all this. “Oye Como Va!”

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About Lorem Ipsum

Just some guy trying to figure out where the "on" switch is hid on the remote control—ah, forget it. Because, you know what, I'm also the kinda guy who always likes the book waaay more than the movie! View all posts by Lorem Ipsum

12 responses to “There’s No Success Like Failure And Failure’s No Success at All

  • ioniamartin

    I so haven’t met my word count this week at all. Or last week. I’m in some twisted way glad to know that I am not alone?

  • MuseWriter

    Writer’s obsess about everything, or at least I think that is my temptation, my self-destruction. However, my moments of self-destruction lead to learning and growth and then another pathway is highlighted for introspection. My writing benefits from the Phoenix’s rebirth. This was a good read, it got me thinking lol 😉

    • Lorem Ipsum

      Yes, I think Keroauc’s insistence on “first thought, best thought” is a type of antidote to obsessing over every word we write. But again, it would take unshakeable self-belief to live and die by this directive, metaphorically speaking, that is. However, I really like your idea of rebirth as symbolized by the Phoenix. In a very literal sense, I have, at times, found fresh inspiration, for my writing, from within the burnt ashes of earlier manuscript drafts!

  • phoenixessence

    Your discussion on the fear of success reminds me of Maslow’s concept of the “Jonah complex”, I think you captured it very well here. This piece got me thinking though, on how contradictory it is that we (or at least I do) experience both the fear of failure and the fear of success simultaneously…okay am I the only one?

    • Lorem Ipsum

      Thank you, for the “Jonah complex” reference. I’ve just had a cursory read about it, and it seems to be exactly in line with what I was trying to say. As to your question about being the only one, don’t worry! I too oscillate between the fear of failure and fear of success, even at times feeling both simultaneously, as you put it. I just think fear of success is much more self-defeating somehow, and often harder to recognize in one’s self, don’t you reckon?

      • phoenixessence

        It’s true. I mean fear of failure drives you to work harder, but fear of success? It’s debilitating and, as you’ve said, so much harder to recognise.
        Glad I’m not the only one!

        • Lorem Ipsum

          Interestingly, it just occurred to me that fear of success could be seen as fear of being “the only one”. You know, in line with the saying, it’s lonely at the top?

          • phoenixessence

            Hmm. That makes total sense, it could probably be a cause. Now, what do you think of fear of success as being related to fear of failure? In that, a person who fears failure may come to fear that if they do succeed, they won’t be able to maintain this success and that they will eventually fail. Furthermore, when they do fail, it will be a greater fall than if they had never attained success at all.

            • Lorem Ipsum

              I think you are exactly right. The idea of maintaining success is an incredibly daunting prospect. And, again, I can only guess that people who manage to do so possess some form of unshakeable self-belief. BTW I really like your idea of suffering an even greater fall, if you should succeed and fail, rather than if you had never attained success at all. I suppose, though, my question, ultimately, then, is how does one gain such unshakeable self-belief?

            • phoenixessence

              This I do not know. Maybe these people are downright delusional? Or maybe, they do experience fear, but their passion for what they do is greater, or their desire to achieve a certain life is greater, so they just soldier on, despite their anxieties?

            • Lorem Ipsum

              Delusion or passion or desire, then, or possibly conviction based on some actual, remarkable ability (?) explains the kind of self-belief needed. None of these do I have in the requisite quantity, apparently, however. So, like Jonah, stuck inside the belly of the whale, I wallow around, waiting for unshakeable self-belief to propel me onwards towards my true destiny…

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