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Epic Failing – On Purpose

Each year, über writer and person-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up, Neil Gaiman, sends out a New Year’s wish to his readers. Last year he wrote something that needs to be painted on my office walls and meticulously copied in into my journal:

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness.

This year Neil changed gears a little and presented an interesting idea that should be tattooed on everyone’s brain:

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

In other words, Neil Gaiman is giving us permission to fail. Is my interpretation too extreme? Maybe, but what this amazing writer is telling us is we have to get away from our computers and Facebook and meet people and making glorious plans and allow ourselves to make mistakes while we do it. In America it seems people’s biggest fears are failure. Failure to achieve those lofty goals we set for ourselves, failure to get our dream business going, failure to train hard enough for an event before the starting date. But is failure really that bad?

I have failed at many things including golf (although I am an excellent putter), making decent spaetzle and getting up early to write. I participated in group sports when I was a kid and realized it was best to quit while I was ahead. I worked in radio for four years before deciding I had enough. Does that make me a failure? No, I am being realistic about my strengths and learning to understand my limits. This, in turn, allows me to become a better-rounded person.

Think of the people you know who have never left their home state. I knew a few people like that, in fact, I know people who live in the suburbs of Portland and refuse to drive downtown. Most likely because traffic is horrible any time of the day, but STILL.. never leaving your suburb?! Don’t make come over there! There is life outside of our comfort zones!

Last week on A Closer Look Radio, Pam interviewed entrepreneur and author Troy Hazard about how to stop lying to yourself and not make decisions based on fear. Listen to the interview here. Troy is a guy who sits down every year and writes out what is truly important to his personal life, his family, and his business and how he can achieve his goals to get the most out of all three aspects.

One thing Troy said that really stuck with me was how he makes that list and includes people who can influence and inspire him to achieve his goals. Perhaps maybe it’s time for me to call up Neil Gaiman and invite him over for afternoon tea. Or maybe just take his advice and start making grand plans and even grander mistakes.



About Anna Alexander

I get ideas. I write things. I sometimes follow through with those ideas. I also run long distances and live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband cat who lets us pay the mortgage on his house.

2 responses »

  1. Failing…now that I can do well!

  2. Check out Disney/Pixar’s Meet the Robinsons. Seriously good stuff. Running “woot” around here since the movie – “You made a mistake! woo-hoooooo!” A neighbor/tutor has been goofing with the girls r.e whether they’re human or aliens – “only aliens don’t make mistakes!”

    Mistakes = good stuff. 😉


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