Tuesday, November 9, 2010

On The Nature Of Failure

A few weeks ago I made a trip to one of my favorite stores, Half Price Books.  For a tight-fisted nerd like me HPB is great because I like to own my books, but I don't really enjoy paying out the nose for a brand new book.  I had a mission: I was picking up sequel books in the Ender series, which I started reading so I could discuss it with my little brother, but enjoyed it for its own merits and decided to get the next few books in the series (at a discount of course).  While there I saw that the store had received a shipment of Craig Ferguson's memoir, "American On Purpose", that were brand new, but slightly off in some way, so unsellable in a big box book store.  So I picked one up.  I love Ferguson's show, and his patriotism and humor are inspiring.  I started reading last night and was immediately struck by the preface.  Ferguson has fallen in love with baseball.  His son now plays little league.  Ted Williams has famously said, "Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer."  Ferguson disagrees a bit, though, and so do I.  He sees baseball as an allegory for the American experience and is thrilled that his son loves this "most American game."

"He will know from an early age that failure is not a disgrace.  It's just
a pitch that you missed, and you'd better get ready for the next one.
The next one might be the shot heard round the world.  My son and I 
are Americans, we prepare for glory by failing until we don't."
I can't say that I expected to learn more about failure from baseball and a reformed alcoholic Scots immigrant comedian than in theater school or from all of my family and friends put together, but that may be a bit over-dramatic.  Those two may have just been the right lens through which to view my other lessons.  As an actor getting one callback out of ten auditions is about average, and booking one out of ten roles you callback for is about average too, or so I have heard.  I am lucky that I have been more successful in theater than booking 1% of my auditions, but certainly far from a .300 average.  That paragraph hit me immediately though, because it started to knit together many threads of thought I have had about this experience.  They are lessons I should have taken to heart sooner.  I have until know thought of failure as just that, failure.  Each instance was a separate test.  Pass or fail.  I should have been thinking about my failures in two ways.  In the immediate moment of course I have failed and a certain amount of disappointment is expected.  But in the grand scheme of things it is one of one thousand opportunities in a day to make the right choice, and one failure may teach me the lesson that leads to more success in the future than I could have had otherwise.  This of course applies not only to my health, but also to my acting, and even when dating or working at the day job.  I spent so long paralyzed by fear of failing even once that I never gave myself a chance to succeed.  Now that I have seen that the wins far outpace the losses, even at my worst, it is easier to keep going.

I look back on my posts and I can see that this way of thinking has been just around the corner for me for some time, but it is easier for me to think this way now because of how far I have come.  I have realized that if I never lost another pound I wouldn't too upset about it.  I like the way I look and feel.  I am not where I need to be for my health, however.  Today I calculated my BMI, or Body Mass Index, which, while crude, is a decent indicator of how one's weight is likely to impact one's health.  My BMI is just over 35, which is considered Obese class 2.  The website suggested I talk to my doctor about ways to lose weight.  Any BMI over 30 is considered obese.  Any BMI over 25 is considered overweight.  Now, as I said, the standard BMI calculation is crude and does not take muscle mass or frame into account.  Just to break the overweight/obese line I need to get down to 246, and to be considered "healthy" I need to get down to 204.  This is ridiculous.  I have a very large frame, my waist to height ratio equates more to the border between overweight and obese.  Supposing I split the difference between the two measurements then a weight of around 220-230 and a waist size in the 36 region are good final goals, as long as I work to tone and keep my fat/muscle ratios healthy.  At some point I am going to need some professional advice as to where is a healthy place to start the maintenance portion of my health journey.  Educated guesses have done me right to this point, but I can see myself stopping short of where I need to be without some advice.  Hopefully my new day job will provide me the means to get a decent health plan so I can actually see a nutritionist or bariatric specialist.  For now I need to keep moving in the right direction, and take more steps forward than back.  I have lost some of the urgency from the start of my journey.  I am okay with that, though I imagine the effect on the entertainment level of this blog might be detrimental.  What I have to do is channel the energy I had previously devoted to weight loss totally to other areas.  Now is the time for me to really focus on my career.  After this post is done I am buckling down to write cover letters for submissions to agents.  I start a new day job next week.  I open a show in 10 days.  I have plenty to do, but in the new world of "good enough" is not good enough, I can always do more.  Now off to do it.

1 comment:

  1. Chase:

    THANK GOD. I love the baseball batting average perspective of "failure." I think the reason so many people don't formally go to church any more is that they see the classic word "Sin" as an indictment rather than the simple notation that "the pitch did not hit the mark." The word IS used for punishment more than as useful feedback, so it is understandable. It is easier to love God than His idiot children, for sure. But you put it on the page SO well. Every measurement is merely to see where you are vs where you want to be - not to judge the journey. As I have so long said, "If every planned course correction from NASA was viewed as a judgment, the astronauts would never call Houston." But in space flight we say, "this is hard. We may need to check in often to see how it is going." ANd yet we don't look at the hardest thing in the world - living a life of conscious choice - that way. Well done. You are an inspiration.