Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Failure

Failure . . .


First, be warned that I’m a true believer in the slipperiness of language use, for mere mortals…

Next, I want to look into what “Success” means.

I’ve delved into what it might mean in a number of contexts in the past…

Let’s look again.

Definition: “The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”

Word history: “1530s, ‘result, outcome’, from Latin successus ‘an advance, a coming up; a good result, happy outcome’, [to] ‘come after’. Meaning ‘accomplishment of desired end’ (good success) first recorded 1580s.”

Now, Failure.

Definition: “A falling short or cessation.”

Word history: “1640s, failer, ‘a failing, deficiency’, also ‘act of failing’, from Anglo-French failer, Old French falir ‘be lacking; not succeed'”

I think I may have just proved that grabbing one definition of a word and glancing at its history of use doesn’t quite give us what we might need

Certainly, most folks have enough occurrences of both success and failure in their lives to define it for themselves

However, looking at a few accomplished writers’ explanations of “Failure” could throw much light on what “Success” could mean…

There’s an article in The Guardian called Falling Short: Seven Writers Reflect on Failure.

I normally pull a few excerpts from articles to encourage you to read the whole thing; but, the end of this one had a link that led to an imposing form to fill out for “reuse” of the “content”…

There is such a thing as “fair use“; but… well… these days… and, I’m in the U.S. but the article is in an English publication… — So, I’ll give links to the writers involved (in case you need to evaluate your desire for their explanations of success and failure) and hope some of you take the link to the article in The Guardian

Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, Anne Enright, Howard Jacobson, Will Self, and Lionel Shriver.

If you do go to Falling Short: Seven Writers Reflect on Failure, I’d love it if you’d share in the Comments which author(s) drew you there…

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How Do You Measure Success?


Winston Churchill said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

There are a lot of famous quotes about success and many say it comes through failure—reminds me that being content is better than chasing happiness while escaping sadness

In a previous post called, “Success” Is Vastly Over-Rated, I said: “Who made it seem success wasn’t merely the next stage, from which further action becomes possible, but rather a pinnacle of achievement that leaves all other contenders breathless on the sides of the conquered mountain?” So, who did that? Businesspeople? Fundamentalist religious folk? Football coaches?”

Joel Friedlander has a recent post called, Notes from a Self-Publishing “Success Story”, about Heather M. David‘s experiences—easily judged by the SuccessPreneurs as relative “failure”.

My experience since May, when I self-published Notes from An Alien, is similarly judgeable; yet………

Over 240 people have my book and, even though those were all free copies, I have a solid beginning on a growing email list of folks with interest when I publish the two follow-up books.

Two libraries have purchased the book.

I’ve been facilitating a discussion group on Book Island in Second Life (over 35 two-hour sessions so far) that features issues raised in the book.

Two of my dearest friends, because they appreciate the work I’ve been doing, have bought me a new computer, which will make all the effort still necessary to reach yet more success oh, so much easier :-)

And, most importantly, I’ve written and published a book that is the core of my life’s work, begun 23 years ago and extending toward my last breath

How do You measure success?
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“Success” Is Vastly Over-Rated


We’re made to believe we have to succeed or die. We’re made to feel not reaching the top is failure.

We’re driven toward actions that induce impossible decisions and our fuel is stress.

Well maybe not all of us

In 1906, William James said to H.G. Wells: “The moral flabbiness born of the bitch-goddess SUCCESS. That—with the squalid interpretation put on the word success—is our national disease.”

Seems like the only thing that’s changed since then is the disease is nearly International.

It never ceases to amaze me how words are taken from their natal environs and prostituted for ill-gain and nefarious purpose.

If you check the root meanings of the word success, you find ideas like: result, outcome, an advance, succession, happy outcome, which all come from a deeper root meaning: to come after

Who twisted the word to nearly eliminate the happy part? Who made it seem success wasn’t merely the next stage, from which further action becomes possible, but a pinnacle of achievement that leaves all other contenders breathless on the sides of the conquered mountain?

My father was a perfectionist. I suffered greatly from trying to be like my father.

Yet, in all justice, even though I’ve finally caught on and taught myself how to enjoy rolling hills rather than challenging breathless heights, I have gained great respect for making sure my ass is covered—learned how to baffle the fates into giving me what I want without surrendering all that I am.

The worst thing about attempting perfectionistic success is that when I fell on my face in the mud stirred up by my relentless provocations, I’d injured those closest to me

At times, I entertain myself with the nightmare imaginings of the tortured inner lives of those folk who were lucky enough to attain some materialistic mountaintop.

Repeated failure has finally made me humble enough to, very possibly, finish off my remaining years on this planet with one well-attained and widely helpful project—spreading the word about the inevitability of Global Peace

Let me close this rather high-flying post with an excerpt from Andrea J. Wenger’s blog that reveals the valley of rolling hills I’m now wandering with gratitude and patience:

“…when the doubts of my life feel overwhelming, I retreat to the one place where I always feel sure. The one place where struggle is the best teacher and failure the source of deep insight. The one place where I can get it right the fourteenth time instead of the first, and no one will ever know the difference.

“I write.”
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