Permission to Fail

Back to the Future IIYou’re holding yourself back if you aren’t giving yourself permission to fail.

Oh, and whenever I say “you” I’m really saying “me.” But hopefully my mes are relatable to your yous.

Permission to fail isn’t the same as giving up. If your only option is success, you’re going to try a lot less things. And even then, you might fail.

The more willing you are to go out there and try, the more chances you have to succeed. This is starting to sound a lot like dating advice. Did I mention you should wear a pink scarf and those Back to the Future 2 sunglasses from McDonald’s?

Failure is scary. It doesn’t feel good. But it is going to happen. No matter what, you’re going to fail at some things. And you’ll learn from them. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll succeed. And that will feel pretty great.

Ratios, right? It’s all about ratios. What if you succeed 5% of the time and fail 95%? Then the more you try, the more you’ll succeed.

So give yourself permission to fail, but only if you’re actually trying. If you limp into something because it’s okay to fail, then you haven’t learned a thing here. Jeez, commit to your projects already! Good luck with your weekend, not-learner!

The First Friday Brainstorm

Okay, folks. Let’s get some comments going with a Friday brainstorm game. Let’s play it like this!

I’ll name an idea that is two words long. Like “curry popsicle.” Then the next comment should use “popsicle” with another word. Like “popsicle sandwich.” And the next comment would be, all, “sandwich bed.” And then “bed sleeves.”

Whatever. It doesn’t matter. Just take the last word and use it as the first word. Got it? Okay. Your staring words are:

TELEVISION MIRROR

Go!

Running Out of Ideas

I’m not running out of ideas. However, after posting my entry about “blogging every day” (and let’s be real, I meant every weekday) I became concerned that I would run out of things to write about here. But how does that fear help in any way? It doesn’t.

I wrote three entires yesterday, and part of me thought about holding on to one post for today. Just in case. In case my brain blanked out. But I didn’t hold on. I let the articles fly and hoped that something would spark an entry for today.

Succeeding by holding back seemed like a terrible idea. I could game the system. The system that I set up. If I held back my blog entries, surely I could make posting every day a reality. There is no fun in that though.

I’m flying by the seat of my pants and writing as things come to me. I might run out of ideas, but I’m not going to hold back just because of what might happen.

If a Project Falls in the Forest

ForestIf you never tell anybody about a project you’re working on, and it fails, does it really matter?

I have an illogical hangup that involves not telling people about exciting things I am working on. I feel that, if I tell anybody, then I’m jinxing it.

Example? During my Make Me Watch TV days, I was approached to be a commentator on a Toronto television program where people talk about pop-culture things as they fly quickly past your TV screen. I know you’ve seen VH1 before. Like that.

Okay. So I didn’t tell a lot of people about it, because I had this gnawing feeling that it wouldn’t happen. But I still chatted it up. And it fell through.

Would it have fallen through if I didn’t tell anybody about it? Of course. But then I would be the only one who knew nothing had come of it. So why does that matter?

It doesn’t matter. Someone might say “hey, how is that thing going?” And then I’d say “it isn’t.” Then it’d uncomfortable for a second, and we would move on.

What is the upside of telling people about your projects? Support. It’s hard to go through the world alone. We’re all scared, right? Why not have people rooting for you?

If you keep trying, no one will call you a failure. So what if something you tried didn’t pan out? You’re not through.

So my upcoming projects, which are little to unknown? Making new Danny Washington and Educational Egg videos with MPLS.TV. Making new So I Am Told videos for a yet unannounced comedy website. And making Mustache Rangers puppet videos with an extremely talented video producer.

Will these projects succeed or fail? Who knows? But I’m trying. And I’m trying publicly. And if they do fail, it won’t be because I told you.

Unless you sabotage me. That’d be a weird thing for you to do. What gives?

But I’ve Failed Before

Notebook collectionSo you’ve failed! Who cares? I can’t count the times I’ve said I’ll blog every day, and then haven’t. But I’m trying again.

So what makes now different? Everything. Every time you try something, it’s different. That sounds pretty obvious, but let’s continue.

Did you continue? Come on. It’s not the longest blog entry. Keep reading.

When trying anything again, you’re not starting from scratch. Starting again isn’t like a blank piece of paper with endless possibilities. Think of each attempt as the next page in a notebook. There are pages before and pages after. And the pages before show that you’re willing to try. And the fact that you’re on a new page means you want to continue trying.

The time is different. The circumstances are different. Maybe it’s a day, a week, or a month later. Maybe you’re busier. Maybe you’re bored…er. Time moves forward, and you’re moving along with it. If there’s something you want to do but haven’t been able to, there’s no shame in trying again. You might make it happen this time. That’d be pretty great.

I’m typing this blog entry the day before it is posted. That isn’t cheating, is it? I’m counting it as three days of blog entries.

Not Just for Go-Getters

fridgeI don’t want this to sound like a scammy pitch from a motivational speaker. I’m not trying to get your money and “empower” is buzz word that makes me want to jump into farm equipment. And not in a fun way. The blades and missing limbs way. Okay. Here it goes.

Success is not just for go-getters.

Sometimes it feels like the only way to get ahead is to spend every waking moment networking and planning your next move. Sure, it probably helps. Remembering people’s names and how long you should shake their hand (never let go first?) is one way to go about things. Probably a good way to go about things. But not everyone is good at that!

Does that mean your ideas and talent are doomed to go no further than the kitchen fridge, held up by a fading Pizza Hut magnet? Of course not. If something is important to you, you’ll work for it. Just not to the extent that workaholics like Martha Stewart do.

My favorite musician is Miles Kurosky, lead singer of the now defunct band Beulah. I read an interview him a few years back, that I can’t for the life of me find and cite properly, where he divulged how lazy he was. How his job for the day of the interview was to get to the post office to mail out some merchandise. And that probably wasn’t going to happen.

Wow, I thought. This brilliant musician has some of the same hangups that I do! Knowing that made me feel a little better about myself. Sure, it doesn’t excuse sloth. If crumbs have found a home in your cardigan and you’re too busy to wipe them off, you might have a problem. But creativity doesn’t come out of one personality type. Success isn’t born out of one way of going about things.

Work within your means to do the things you like. If it’s important to you, you’ll have the desire to work on creation. If it isn’t, you’ll flip on Storm Chasers until something important does come to you. If you’re a go-getter, great. If you’re not, super. There are many roads to success. Some take longer. Some are more enjoyable. And none are wrong.

Unless you’re a jerk who is screwing people over. Don’t do that.

Know What You Can’t Do

When you’re really good at being distracted by TV and video games, you need to know what you aren’t good at. If you try creating something you know you will absolutely fail at, you’ll probably fall back into a deeper cycle of procrastination and self doubt. This doesn’t mean you should stay away from new and exciting ideas. Simply know and acknowledge your limits.

Last night, while falling asleep, I had a vision of a beautiful abstract painting. I observed the painting as it floated in front of my closed eyes. After giving it a fair amount of time in my head, I simply thought “it’s a shame I’ll never be able to make that” and fell asleep.

I’m no good at painting. Why waste my time trying to create that, when I already know it isn’t going to turn out? Better to keep myself focused on what I have the ability to do.

Greetings and Other Words

And so it starts. Another new blog. I probably shouldn’t start out the first sentence of the introductory post with “and.” Seems like something my English teachers would have frowned upon. Also, all these sentence fragments seem to be hanging out and having a party. Those should be cleaned up. However, I’d much rather talk about the things that are wrong than do anything about them.

My name is Aric McKeown. You may or may not have heard of me. You probably haven’t. Don’t feel bad about it. We’ll soon become fast friends. And, every so often, we’ll IM each other for a minute. That’ll be nice, won’t it? Really chummy like.

I have an antsy brain. I pick up and drop projects the same way tornadoes do farm houses. Ideas come to me and I have to put them out into the world. They stay in my brain, no matter how absurd and dumb they may seem.

This blog is intended to catalog and monitor my projects, their successes, and their failures. The failure water will surely find itself flooding into my success hull. Hopefully, my persistence bilge pump will out perform my laziness…I just ran out of metaphors. Laziness something to do with a ship. Sails? No.

There you have it. Past projects will be analyzed. Current projects will be have some light shed on them. Future projects will be birthed. Gross. Sorry.

Stick around. And let’s hope this isn’t one of those projects that ends up as a failure.

Feeding Objects

Let’s start out with a current project. One that hasn’t succeeded, but hasn’t failed. It’s simply limping along. Maybe the we can switch it to a different kind of food or maybe we’ll simply “drop it off at the farm.” And by “we,” I mean “me.”

Feeding Objects is as basic an idea as you can get. It is simply a site where people post pictures of themselves feeding things to inanimate objects. Dumb with the possibility of being hilarious. Just like all of my projects. But how did I come up with this idea? I couldn’t remember, but I knew how to find out.

If I have a dumb idea, odds are I’ve run it by Corey Anderson. Corey is my improv and podcast partner, and we’ve known each other for about 15 years now. I don’t necessarily trust his judgment (Transformers was a terrible movie), but we keep a rather constant email correspondence going. And those emails are a fine enough time to bring up ideas, dumb or not.

I’m not looking for a particular reaction from Corey. If he thinks that an idea is dumb, I’ll probably still move forward with it. But telling Corey is the first time my idea is put into words. The first time I see it outside of my own brain. It isn’t rattling along in my head, cold and alone, any longer. It has been introduced into the world.

Corey isn’t going the follow up on the idea. He doesn’t keep me on track. He doesn’t encourage the me to keep at it. I’m not looking for him to improve the idea. Yet, half the projects I think of wouldn’t leave my brain if I didn’t have this first step.

So, yeah. I found an email string with Corey from May 5th, 2010. Let’s see. We discuss Lost for a bit. Man, Kate is annoying. And then we talk about Feeding Objects. How did I come up with it? Records show it was a shower idea.

What is a shower idea? It’s as easy a concept to understand as mushing food into inanimate objects. Shower ideas are ideas I come up with in the shower. Now don’t you feel silly for asking “what is a shower idea?”

I generally come up with ideas in the shower or car. We’ll take a look into that in a later post, because it’s something I want to explore and figure out. Can’t say I understand why ideas come out when they do. I’m not promising that I will figure it out. But I’ll sure try.

So, Feeding Objects. Shower idea. Bounced off of Corey. Bought a domain name. Created a Tumblr site. And that was that.

As far as promotion goes, I threw it out on Twitter and Facebook. Submitted it to Boing Boing. Boing Boing ran an article on it, Gizmodo picked it up. And suddenly, I had seven thousand hits in one day.

Did the attention last? Sure didn’t. Page views stalled out like a Cessna headed for the sun in Flight Simulator. The website remains, but the activity has slowed to a crawl. I’m lucky if I get one submission a week.

I still like the idea a whole lot. It makes me laugh. And, for the amount of effort I put into creating and maintaining the site, I’ve received a lot of fun in return.

The final key, that I am missing in almost all of my projects, is sustained improvement and promotion. How do I keep the spreading the word without annoying the same people over and over again? How do I improve upon an idea instead of letting it sit and atrophy? And isn’t there another dumb idea I should be working on?

There is always another idea out there. The grass is always greener on the other side of the idea fence. So I leave the grass of Feeding Objects to grow brown as I see what is so great about this new grass. Feels pretty good between my toes. Cool and crisp for now.

I know I should focus. But I don’t. I move on to the next idea. That sounds like an issue that needs some fixing. Luckily, I just created a website for that purpose.

Oh! Did I tell you I finally got my first picture of someone feeding their penis to something this week? It took you almost a year, internet, but you got there. Good work!

I did not publish that picture.