Fear of Success Vs. Brad Warner and the Force

I think this is my 3rd or 4th time reading Brad Warner‘s Hardcore Zen and I get something new from it every time. Sure, I get the Zen message, but it’s like the concept of never stepping in the same river twice. I’m not the same person when I re-read it, and different parts resonate differently.

This time through it was the idea of the “fear of success” in the “If Only…” chapter.

I’ve felt that “fear of success” before. It’s part of my narrative about what has held me back in my life. I feel like I never do anything about it, so I’m just as stuck as everyone else. (That’s not true, though – I got my master’s degree and I’ve played an open mic night semi-recently.)

This time reading the book, I really took to the line “Maybe it’s not that people like this fear success so much as they fear discovering that success really isn’t success at all.”(p. 57) And the sentence that followed that one: “We want to keep our dreams our dreams.” Brad follows with a bit about how our dreams, once realized, aren’t as thrilling or fulfilling as we thought they’d be.

That’s not it for me, though, that I would be let down by success not being ~SUCCESS~!! “Success” for me would be like Andy Partridge from XTC – making music and never having to tour. (This is also not true, I don’t have the stage fright Andy did and I do love performing, but I also love hunkering down with recording software or a 4-track and noodling for days.)

I do think that there’s something to “keeping our dreams our dreams” for me, that if I never try, then “success” is always a possibility. I clung for years to the fact that Andy Summers joined The Police when he was 35 years old. That milestone came and went for me without even a shrug. I knew that there were older people who’ve gotten “successful,” who’ve “made it.” I could always try later.

And that’s it. If I don’t try, then the dreams are still at arm’s length and I don’t have to fear the success *or* the failure.

So now that I’ve learned this (thanks, Brad!), I’m making an effort to try. Or, as Yoda would suggest, an effort to do. There is no “try”.

What does my “effort to do” look like? You’re reading it. There will be more to come.


Do you procrastinate or have dreams of “success” that scare you? Leave a comment or just send me an e-mail. We’re in this together.

Posted in Right Action, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Thought, Right Understanding | 1 Comment

Light my way

I just bought headlamps for my car.

Once upon a time, I paid people to replace the headlamps in my car. I thought it was difficult, or that they needed to be recalibrated every time they were replaced – aimed or something, I don’t know.

Until one time I was up visiting my dad. This was probably within the last year or two, after his first chemo treatment took his manual dexterity and left him with neuropathy in his hands and feet. (If you talked to dad during his last few years, you certainly heard about his neuropathy.)

Dad asked me to replace the headlamps in his car, a GMC Yukon Denali. In my mind, I recall it being fall, although it could have been spring, but whatever season it was, it was a little cold. He was wearing black fleece gloves. He wouldn’t have been able to maneuver the twists and turns needed to free the headlight from its place, loosen the latch holding the bulb in place, unplug the bulb from its socket, replace it, and reassemble the whole thing. He asked me to help him. He asked me to do the work with my hands, the work he could no longer do with his.

He walked me through what I needed to do, how it all came apart. I’ve worked on lots of little mechanical things as a computer repair person, so this was pretty easy, as car repairs go. Not difficult at all.

We got the bulbs replaced and I got to help my dad. He may not have known, but he helped me as well. He helped me become a little more self-sufficient. (Believe me, I still need help in that department. Story for another time, though.)

I’ve replaced my headlamps once before, I think, since the time that I did that for him, with him. I noticed the other day, though, that I had a headlamp out. Today on my way in to work, I needed to stop & use a restroom. I chose to stop at a Sam’s Club, and there was a Pep Boys auto center right next door. I popped in and bought some replacement headlamps for my car. So I can replace them. Because I know how.

Because my dad taught me.

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Friday night bookcase repair

I pulled all of my books out of my lawyer’s bookcase to pull it out from the wall. The back panel on the bottom needed repair, and I had a slim framed picture I wanted to put behind the bookcase.

In replacing the books, I set out a Programming in C++ book for the thrift pickup next week, but kept a book on data modeling for SQL server and one on programming logic and design.

Picking up my Norton Anthology of American Literature (Volume 2), I leaf through, seeing what notes college-me left in the margins and what authors inside I’d like to read.

I come across “To Aunt Rose” by Allen Ginsberg and as I read it on the page, realize that I’ve heard a recording of him reading it. While the paper plays the groove, my eyes play the needle and the sound of his quirky voice plays in my head.

To write poetry again. To read the classics, classic authors, classic works. To get lost in these words instead of the auto-refresh of facebook and twitter and so many other things that steal attention and time from what brings me so much more pleasure.

I have a lot of books to replace. And bank accounts to balance. Time to keep moving.

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Art vs. Control

In discussing the precision and whimsy with which an Instagram friend plates her food, she demurred, saying that it was the control freak in her coming out. My response:

It looks to me more like artist and less like control.

Then again, what is art but controlling your instrument, materials & medium?

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