Friday, October 30, 2015


One writer's small effort to rehabilitate 

the reputation of failure.

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I recently encountered a LinkedIn post, entitled, How To Use Failure To Your Advantage by Dr. Travis Bradberry. He is the award-winning co-author of the bestseller, Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

The suggested techniques make sense for anyone who thinks failure is an infinitely shameful experience. But is it? Does it have to be shameful and embarrassing?

Failure - when experienced as a potent form of negative feedback - can be accompanied by significant emotional distress and self-generated or externally-prompted behavioral modification. It may take the form of avoidance behavior and self-inflicted punishment, corporeal or emotional. 

After an encounter with failure, some decide that they are stupid, worthless and deserve to suffer. Such an outcome can do profound harm to one's quality of life. 

Perhaps failure and the negative impulses it prompts deserve reconsideration. 


What is "failure?"  

There may not be single or simple definition. But its connotation is easier to sum up. Failure is unacceptable. It is useless.

Failure isn't a real thing or act. It isn't even an accurate description of a thing or act. It is the label we attach to that thing or act. It is a value judgment backed with super glue.

Who would want to be labelled a failure or associated with one? The fact that it is so damned constricting makes it especially soul-killing and ego damaging.

But suppose that failure were not unacceptable. Say you suddenly realized that someone had slapped the wrong label on that thing or act. The wrong label!  (According to the newspaper, human beings make mistakes daily.)

So what happens when you detach the failure label? The cooties disappear. 

Now failure looks more like an error. Heck, it might even prove a roaring success. Isn't that what happened when Norma Jean Mortenson was relabeled Marilyn Monroe? 

In this paradigm, failure error is not the end. It is a starting point. It signals that there is something to be learned, a breakthrough waiting to be discovered. What was once apparently irredeemable and useless now signals profound value. Errors can be corrected.

Like the very best teachers, failure error encourages us to move forward. It challenges us and opens our eyes to opportunities we were unaware of. The more open we are to failure error, the faster we can grow. 

So is failure error the same thing as a challenge? Certainly failure error proved a plenty big challenge for me. When I finally reversed one of my first major failures errors, I gleaned a life-changing lesson. 

Once I could do that thing I hadn't been able to do before, it seemed that no one cared how long it had taken me or how often I had failed erred. All that mattered was that I could and that I wanted to.  

Overcoming challenges is what human beings were designed to do, given that human existence is chock full of challenges. There is, of course, something to be said for picking your challenges wisely. But wisely chosen or not, failure error is an essential and often undervalued educational aid. 

Respect each failure error for the value it delivers. Address it, then release it. Do not dally. 

There are always new and better failures errors dead ahead.


Thursday, October 15, 2015


Self-portraits As A Form Of Personal Inquiry

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Shiva's Half-brother in Arizona. Oil on wood. Diameter: 24 inches

If a picture is worth a 1000 words, by the time you have scrolled down this page, you will have absorbed an over 6000 word essay! (Talk about speed reading!)

Who is that? What does it mean? I keep trying to narrow myself down, but like Walt Whitman, I keep discovering multitudes. That's sorta scary. But I keep looking anyway. Am I  an artist? A blogger? Technical writer? Copywriter? Editor? Poet manque? Critic? Husband? Son? Consumer? Friend? Citizen? Client? NM Interiors employee? All of the above? Or merely some of the above? One at a time or all together?

If some artists make self-portraits as statements - say Rubens -, others make them as inquiries - think Rembrandt or Kaette Kollwitz. Sure, I love Rubens as much as the next paint addict. But most of the time, I think I fall into the inquiry camp.

Anyway, if you see another way of parsing the issue, send a portrait with a clarification.

2014 - 2015. Oil on canvas on
board with cloth and glass tiles. 12 x 12 inches

Mixed media on paper. 24 x 18 inches. 1981
Oil on canvas on board. 8 x 8 inches. 2015

Metaphysical Self Portrait. Acrylic on wood.
16 x 20 inches. 1993

What can this drawing say.
 Crayon & paper w/ cut-outs. 18 x 24 inches. 1991

For more clues, visit: 

Sunday, October 11, 2015


A love song to posterity, David & Roberta Chorlton.

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She is loam. He is clay. 
You - sand, me - dust.
Over there - nightsoil. 
Limestone, shale, mulch -
there is no waste.

Our was supplies your will, with joy.

Our ardour is like no other. 
Eyeless. Armless. Moist. Ripe.
We bed your seed, cradle your filaments, 
hug your root...

Absorb all deliciousness
with omnivorous delight.

Glenn S. Michaels
October 2015


Good advice is eating us alive.

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Play more. Learn this. Master that. Volunteer there. Contribute more. Save more. Read more. Arrive earlier. Stay later. Get more exercise. Spend more time with the family. Eat right. Eat less. Eat more often. Smell the roses! Invest wisely. Vote. Prioritize. Hurry! But be careful. 

I cannot keep up. Can you?

When the failure to keep up signifies being left-behind, the unjust consequence is, often enough, self-destructive thoughts and behavior.

The solution? Oh, please.

Instead of looking for a solution, try remembering. What was it that you set out to do in life? Have you done any of that recently?

Did you fall short? Falling short isn’t failure. It is how we know that we have something more to learn; it means another chance to grow. 

Why waste your good heart and mind listening to negative internal and external voices?  There isn’t another person on earth capable of walking the exact same path as you have. Not one.

By the way, have you remembered to thank the marvelous folks who helped you along the way? What about the big meanies – the nasty people that forced you to prove them wrong? Have you stopped to appreciate the incredible people who have chosen to challenge themselves on paths parallel to your own?

Must you really be the first or the fastest? Isn’t the point just to make yourself the master of your circumstances? To own them (and discard them) as opposed to being overrun by them?

Hello! Because of you, the lives of untold thousands have more meaning. You listened to their ideas. You ate the food they helped make possible, travelled to places that they built. You listened to their music. You purchased, used and benefited from the results of their hard work, their commitment. And now you have done the same for me.

You are terrific. Don’t get over it.

Photo: Two of six figures from Auguste Rodin's Burghers of Calais (1884-95). 

Glenn Scott Michaels
October 2015