Failing Miserably

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It’s easy to get down. It happens to the best of us. I’m not even a "best of us" and it happens to me all of the time.

Currently, I’m failing miserably at:

  • Reading a book every week. I’m doing my best to keep pace, but it’s late August and I should be at 32 books read and I’m only at 26 and struggling.
  • Losing ten more pounds. I’m exercising a few times a week and trying to avoid things like sugar, white bread, fried foods and other fatty foods, but I go through phases and I often cave in to temptation (which immediately leads to self-loathing and regret).
  • Finishing my book proposal. The book proposal for the follow-up to Six Pixels of Separation was due this past holiday season. I’ve got the book title, sub-title, chapter concepts and both my literary agent and book publisher excited about it. All I have to do is write the chapter abstracts and it’s done… yet I’ve been idle on it for months. To make matters worse, I’m excited about the concept too!
  • Responding to every comment on the Blog. I made a promise to do my best to respond to every Blog comment. For a while, the getting was good, but I’ve dropped off. I jump back in and commit to making it happen, then it fades away and doesn’t happen. I read Mark W. Schaefer‘s Blog or Gini Dietrich and it reminds me of how bad I am at doing the whole back-and-forth in my Blog comments. I’m often embarrassed by my lack of presence in the comments.
  • Community service. I used to give nearly one-third of my time to community service. I was involved in many charitable and community-based groups. As work and home life evolved, I’ve retracted from the many different groups and organizations, and haven’t been active at all in the past while. Yes, I’ve taken on the role of Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Canadian Marketing Association, but I’m also interested and passionate about doing something to help those in immediate need. I miss my community service.

I’m failing miserably at a whole bunch of other stuff too (no need for family, friends and colleagues to remind me about them in the Blog comments below!).

The funny thing about failing miserably is how obvious it is to the individual, but how ridiculous it looks to others. I’m sure many people would be thrilled to find the time to read five books a year or even have the problem of a Blog that gets enough comments to require a response. Pushing that further, I’m sure there are many people reading this who are recipients of some of the services that the charitable organizations I’ve volunteered for dish out or would be thrilled to have the physique I have (though, I doubt that ;).

"The grass is always greener."

Let it come as no surprise that the greatest marketing and advertising preys on people’s self-image. It does an amazingly powerful job of pointing out perceived flaws and how their product or service is the cure-all. Beyond that, human beings have a natural temperament to believe that someone else’s lot in life is better than theirs. As an agency owner, ridiculous deadlines, temperamental clients, trying to deliver breakthrough creative and inter-office politics is par for the course… not just in my agency, but in every agency. The key to overcoming this stress/struggle and the key to not letting everything you think you’re failing miserably at is to add a dash of real-life perspective into your diet.

What does this look like? 

Here’s a personal tip… In the past short while, I’ve had many people close to me deal with personal and health situations that have involved kids being sick. Really sick. If you ever think you’re failing miserably at something, think about your local children’s hospital. Think about all of those kids, with all of those medial issues and what goes on in there – day and night – without end. Think about what these little kids are going through then think about what their family friends and going through. Reading another book, losing ten pounds, finishing a book proposal, responding to some Blog comments, dealing with a frustrated customer, grappling with a new idea, and having the fortunate position to be able to volunteer for a community organization doesn’t really seem like any sort of real problem that should be considered "failing miserably" at if you’re not one hundred percent at every single waking moment.

Does it?


  1. I love your “bring it back to reality” kind of posts and you have great points. But, I can’t seem to get past the errors. Would you rather know or not?
    Logically, a book a month would be 12 books, I think maybe you meant a book a week.
    Also, you probably want to be losing 10 lbs rather than loosing 10 lbs. Loosing 10 lbs would be a rather neat trick and I’d like to be able to do that too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. You know, sometimes you really need that bucket of cold water – slap in the face to appreciate what you have – and not be so hard on yourself. I wasn’t sure where you were going when you started, but you really got me in the end!
    My support to those children, parents, family, friends that are mentioned. Thank you for such a life-affirming post.
    And please, no need to reply.

  3. In life we always tend to look at “what we have not” rather than “what we have”.
    Can entrepreneurial people, high achievers, ever be satisfied and content? Or would this just be counter to their make-up?

  4. I was thinking of something completely different to write until I got to the last paragraph of the post here. Those sorts of reminders of what we really have in life are exactly what we need every now again. They give renew our ambition to give 100% to the things we’re doing and they encourage some self-reflection.
    When it comes back to thinking about all the different stuff you want to do though, I think a opportunity those reminders have is to remind you to get your priorities straight. If you just tried to do all of those things your doing even harder, there’s no guarantee they’ll all get done, or that you won’t burn yourself out.
    I’m betting that on top of this list of things your failing at, you must be doing pretty well at others. As a whole that list must be pretty long.
    Tying it back to that real-life perspective, what really matters?

  5. Reading – 26 is still very impressive than most people. I was happy to do 1 every two weeks, but I have fallen off that pace. I’m only at 10 for this year so far. So
    don’t worry about it. How about going the audiobook route?
    Fitness – get rid of your scale. Measure your success by how well your clothing fits and how easily your able to do your daily physical activities, such as walking, gardening, playing with kids, bike riding, etc.
    Book proposal – your fans are excited as well.
    Responding to Comments – it’s nice to receive a response, but I don’t think anyone would be upset if you didn’t respond.
    Community Service – maybe there’s a way to tie CMA into your other passions? Kill two birds with one stone.
    Anyway, you’re right about kids’ health. If your kids don’t have health, or even you don’t have health then none of this matters.

  6. Thanks for sharing this, Mitch. It is really easy to be hard on oneself when they are struggling with personal goals and resolutions. And while they may seem trivial to others, they are not to you.
    What I like about this blog entry is that it is a true personal reflection and it reveals to us readers that you are indeed human and reminds us that we are not alone at “failing miserably” with our own personal goals.
    Perhaps some of your goals are in need of a revision given your new time constraints. It doesn’t mean you have failed, it just makes the goal more realistic and easier to achieve.

  7. You know, Mitch, it’s funny you say this because when I look at people like you, CC, Chris Penn and others, that’s when I feel like I’m failing miserably!
    It’s like, “Look at what those guys do/have done/know/write,” and then I feel like a failure!
    I guess it’s all relative, like you say.

  8. I struggle with those ‘miserably failing’ issues on a daily basis, and I appreciate your candor regarding yours. I’ve also had a really, really sick kid and your reminder of what a parent and their child go through is also appreciated. Everyone has their own ‘story’, and I think this is a great opportunity for us to stop and reflect on the good, forgive ourselves for the ‘failings’, create realistic goals to mitigate the guilt :), and most of all to treasure and savor each moment we have with those we love.
    Seth, I read your blogs every day and am thankful that you keep THAT commitment!

  9. Oops, can’t believe I called you Seth, especially since my son who was sick’s name is Mitch!!! My apologies…with the realization that I just failed miserable!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. i too have a goal to read a book a week. but like you, i am at 26 for calendar year 2011 [you must have read the same julien post i did 18 months ago…].
    but then again, i know people who haven’t read 26 books…in their lifetime…

  11. I would say that feeling you are failing miserably much of the time is what makes you successful Mitch. There are not many people who walk around saying ” I am perfect” who continue to hit life home runs, certainly none we want to hang with.

  12. I am also failing miserably. At the same time I got more done recently by setting some specific goals – even though I failed at reaching them. As I think about your article and about seriously sick kids (and their families) I realize I’m failing fortunately and should be ashamed for being miserable about it.
    Tbanks for sharing a few of your failures as a wake-up call and reminder of how fortunate anyone is to have the health and opportunity to set and strive for worthwhile goals. Failures can be overcome.

  13. “The funny thing about failing miserably is how obvious it is to the individual, but how ridiculous it looks to others.”
    I constantly remind myself of this. I too, have made lists to describe how I am “failing miserably” and need to improve. But, in contrast, I also make a point to remind myself of my accomplishments, successes, and the things for which I am grateful. Balance is key!
    Loved the post. Thanks.

  14. You’re totally right. For some reason we always set the bar for ourselves at a higher level and therefore fail to reach that level often. And only illness and/or misery grounds us again. Maybe the Bhuddists are smarter than we are when they explain that desire is the source of more misery than happiness. And when they try to teach us to live in the moment. In a mindfull way. This summer I had some talks on this subject with a teacher in Bhutan. The lessons are easy to understand, but hard to apply in ‘real’ life.

  15. Thanks for the post. It’s hard to do good work. Take a deep breath. Hug your family. Shake it off and keep at it. From where I sit you’re doing great!

  16. Here is the only approach I have found to keep me sane: “Am I balanced?” And by that I mean, over time? I fail at some goal on a daily basis, but I have to look back and examine overall I am in balance — am I spending enough time with my family? Am I spending enough time with self-improvement? Relaxing? Giving back?
    Then I make tweaks and try to focus on the areas of my life that need some attention. Thanks for sharing your personal side. You mean you’re not a cyborg content producer after all? : )

  17. I don’t know if I feel like “misery loves company” or “thanks for the kick in the butt”…it’s both!
    It’s always pervertedly comforting to know that the fears, apprehensions and “failures” you’re feeling are felt by others. But it’s perspective-gaining when the cold water shock of “it could be so much worse” is thrown upon us.
    Thanks for both. Cheers! Kaarina

    Thanks for your transparency in this post and your professionalism in every post.
    I love being able to recommend your blog to people knowing that they will find helpful, quality, advice and not be shocked by language or inappropriate, time-wasting fluff.
    BTW, I first listen to Six Pixels… on CD while driving in the car and got so excited I had to pull over and replay some things you said. Thanks again — “By reaching for the stars, you might just catch the moon.”

  19. You hit the nail on the head with your comment about children in the hospital. Almost 19 years ago I spent 3 weeks in the hospital while my 9 week old baby recovered slowly from open heart surgery and for years thereafter I measured other issues in contrast to that. Lately I’ve gone back to stressing over all the things I’m failing to do well and I appreciate your reminder to put things back in perspective.

  20. Mitch, I read the first half of this post and was like “he’s being way too hard on himself,†and then read the second half, and it really puts life and work into another perspective.
    What you didn’t include is how you are succeeding wildly. How you teach everyone in your community (this blog and your clients) several times a week. How you make us see things on a whole other level. How you challenge us all the time.
    And you also make it hard for us to keep up sometimes…lol
    But please do one thing for us and we’ll forget all your transgressions…write that book as fast as you can so we can have something great to read, soon.

  21. Mitch,
    Thanks for having the courage to give us a peek behind the curtain.
    Only because you dare to do, and strive to greater things, are you able to fail so miserably at such a high level.
    Theodore Rosevelt said it best:
    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.â€
    Keep on, keeping on.

  22. I have a solution to #1 and #2 on your “Miserably Failing” list. Just download the books you want to read on, put them on your iPod, and listen while you run or bike or go to the gym. You can “read” 5 new books a week and you’ll lose the 10 pounds in no time because you’ll want to keep running to be able to keep listening.
    And solving #4 on your list right here and now: You don’t need to answer to this comment. You get a pass ๐Ÿ™‚
    Thanks for sharing this. Feels good to know that you too have items on your to-accomplish-list that move to the bottom time and again.

  23. Okay, so thanks. You’re a human! ๐Ÿ™‚ So good for the rest of us to know because I’m fairly certain you don’t seem to any of us like a failure.
    I fail daily, and I’m bolstered by the Chinese admonishment (proverb):
    “Fall down six times, stand up seven!”
    Maybe it’s my age but I have come to terms with the fact that I am not going to suddenly grow wings, fart some glitter and develop a fairy-like ability to adeptly manage every blinking, urgent, important thing that lines up in my path.
    I have a 3 year old. I know better.
    As an excellence junkie, there’s probably no one who will condemn me for my weakness and failure more than I do myself. At the end of the day, though, I must remind myself that living in condemnation and guilt over my failings is wasted energy that produces nothing but depression. That’s no way to live.
    My failures,attempt to follow me like gloomy shadows (along with my gigantic butt) on a daily basis. They call to me “You forgot! You didn’t. You should….”. But now, rather than trying for perfection I do my best to rise up and stand again, resolved to improve, focus ahead — prayerfully selecting my activities based on their importance, doing the best I can to matter in life and work.
    The people who judge us or critique us, or attempt to pile on bigger expectations and magnify our failures and flaws typically do so with selfish gains in mind. When because when push comes to shove, these folks don’t really like other people succeeding much. Therefore, they cannot help us. Screw ’em.
    It’s the people who encourage and celebrate our strengths ones we want around, in all of THEIR humanity. We are made stronger in our weakness, especially when we stand united. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for saying what so many of us are feeling.
    Maybe to mushy? It’s late. Blame it on lack of sleep.

  24. killer post mitch joel. best post of the year on 6pixels! bravo.
    living a life of gratitude for what we have and what we’ve been so incredibly blessed to receive will make us much, much happier. seriously, anyone living a middle class life in the west is still way better off than 90 percent of the world. we are rich & yet we whine so much.
    oh, 1 request. i’m also fading on my book reading…would love to see your top 10 of the summer reading list up on 6pixels when u get a moment. am in need of inspiration!
    again, awesome stuff and very authentic. thanks much! we need more posts like this.

  25. Mitch in the Ditch,
    Grinding your way to perfection may be a great method for innovation, but not as helpful when it comes to being happy. I’m assuming that is your end game with that list, the opposite of being miserable. Even when you reach your goal for the month do you experience a level of contentment or relief, followed by fear and dread of mounting yet another monthly offense?
    What would happen if you switch the focus instead on one behavior on your list that you know will make you feel happy. Maybe something where you experience flow or some form of joy and do that first, then the rest of the list may fall into place. Or you may find some of the list may grow less important.
    A little dose of Dan Heath Shrink the Change followed by HAPPY – Trailer – YouTube. Love your work so don’t get too happy. I still need that weekly podcast.
    [email protected]

  26. El matrimonio es un paso importante que una persona da en su vida. Uno de los temas importantes para algunos de estos individuos es la entrega de las alianzas, o como entregar el anillo de compromiso. La entrega de anillo de compromiso es uno de los mejores días de tu vida y se merece un evento único y especial.Conoce las ideas más originales y románticas.

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