Failure, but so what?

Mon 21 – Sun 27 March 2022

One of the big aspects of last week was me feeling that in many ways I am a failure. That currently and in the past, in many different areas I have failed. But I have also been trying to reconsider this from other angles to explain to myself that isn’t the total truth. And then to try and challenge myself that failure is not always something to be feared, resented, or perhaps even avoided.

What has caused this feeling of failure?

One thing has been my annoyance with the arrangements for an external event next week – lots of good preparation and then the goalposts have moved. But also when I am sleeping having dreams about things going wrong in the past. And then themes that have come up from a book I have been reading. Finally, I suppose it’s the general world situation. The fact that we are at war in Ukraine whilst right-wing homophobes and transphobes continue to operate around the world.

The pressure to succeed

Modern life tells us success is everything. The right job, salary, house, car, partner, family, pets, body, savings, pension, relationship, sex – all these are things that we ‘need’ to have. But it ain’t going to happen and we have to learn to live with that. Yes we will all have some success in our lives but we will also have failure. And if that’s going to happen then we need to accept it, move on, learn from it. So we failed on stopping Putin invading Ukraine but from that perhaps will arise a world order where we deal less with neo-fascist and authoritarian regimes.

Failure is inevitable

But perhaps the key thing is that failure really is inevitable. Ultimately we all fail in that we die with regrets for things we have and haven’t done. Perhaps on our death bed, we will look back on a ‘good’ life. But we will all think things could have been better in some way. Someone suggested writing a thing of all the things you won’t do before you die and learning to accept that. Not a bad idea.

Death

Health and Efficiency

Mental health

I suppose my feelings around failure could be interpreted as mental health issues. Yep I’m a depressive. And I’ve been on anti-depressants for years – probably for years to come. But I don’t think there is such a thing as perfect good mental health. Indeed, my feelings are that mental health sits on a spectrum like sexuality. And we can move backwards and forwards along that spectrum according to events happening in our lives.

A good thing is that I honestly don’t think I will ever sink as low as when I had my breakdown nearly 20 years ago. Suppose I’m a failure in reaching that point in my life full stop. But I’ve come back from rock bottom and I know that I won’t go back there. That is success in a way.

Tired man asleep or despondent

Time to myself

Weekend was good in that I spent some time with mum for Mother’s Day but I was also able to spend time on my own at Dave’s flat as he was up visiting his mum – see below. Sometimes I need time alone. Perhaps it gives me time to think too much and come up with silly ideas like my current one around being a failure. But it also feels beneficial in the way that turning a computer on and off is often the best way to deal to stop it malfunctioning.

Gym

Did manage to get to the gym last week on both of my non-work weekdays. Two good sessions even though I know I ain’t ever going to have a washboard stomach or be an adonis. As usual, particular focus on my legs to strengthen the muscles to help counteract the osteoarthritis in my knees. The failure of a body deteriorating by age though that comes to us all. I am focusing on getting lower with my squats. 18 gym sessions from the start of the year = £28 per session.

Weight

Meanwhile weight shows no significant decline – details here. I’m a failure when it comes to keeping my weight under control. But I know I haven’t got the physical and mental ‘space’ at the moment to deal with it. And weight increase as we get older is pretty much inevitable. Indeed, perhaps one failure can lead to success. Perhaps when I have completely ‘failed’ by not working any more then I can turn my attention to really trying to lose weight.

overweight black and white cat

Books and Reading

Just one book finished last week.

‘Serotonin’ by Michel Houellebecq

I do wonder if all middle aged men feel like a failure. Because we can never live up to the image of what we should traditionally be – warrior, father, protector, leader. We all need to reconcile this with physical failure and modern life. That is very much what Houellebecq’s books are about.

He is French (no shit) and controversial. His writings are political and very graphic. One of the things he does fairly address is that man is an animal and his sexual drives underpin much of the way he thinks and feels.

This book is about a middle-aged man with a bad relationship who decides to just disappear. I think all men think of doing this at some point in their lives. He then tries to deal with his current life failure by going back to revisit his past. This is unsuccessful in that relationships cannot be resurrected and he even meets a friend who is in a similar situation and commits suicide. Meanwhile our ‘hero’ continues to take his anti-depressants.

pills

Family and Friends

Bad dreams run in the family

Lots of action on the family front. Mum is OK though her negativity can be wearing at times. I think it’s hard to get old and be positive. She also suffers from really bad dreams. Indeed, I had some weird dreams last week. About the life I used to live in Brighton – there was fun at times but also dark patches particularly related to drink and drugs. But it makes me feel like a failure that I had to give up everything and move away from there to recover. However, that ‘setback’ led me to re-meeting Dave and that was a very good thing in my life.

woman lays awake in bed

Mother’s Day

Big plan was to take my mum out for fish and chips to this nice restaurant near Dave’s flat in Westminster. Dave was at his mum’s but it was gonna be a nice chance for me and mum to catch up. But another failure. Couldn’t happen because engineering works on the Tube made it really hard to get to and from the restaurant. Oh well, we’ve re-scheduled it for another week when there are no Tube problems and if Dave’s around then he can join us.

But I did spend most of the weekend with mum. Dave was up at his mum’s. Nothing major on Sat but on Sun I gave mum a card I knew she would like – flowery with verse. Plus I gave her some expensive room fragrance from a posh shop. She had told me a while ago that Dave had bought her this in the past and she loved it. Pleased to say she was very happy with her card and gift, indeed she got a bit emotional.

Dave and his mum

His mum is getting better. She’s been in hospital most of last week dealing with her knee problems. They managed to get her up and mobile with the plan to move her to a respite centre. But then Covid broke out on her ward… Long story short, she stayed negative and was discharged home on Friday. But how far she will be able to leave her first floor flat without a lift in the near future is up for grabs. Dave was going up for Mother’s Day weekend anyway but his weekend turned to be one in trying to work out what will happen in the future.

Phyllis

Not much on the ‘Friends front’ apart from a call with Phyllis. Outlined to him my frustrations but we also had a laugh. His big thing is the bad weather that has hit his part of Spain during March. Lots of rain including rain saturated with Saharan sand. Be good to see him when he comes over to London during June and July.

Work Life Balance

Perhaps I’m not a failure in that I’ve learnt to survive just working part-time but perhaps I am a failure in that I really don’t think I can cope with working full-time again. As well that I’ve given up on climbing the career ladder and I look forward to retiring (or semi-retiring).

Some clear successes at work particularly getting a new pro-bono project started next week. And I suppose we should offset success and failure. But also failure in that for my big external event next week, I am being messed about. Me and my colleagues have worked hard to get everything in place to then be told that we aren’t going to be able to do what we had planned.

The fear of being judged

I know we shouldn’t let others judge us. But I do feel I will be judged on this presentation/workshop. I want my colleagues to feel it has gone well. And I want to impress the people we are presenting to by inspiring them and make them think. So when stuff is happening that is effectively out of my control, then I am left feeling frustrated. But who knows, it may all go swimmingly. And if it doesn’t such that it’s a ‘failure’ then I will just pick up the pieces to move on.

The importance of changing your environment

I have said before how much I love hybrid working. Cutting out wasteful commuting and office distractions. Though still going in for face to face events when really useful – not like during the lockdowns when we were literally stuck permanently indoors. But my comfort in working from home needs to be tempered with the importance of a change of environment.

Friday I had to go into the office for something that turned out to be not very useful but not very time-consuming. However I realised I really did enjoy the walk into Soho. And then the walk back with a couple of coffee-stops. Checking and dealing with emails there and back so still doing work. But it was good (and productive) to have a change of environment – must make sure I do it when I need to and not just stick myself in a laziness rut.

Cup of coffee

Tech for Good

Centre for Acceleration of Social Technology

Getting ready to start the new pro-bono project we are doing with CAST. This is a pivotal agency supporting non-profit organisations to do digital better that I was pleased to help set on its way with funding several years ago. I love it when an agency or organisation establishes itself such that people can’t imagine life without it existing. Having said that, all organisations need to constantly innovate to survive and create products that people want to use.

Other case studies

The penultimate week of our project with Citizens Advice building an internal and external referral product. It’s been great and all the team have really enjoyed themselves as well as learnt from it. Also worth noting that you can read case studies on the digital discovery projects I previously worked on with The Felix Project and Sylva Foundation.

Green Software Foundation Global Summit

Really excited that I’ve landed a good speaker for the UK leg of the Green Software Foundation’s Global Summit. He’s a recommended one well known to other green technologists. Won’t say who it is just yet, wait till it’s all confirmed. It will be an open meeting so hopefully plenty of people from outside Thoughtworks will join as well.

Spider plant

Personal Development

One of the areas of my life that I don’t feel a failure is with my ongoing commitment to language learning. I’m still squeezing in Duolingo lessons wherever I can – ideally at least one lesson everyday. And I feel like I am creating foundations that I will be able to build on further in the future. Some very good news last week that I even managed to branch out from just Spanish and also did some German and French.

Perhaps failure in not doing other personal development particularly around improving my technical skills. The no-code angle has not gone forward. But again foundations. And perhaps in the future, with more time, I will be able to mine this seam properly.

Sustainability

A week of unseasonably pleasant warm weather – about 18 degrees during the day though cold at night. Do wonder if this is a sign of climate change though. Indeed, record high temperatures have been recorded in both the Arctic and Antarctic.

Continuing my theme of offloading stuff in my life, I took a load of books up to the Notting Hill Exchange on Tues. Decided to take the cash over the vouchers this time. Lot less in value but I’ve already got vouchers left to spend from the previous time I took books up there. Failure in that over my life I have definitely spent so much on just buying stuff whereas that hard earned money might have been used much more wisely.

recycling symbol

Art and Culture

I am very much a failure in not being able to carve out time each week to devote to art and culture. Nothing major to talk about for last week. As with so many things, my eggs are all being stashed in the basket that I will have time to do this once I am semi-retired.

My new guilty TV pleasure

But I have found a new guilty TV pleasure to replace the much missed ‘Bargain Loving Brits in the Sun’ and to sit alongside my love of the soaps Emmerdale, Doctors, Coronation St, Eastenders. The new programme I am really into is ‘The Drop’ on BBC3.

Basically it follows the well worn pattern of programmes like The Apprentice where a group of people compete and one by one they are deemed failures till the last one left is the successful one. The Drop is all about finding the person who can be a new leader with their label in designing clothes for hip and trendy young people – street wear. A wonderful mix of inventiveness, innocence, cunning, and pretentiousness.

The Week Ahead

  • Looking forward to getting this event out of the way on Wed. Whether success or failure, it will be done and I can put my energy onto other things
  • Dave comes back
  • Our project at Citizens Advice finishes – end of an era. There’s a day in the office for the Thoughtworks and Citizens Advice teams on Tuesday. A non-work day but I’m going to try to pop in.
  • Two sessions at the gym to look forward to
  • Carrying on with reading The Magician and Shadowlands as well as a new book Nod. The latter is a sci-fi book about when people lose the ability to sleep.
  • Postponed fish and chips with mum and Dave?
  • Need to arrange a catch-up with my old colleague Irene

And Finally…

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