An Observation on Failing at Life
There are things I am really not good at. Try as I might, I suck. Sports is one of those things. I was never a good athlete. It’s why I like golf. I suck at golf, but I can hit balls and drink beer and enjoy myself without worrying about letting down a team. I recognize I am not good at most sports and thus try to avoid (not always successfully) pointing out other people’s failures in sports.
I will never forget the first time I went to a gun range and shot a gun. It was only three years ago at the height of the death threats I was getting for not supporting Trump’s election. After people showed up at our home, I figured I needed to learn. I picked up the gun, a Glock 19, and fired ten rounds from 20 yards away — not feet, yards. All ten shots were within no more than two inches of the bullseye. I had never tried it before and kept at it. I enjoyed it because it was something I was good at. I’ve actually gotten worse as my confidence has built up. Funny how that works.
I bring this all up because I know people get mad when I say someone has failed at life, but I think it is true. The question is what people do with that failure. Do they try to improve, do they realize they need to go in another direction, or do they get bitter? One’s outlook on life really depends on which option is chosen.
For six years, I was a lawyer. Then I started writing, got on television, and then fell into radio by accident. Had a local talk show host not gotten arrested in a drug raid, I would never have gotten into radio. It was completely providential. For the first time in my life, career wise, I found myself doing something that I not only enjoyed, but that I realized I was pretty good at.
I was never a good lawyer. There were bits and pieces of being a lawyer I was good at. I could write discovery requests better than most. Much of my firm would come to me and recruit me to help compile requests for production of documents and interrogatories. I could write contracts that were easy to read and air tight. But I was terrible at litigation and hated being a lawyer. I love radio and have had amazing opportunties from filling in for Neal Boortz to Herman Cain to Rush Limbaugh.
What I have noticed, as my career has risen, is that the people who offer up the most criticism are the people who have failed at radio. I see people all the time who presume I must be doing some sort of act to keep my job because they could not keep theirs. They presume I must be lying to my audience about my beliefs and portraying myself differently elsewhere. They posit themselves as experts on the angles and assure others they know what I’m doing and it is all a stunt.
Honestly, the secret is being myself and it seems to be something they failed at. They presumed they must act a certain way and instead of just being themselves they became someone else. Y’all, I’m a 42 year old fat really white guy in Middle Georgia. I’m not the smartest guy, but I am willing to work hard and be honest and myself. Life is too complicated to try to be someone I’m not.
In the course of the 2016 election, I really did hurt my career by opposing the President. Having been on TV five days a week at CNN, I wound up rarely being on Fox. I could no longer be asked to fill in on national talk radio shows not because the hosts were mad at me, but because we all knew what the audience would do and might still do if I showed up on their shows. I lost my TV contract (but, in fairness, I told them first I was ready to go). My career suddenly felt stagnant. With visions of a national talk show in my head, I found myself doing evening drive time on a single station and not being able to fill in for most national shows.
What was kind of funny was to see a number of failed talk radio hosts try to get my job the week after the election in 2016. Not only did they not get my job, but almost to a man they no longer have a job. And yes, they have joined the ranks of my biggest critics. If only I did something some way differently or changed a position they are sure I could do better and since I won’t, surely they could do better. Hilariously though, while I have been a bit frustrated at what I felt was career stagnation, my radio show is actually going so well my station pushed me to sign a three year extension on my contract. The podcast listenership is in the hundreds of thousands and now, more than anything, I realize I’m a victim of my own success. It’s rather hard for my employers to move me out of evening drive time given how well the show is doing. (That said, I’d still like a three hour show in addition to my current one)
I lay out all of this for you to make a point and so that you understand the presuppositions by which I make this point.
There are people who do fail at life. Some of them grow up, change, start afresh, or work damn hard and turn failure to success. Others, however, get angry, blame others, and embrace the consipracy. It is why people like Alex Jones do so well. When you’ve failed at life and are not mature enough to accept it is your own fault, you invent an elaborate conspiracy that everyone else is out to get you. When it can’t be your fault, it must be someone else’s. Your old boss, your ex, the party opposite your own, the government, or a shadowy organization must be out to destroy you. Pretty soon you start believing the lie because accepting the truth is too painful. It’s only a few steps away to believing the Alex Jones conspiracies that everyone and everything else is out to get you and only you see the truth. Gnostic cults do well selling vulnerable failures access to secret knowledge that explains everything.
You see the guy succeeding where you failed and it must be that the audience is too stupid to appreciate you or the guy who beat you is a fraud. Failing at life and not owning it means you have to make someone else own it. In fact, one vocal critic of mine failed repeatedly and came away concluding it must be the stupid listeners, the format, the stations, etc. Bitterness led to an inability to accept his own failures.
As an aside, I cannot tell you how often I encounter people trying to break in to talk radio who decide they must create a character instead of being themselves. They all do their impression of Rush Limbaugh or what they think a conservative on the radio sounds like instead of just being themselves. Radio is such a personal medium that the inauthenticity comes across easily.
The real danger of our pundit culture, of which I am a part, and of social media is that the press and all of us all too often amplify as credible voices the people who are nursing grudges, have chips on their shoulders, or otherwise have axes to grind. Social media has provided a way for people who have failed at life to succeed at being bitter. That will not end well for them and it harms the rest of us when we absorb their animosity inspired spin as fact.
This is not a partisan issue. It happens across ideology and party and is part of the human state. It happens in politics, technology, medicine, sports, and everything else. There really is no hard and fast rule, but there are a few questions we should all ask ourselves.
Are we being ourselves or putting on a show for others?
Are others passing blame to avoid their own failures?
Are we doing that?
Lastly, just pay attention. Life is terribly complicated, difficult, and rarely fair. But individual matters are rarely as complicated as a sinister conspiracy, a false flag, or an anonymous deep state out to get you. And if you have failed at something, if your advice, wit, and wisdom is not directed at helping others learn from your failures, it’s probably best to rethink things. Life is too short to be bitter and life is too transparent to believe a conspiracy has aligned against you.