Success is built on failure. Lots of failures.
Some years ago, when Naropa University of Boulder was still tiny, experimental Naropa Institute, I took poetry classes there. Allen Ginsberg himself declared my efforts a bit lame. He was being nice — and he wasn’t, always, nice.
(That’s why I became a life coach. Maybe.)
I also took some classes from Anne Waldman, another Beat poet, who said this memorable thing to us one time:
Perfect rhymes are unbearable.
That was probably the most important lesson I learnt at Naropa, though I didn’t think so right away.
By then I’d already given up the idea of poetry because it made waitressing seem like robber-baroness-hood.
And I didn’t need Anne Waldman to tell me that exact rhyming schemes = doggerel.
But I did need someone to make me drink a slow-acting poison that would eventually destroy the idea that there’s something actually desirable about perfection. Instead of something dead.
I see now that’s what Anne gave me. An idea that eventually became a revulsion for the notion of perfection, the good of which I had never questioned. Because isn’t perfection the goal? Isn’t that what we’re here for?
As I say, it was slow-acting. I was still actively bingeing back then. But I now find the notion of “perfect” anything unbearable. Perfect rhymes, perfect house, perfect eating, perfect life.
Perfection is deadly to binge eaters and overeaters. If you think your eating’s got to be perfect, you won’t have room to experiment. And no room to experiment can mean only one thing: A diet. (AKA the express to Crazytown.)
We’ll never learn to eat in a non-crazy way if we don’t have permission to fail — because success is not built on getting it right. Success is built on failures.
Lots of them.
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