Who is your failure hero?

Prince, of course, has been on my mind. It’s great to have heroes who show us what is possible – who shine like a beacon blazing a supernatural path*.

But I’ve been thinking — it’s also good to have heroes who show you what it looks like to stumble. Who blaze a trail of shit so you can say, hey, look at them – they made an ass of themselves, and I love them anyway.

So today I would like to encourage you to think about someone whose failure inspires you. Someone who has done something messy or ill advised or wrongheaded or ridiculous —  and despite all this, or maybe BECAUSE of it, they spoke to you.

For me, one of my failure heroes is Neil Young. He has many beautiful albums, but he also has some terrifically bad ones. One my favorites is Sleeps with Angels**. Half the songs on that album are transcendent and beautiful, and the other half fall flat. I don’t know why, but this is what makes it my favorite. It makes me feel like I know him. It lets me into his process. It lets me appreciate the easy magic of the beautiful songs even more.

Another hero for me is Jean Auel, the author of the Clan of the Cave Bear series. No disrespect to her, but each book is like 800 pages long, the characters repeat themselves, the moral lessons are easy to spot  and there are long, flowery, detailed sex scenes. I hope it doesn’t sound like I am criticizing her books because I LOVE them. I love that they exist in the world exactly as they are. They resonate with me and fill me with delight even as I am aware of how clunky they are.


(This is not the first time I’ve asked, what would Ayla do?)

Is there someone or something like this for you – something ridiculous or shlocky or embarrassing that you love?

Study it, and take some lessons from it. What challenges could you take on from your hero?

For me, I can think of a few:

  • I could make an album of bad songs
  • I could go to an open mic and accompany myself on the 3 chords I kind of know how to play on guitar
  • I could sing covers of only the bad Neil Young songs
  • I could map out a novel of my ideal fantasy world
  • I could create a character who is a stand in for my ideals
  • I could let myself write a blog post that goes on way too long and says the same thing over and over
  • I could add a terrible sex scene to that post
  • Or I could come up with a series and every post in that series is a variation on the same thing. Like I could make this a series – the Failure Hero series – and just keep writing the same post over and over

What ideas do your failure heroes inspire for you? I would love to hear! (And if you want someone to help you embrace failure like the glorious hero that YOU are, contact me to set up a navigation session. It’s my offer of support and encouragement as you set out on your journey.)


* of course, it’s also good to remember that Prince did not feel like everything he did was a success. Apparently he thought he made an ass of himself in this incredible moment with James Brown and Michael Jackson – whereas I see someone effortlessly taking command of the stage and transforming it with ridiculous, sexy confidence. You never know how people are responding to what you think is a huge failure.

** this is weird: I am writing this in a coffee shop, and as I paused to gaze off into space and decide which album of Neil Young’s was my favorite, Razor Love came on.


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