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"This is a book about failing: messing up, disappointing others, letting ourselves down and ruining our lives. This is far from a dry, academic exercise or psychological treatise. It's a letter written by one set of desperate humans to another."
True freedom comes from the knowledge that we can get through the worst stuff life throws at us. We can fail profoundly and still find things, in a way, bearable. But we are taught so much about how to succeed. All the energy and inventiveness of our time is focused there. In fact, no one wishes to speak about the less likely, but far more important, possibility that we will witness the destruction of our carefully made plans.
How have other people managed not to mess up as badly as we have? Well, we might be indoors, crying and hitting the walls or biting our hands, but outside, children are going to playgrounds, birds are singing, families are laughing, youngsters are planning fifty years of success, bartenders are wishing their customers a good day and there will be parties to attend at the weekend. Off course, we feel terrible about ourselves, but people react different when they experience failure and they don't necessarily do it visibly. This may be another reason why we are fooled that everyone else is fine.
"Failure may seem like the exception when it's being experienced - when we are in a profound crisis - but let there be no misunderstanding: messing up is what humans do and have been doing since the start of our adventure on the planet.
Success requires a rare combination of talent and stubborn grit and relentlessness. We may fail, but not because the lack of vision or talent, but because our hearts are too tender. This sensitivity may stop us from going against all odds, just to reach our goal.
For a long time in our lives, most of us lack a reputation of any kind. Our name is simply a blank. No one knows how to feel about us, even the internet is silent about our identities. This is a momentous freedom - though it's rarely appreciated. Until one day we make a mistake - perhaps not a very large one, but just like death, reputational extinction can happen in an instant. There can be rumours about us, or even articles in the newspaper. Then, we want or even begin to protest. We may try to explain the truth to others, but we will soon realise that our efforts are entirely worthless.
"People aren't getting us wrong for sensible reasons. They are generally doing it on purpose, to have a bit of fun because their own lives are filled with boredom, suffering and humiliation. They simply believed a public opinion when we were supposedly marvellous, and they are happy to continue to believe in it. It's just easier."
For most of our lives, if we are lucky, our minds do roughly what we want them to. They come alive and fall asleep as we command; they go in the direction we steer them towards. Until, for some of us, our minds become our enemies. They can be instruments of torture. When our mind breaks down, we find ourselves unable to work, go out in public or build new relationships. We start to feel drained or that nothing we do is good enough. The importance of this is that it doesn't happen because of the so called outside world, but because the mind through which we perceive it, have turned against us.
We normally don't notice ourselves wanting far too much when it comes to admiration, money, acclaim. It happens - as it tend to with sins - slowly and inperceptibly. Because when we are proud, we stop noticing how we humiliate others. Then there's no wonder why we build up a store of anger in those people around us. So, we have enemies - there is blood in the water - and when we make a mistake, they will be ready to destroy us. To speak in more psychological language, it's very easy to ruin our lives - and as no one really tells us how not to, most of us at some point eventually will.
This book was like a friend to me during the hard times, so I want to give you the closest introduction to the story as well. I hope you find these ideas interesting and helpful. In short, please believe as this book says: "Self-help fulfils its true promise when we are being helped to find a way out of despair."
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