10 Ways To Feel Like A Failure Forever

10 Ways To Feel Like A Failure Forever

1. Set unrealistic goals. Make plans to lose 50 pounds before your high school reunion. Write three novels this year. Begin exercising AT LEAST an hour every day, beginning tomorrow. Double your income. Get your mom to stop being such a nagging harridan. Whatever someone else took thirty years to achieve, make plans to do it in one. Then, when it doesn't work, wallow in that failure until the next unrealistic goal setting.

2. Set stupid goals.
Take an honest look at your life and compare it to someone on TV. It could be a rich and beautiful celebrity in the slam on her latest drug charge, it could be the star of a reality show where contestants compete to see how many Trichinae worms they can eat before suffering a perforated intestine. Promise yourself that you will match the performance of your new role model before the beginning of summer. That way, even if you succeed, you fail.

3. Dismiss your successes.
"If I were a REAL writer, I'd have a novel done by now, not just an anthology of fantasy, horror and lit-fic." Whatever you do, DON'T celebrate anything. By denying all successes, even the initial ones, you habituate yourself to deny ALL successes. Perpetual failure!

4. Question your own decisions. Once you've set a price for that anthology, let the doubts gnaw away. Did you set it too high, thereby shutting yourself out from any chance of wide sales? Did you set it too low, thereby devaluing yourself as a writer? Constant fretting will suck the joy out of everything you attempt, helping you to achieve that eternal state of "I suck."

5. Only listen to critics.
The world is full of people who are more than willing to tell you that you did it wrong, whatever "it" is. If you want to feel like a miserable failure forever, embrace these people. Hang on their every word. Go back and change what you did to implement their specific criticisms, if possible, again and again to change it back and forth among the conflicting criticisms. Remember: it can always be improved, so nothing is ever finished. And if you never finish anything, you can feel like a failure forever.

6. Only listen to friends.
Don't you deserve some love and support? Aren't you a valuable person? The fact is, by insulating yourself from the harsh truths of the real world, your little bubble of friends and supporters can create whole new realms of misery for you to wallow in. If you never even TRY to compete, it's fundamentally impossible for you to win anything at all. That's instant failure right there, a bone-deep kind of failure that, paradoxically, feels like success... at least until you see your friends start to actually succeed.

7. Do only one thing. By focusing all of your energy on one endeavor, you adopt what scientists call "social tunnel vision". This makes you incapable of conversing with other people about topics other than your own narrow specialty. If you work hard at it, you will become incapable of even understanding subjects other than your own. If you become exceptional at it, you will regard anyone who is not utterly passionate about YOUR subject to be a mouth-breathing wanker, and your condescending attitude towards the world will reflect this. You will be the failed, lonely little king of the tin-pot kingdom you've made for yourself.

8. Ignore your body.
Eat nothing but crap and never break a sweat. Never, ever exert yourself physically. This will give you less energy, less stamina and poorer health. That way, every single thing you do will be harder because it will take more effort. Soon, nothing will be worth that much effort, and you will berate yourself for being a useless slug. Failure as far as the eye can see.

9. Ignore your mind.
Avoid deep thoughts and people who have them. When it comes to politics, religion, music, or any other topic, settle on a position and don't let yourself stray from it. DO NOT get into rational philosophical discussions with people who hold differing (or opposing views). That kind of thing inevitably causes you to think. In terms of feeling like a failure, this one is subtle. You can go your entire life thinking you're OK, but then, when the end of life approaches, BOOM, you realize that you've never examined any of your beliefs. Terror sets in as you live in anguish, wondering if you've been a failure all your life and didn't even know it. A classic.

10. Spend all your time wondering if you are a failure.
The great thing about this question is that, if you ask it in the right way, the answer will always be "yes". There is always something you could have done better, faster or sooner. In a 28,000 word publication, you might have a typo or a stray comma. At a party, you might tell a joke that falls flat. LET THESE FAILURES DEFINE YOU. Focus only on what you did wrong, even if it represents less than 1% of your overall performance. Don't ask yourself, "Am I a failure?". Instead, ask yourself, "Am I perfect?". If the answer is "No", then the answer is "Yes", and you will feel like a failure forever. Congratulations!

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. I'm a MASSIVE fan of #1. Most unrealistic goal I've ever set myself? "Develop telekinetic powers".

  2. Bitter medicine but all the more healthy for reading it. I think I've been guilty of everyone of these at SOME point in my life, but you error, you learn and you move on.
    Good post.

  3. I am, like, the King of #3! I just got a pro-rate publication and am at least 2/3's of the way through the novel, and I feel like I haven't done jack this year.

  4. Very well done. I would also add listening to the inner doubts that decide tot alk to you in the wee hours of the morning. They always give you the best advice. Always.

    It also would've been humorous if you had only 9 entries in your Top-10 list, but that might've been too meta. #nevergofullmeta

  5. why are you always talking about me?

  6. @ Icy: "Develop telekinetic powers" I tried to do that, too. Almost had it.

    @ Monica: Knowing what you're doing wrong is half the battle!

    @ John: Ah, the old "nothing is ever good enough". ONe of my personal favorites.

    @ D. Paul: I never met a meta I didn't like. 8-)

    @ Paige: Spooky, isn't it?

  7. I understand so Much after reading this post, Tony. I scheduled myself to solve all the world's problem by my 30th birthday (1980) and now I can see why I didn't. It's because I'm a failure.

    Great post and a lot that I recognise.

  8. Great points. I'm now dashing off to read something about how amazing I am, otherwise I might as well kill myself. :P

  9. How is it you know my every single thought as my birthday is approaching? ;-)

  10. I think I've gotten really good at #8. If I start working on something and gotten really into it, I forget to eat, stay up later than I should, and then wonder why I feel like crap.

    Oh wait, I just realize that by saying how successful I've been at #8, I've actually FAILED to feel like a failure! Damn, I suck.

    Thank goodness you've come along to give me step by step instructions to feel like a failure. I'll be sure to check this list often, so I don't forget your wonderful advice. :D


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