This was the sagacious advice given to me by a gentleman I dated a few years ago.
We had an odd relationship which defied classification–he fell somewhere in the gray area between client and boyfriend. We spent time together when he was in New York. I grew tremendously fond of him as I got to know him better–he was one of the most talented, fascinating people I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting. He’d made a vast fortune through his creativity and industry. He didn’t care about money, but he’d made a ton of it–a ton of it. The guy was a visionary, and I’m not just throwing that word around. Sort of like Steve Jobs, except that he wasn’t a total fucking asshole. He was very warm, actually, and he had a great sense of humor.
Our relationship developed to the point where I could talk about my life and ask for his advice about things. One time, over dinner, I told him that sometimes I’d still get stage fright when speaking in public or addressing a classroom.
Even though I had lots of experience.
Even though I knew the material.
“I hate getting nervous!” I cried. “When am I going to become more confident? Why do I never know when I’m going to get a case of the nerves?”
He looked at me. “You must expect to be humiliated.”
“It happens to everyone who takes any risks in life whatesoever. It cannot be avoided. It is going to happen sometimes. You will humiliate yourself.”
This wise man’s zen-like acceptance of human frailty and suffering provided me with a terrific insight. I was so impressed by You Must Expect To Be Humiliated that I printed it out and hung it on the wall in my office for a while, like a personal motto. It made me feel so relieved.
“I’ve humiliated myself and been wrong so many times!” said this incredibly successful individual. “Wait till you humiliate yourself with other peoples’ money and jobs at stake! It’s not fun!”
Sometimes in life, you’re going to fuck it up. Sometimes you’re going to crash and burn.
But you can’t let the fear of that stop you from trying. A person can waste their life avoiding pain. And not just pain, but the possibility of pain.
It reminds me of alcoholism, in that it does one no good to hate oneself forever for all the bad things and poor decisions one committed when one was drinking.
I am not advocating that humiliation and failure are character-building experiences–I’ll leave that horseshit sermon to the Church and the State. They definitely can be, but mostly I think they’re just demoralizing at best and traumatizing at worst.
But they cannot be avoided. They are the collection booths on the great toll road that is life (is that a bad metaphor?).
I bring this up because I’m about to go to a job interview. I woke up early and prepared and prepared all day yesterday and there’s literally nothing else I can prepare for. I was freaking out about the possibility of freaking out.
I got to thinking about what my wise friend told me over dinner.
All that I can do is the best that I can do. There is no more. And if I blow it–which, realistically, is improbable–well then, I blow it. So what. I’ve done it before and I will do it again, unless I plan to hide in my room through life and drink my fear away.
Here is my MASCOT, Beaker! In this video, Beaker is humiliated whilst singing “Feelings” for the crowd…but he doesn’t run away! He sticks it out! And his friend, Animal, comes to help him!
P.S. Mathematician is coming by this afternoon! YAY!