Baseball: A Metaphor For Life And Failure

I was listening to a podcast this morning, like I do, and the guests were discussing creative careers and life.  The old analogy that the world’s best baseball players fail far more than they succeed was brought up.

I’ve heard this analogy before, and I’ve probably even given to someone at some point as advice, but something about it struck a chord with me today.  It could be that I am slowly trying to push myself into trying new things and projects.  It can be very disheartening to try something and see it fail spectacularly.

The idea that the best person to ever play baseball, someone considered to be of divine heritage, or someone who has pumped their body full of so many chemicals that they are nearly unrecognizable as human, is still going to fail more than 6 times out of 10.  Imagine that, these people do crazy things to their bodies and their futures to still fail more times than they succeed.  They are considered to be Hall of Famers, the best that ever was.  In the world of baseball, if you actually succeeded even half the time, you would be considered a cheat.

Now to take this analogy and apply it to your life, it makes those failures and setbacks seem less terrible.  At least that’s the point of the analogy.

Baseball also has one of the longest seasons of any of the major sports, 162 games and that’s not even counting the post-season.  Football is 16 games in 17 weeks, once a week and you even get one week off.  Baseball is almost every day for 4 months.  Players and teams know they are in for the long haul, you have to keep an eye on the bigger picture, the larger view.

You can’t let yourself be dragged down because of one or two failures.  You have to get up and keep trying.  Take the 162 game view.  Not only do the best players fail more than half of the time, but the best teams lose a third or more of their games in the season.

This thought struck me this morning and I was going to tweet it, but obviously I had more to say on the matter.  Now, if I can only manage to follow my own advice and not get down when a podcast (listen to Fanboys Talking, shameless plug!) doesn’t get the listenership that I was hoping, or that a story I’m working on doesn’t come out quite right.  They can’t all be home runs, today I struck out but tomorrow I get another at bat and another chance.

Facebook: A Wretched Hive of Scum and Villany

Is there anything more polarizing in this modern world than Social Media, especially Facebook?  Most of us use it, most of us don’t like everything about it.  Between random people you went to High School with or coworkers, our friends list is an eclectic mixture.

Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with it.  I’m a liberal atheist and I feel I’m pretty open about being a liberal atheist.  For the most part, I just try to post fun things and keep things light, but every now and then reality will come in and I’ll post about some current event or political item.  This brings out all the people who have opposing viewpoints and the shouting matches begin.  No one’s opinion is changed, but everyone just walks away mad.  It’s an angry circle jerk of opposing views resulting in nothing but awkwardness.

I’ve wanted to close my Facebook account on numerous times, but the site for all it’s problems does have some positives.  There are people who I do generally give a shit about on there and it’s a great tool for keeping in touch with people and family.  That works especially good for me since most of my family is thousands of miles away.  But there are still those trolls and people with extreme opposite viewpoints who will just shout you down.

Now an overly opinionated asshole like me, I can’t just walk away or let it go.  For some reason, I have this “Can’t let the terrorists win” attitude when it comes to Facebook.  I hate feeling like I was forced out by a small percentage of assholes.

I am on nearly every social media platform.  I have a really boring job and I like finding different ways to amuse myself.  I use twitter the most, and I think I have a pretty good handle on who I follow and who I don’t on there.  Twitter for me is a kind of geeky stream of consciousness.  I have a tumblr, and while I still don’t think I fully know how to use the site I have fun with it and mostly post just fun geeky things.  For some reason, I can’t keep my damn mouth shut on Facebook.  Every now and then I just have to spout up about some random event or thing and my problems start all over again.

I think my biggest problem is that I’ve never gone through and culled my friends list.  I’ve unfollowed some people, but I really need to get in there and clear some people out.  That is my first step.  Secondly I need to find a better outlet for the frustrations of daily life.  Instead of posting something controversial on there, I need to channel that into my writing.  (If only I had a blog site where I could post stuff?)  I also need to stop going down to where the trolls live and poking them with a stick.

Writing on here is a much better focus of my energies than some passive-aggressive post on Facebook.  I think we can all agree that those are the worst.

Stuff I’ve Written – Live Your Dreams (Part 4)

In the past, I’ve shared some of what I’ve written here.  It may be good, it may be terrible, but I need to get it out into the world.  If you like what you read, let me know.  I’ll be posting the stories in installments, and I will eventually put up a pdf of the full story.

Live Your Dreams (part 4)

Time slowed to a crawl once she left.  John stared at the clock.  He had never noticed how long a minute can be.  He turned on the TV after 20 minutes.  The time had passed so slow it had felt like an eternity.  Flipping between a trashy talk show, garish game shows and the far too melodramatic and overacted soap operas.  John had enough and turned the TV off.

“I need to get out of the house.  A change of scenery and some fresh air will help.”  He said to himself.

A drive in the car helped.  John ran a few errands that he had been meaning to do today anyways, and stopped at the used bookstore on the way home.  Picked up a murder mystery for himself and the latest supernatural romance series that Stephanie loved.  As he drove home he started to feel the dark clouds forming in his head again.  He felt he was returning to a haunted house.

“I’ve got a decision to make.  I can either go home and wallow in self pity or I can do something about this and try to make the best out of it all.”  John looked at himself in the car’s rearview mirror.  In public he tried to not talk to himself, at least not as loudly.

Walking in the door, he remembered the declaration he had made the other day and how he had felt afterwards.  “I’m home now, instead of wallowing and giving up on everything, I’m going to get to it and take advantage of the freedom I have now.”  He announced to the empty house.

Putting away his few purchases he went into the study, sat down and immediately started working.  He wrote at a steady pace until later that evening.  Stephanie texted him that she was on her way home.  John went into the kitchen to started dinner.

After dinner they relaxed on the couch together.  “I made some really good progress today, and I feel like I know where to go with it all. It’s almost to the point where I would let you read some of it.” He said with a smile.

“Wow! I might actually get to read what you’ve been doing. I’m touched.” She said.

“You haven’t peaked have you?” He said, suddenly nervous.

“No honey, I haven’t. I know that this is a very personal thing to you. It’s like spying on someone when they are naked. It’s just not right, it’s an invasion of your privacy. I know you’ll show it to me when you are ready to show it to me.” She smiled.

He breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you.”

 

He focused on being positive.  He tried to not dwell on the negative.  This began a regular ritual for him.  He saw the morning shower as a way of cleansing himself of all the negativity.  Emerging clean, positive and focused.  It worked. He was able to keep writing, keep his productivity up, and kept himself focused. Not every day was a good day, but the good days far outweighed the bad days.  He continued to work.

 

4 weeks passed and Stephanie began to see a turn in John again.

“Hey what’s going on in there? Are you okay? You’re looking a little funny.” Her voice was concerned.

“I’m okay, I’m just depressed. Everything has been so great that I feel like I’m a new person. I’m afraid that I’m being selfish though.  Bills are coming due and I know it’s going to be tight with only your income.  I worry that I’ll become that moody depressed person again once I start the job hunt.” John was worried.

“Oh sweety, it’s not like that.  Things are a little bit tight right now, but I’ve picked up a few extra shifts.  Plus we have our savings and your unemployment.  We will be okay” She took his hand reassuringly.

He looked into her eyes.  “Thank you.”

“For what? I’m just telling you things you already know. A few of them you’ve even told me.” She said.

“You’re right, but I just wanted to thank you for being the strong one right now and keeping me together. I don’t know where I’d be without you right now.”

“Well you wouldn’t have any clean socks, you’d be eating too many frozen dinners, and you’d probably still have that ridiculous soul patch.” She teased.

 

A week later he completed his first draft, and it was time to let Stephanie read it.

“I have a surprise for you after dinner.” John was cooking spaghetti.  Stephanie swore it never tasted the same when she made it.

“You’re cooking for me and I get a surprise. Should I be excited or scared? What did you do?”  She joked.

“Nothing bad, I promise. I want you to read my first draft.”

“Really? I can’t wait. I know this means a lot to you. Now hurry up and finish cooking, I’m starving.” She left him in the kitchen to finish getting dinner ready.

After dinner he produced a print out for her to read.

“I typed it up so it would be easier to read and it helped me to fix a lot of the basic spelling mistakes and missing words.” He handed it over to her. “Also it’ll make it easier for you if you want to make notes of anything.”

“I’ll be gentle, I promise.”

“While you read, I’m going to distract myself with some video games. It’ll help keep me distracted if I’m trying to not get teabagged by a misogynistic 12 year old.”  John kissed her and went into the living room.

 

Two hours later Stephanie came in and sat next to him on the couch.

“Well, what did you think?  I want you to be honest.”  John put the controller down.

“I think you’ve really got something here.  It’s rough, your grammar is all over the place, but I think you’ve got something.”  Stephanie pulled him into a hug.  “I’ve made some notes, but I really think you should finish this and see what happens.”

Stuff I’ve Written – Live Your Dreams (Part 3)

In the past, I’ve shared some of what I’ve written here.  It may be good, it may be terrible, but I need to get it out into the world.  If you like what you read, let me know.  I’ll be posting the stories in installments, and I will eventually put up a pdf of the full story.

Live Your Dreams (part 3)

Monday morning. 6:45 am and the alarm starts beeping. He climbed out of the warm bed into the cold predawn darkness, and slowly made his way to the bathroom.  John went through the motions of getting dressed and trying to not let the job feel like a crushing burden on him.  The sooner he made it to work, the sooner the day would be over and he could be back home.

The day began normally enough, however things quickly began to change.  John saw several managers coming down and sitting in the cubes.  They never did this, something was going on.  He tried to ignore it, but it was too easy to get caught up in the buzz of rumours and speculation.  Word began to spread about layoffs.

‘It’s not going to be me, they need me, you can’t outsource this work and it’s too complicated to automate.’  John thought.

“Shit.”  It was Tommy from the other side of the cube.

“What? What’s going on?”  John stood and looked across the row.

“I got an email to meet with Adam in 15 minutes.”  Adam was their department manager.  “This can’t be good.  Not with what I’m hearing out of the other departments.  Did you get anything?”  Tommy slumped in his chair.

John started to respond, but was interrupted by his Outlook notification.  “I just got one.”

An hour later John and Tommy both walked out of the building, holding their personal items in a small box.

“Give me a call later this week, we’ll get together and have lunch or something.”  Tommy said as they crossed the parking lot.

“Definitely.  We can figure out where to apply to.”  John stopped at his car and put his box in the backseat.  “I didn’t even get a chance to warn Steph about this.  She’s going to worry.”

“At least you’ve got someone to go home to.  I think I’m gonna call Janice from our team tonight and see if she wants to go out.  We always seem to have fun together.  Don’t have to worry about HR making things weird now.”  Tommy waved and started towards his own car.

John sat in the car thinking of what he would do.  It was only 11:00.  Too late to surprise her with an egg mcmuffin.  She might still be asleep.

He drove home in silence, trying not to dwell on everything.

The house was still dark when he came home.  Stephanie was still asleep.  He moved around as quietly as could, but every sound seemed to echo in the house.  Sitting on the couch he took his shoes off and padded silently to the bedroom.  He stood in the doorway for just a minute watching her sleep.  She would complain that her hair was a mess and she snored, but right now she was a vision of beauty.  He leaned on the bed and kissed her.  She woke to his kiss, but quickly realized he shouldn’t be home.

“What time is it? Why aren’t you at work?”  Stephanie sat up in the bed.

“Well, I’ve got good news and bad news.  Which do you want first?”  He sat on the edge of the bed, pulling off his tie.

“What’s the bad news?”  She was worried and a little confused.

“I got laid off today.”  He looked down in shame.  “They let half our department go.”

“Oh no.  What’s the good news?”

“Nothing, I lied about the good news.”  He curled up to her on the bed, his shirt still half tucked into his pants.

“I’m so sorry, sweety.”  She pulled him close and put her arms around him.  “There is a little bit of good news though.”

“What’s that?”  His voice weak.

“At least you don’t have to go back to that soul crushing job anymore, and you can spend more time with me.”  She smiled at John, trying to cheer him up.

They lay in bed together for another hour before it was Stephanie’s turn to get ready for work.  John changed out of his work clothes, sat on the couch and stared blankly at the dark TV while she got ready.

“I want you to make me a promise today.”  She sat next to him and began putting on her shoes.

“What’s that?”  John said, waking out of his daze.

“I don’t want you to dwell on what happened today.  You said they let a lot of people go, so it wasn’t anything that you had control over.  I want you to take some time today and relax, cheer yourself up.”  Stephanie stood up and grabbed her purse.  She came back and kissed him.  “Find something that will make you happy.”

John managed a small smile and a nod.  “I’ll try.”

“Good.  Text me if anything else happens.”  She blew him a kiss as the door closed behind her.

Stuff I’ve Written: Live Your Dreams (part 2)

In the past I’ve shared some of what I’ve written here.  It may be good, it may be terrible, but I need to get it out into the world.  If you like what you read, let me know.  I’ll be posting the stories in installments, and I will eventually put up a pdf of the full story.

 

Live Your Dreams (part 2)

 

John was at work. This was meeting number 3 for the day and it wasn’t even lunch.  The fluorescent lights flickered and buzzed. The air conditioner hummed. The omnipresent soundtrack of daily life in the cube farm.

 

‘If I fell asleep in this meeting, I wonder how long it would take for people to notice.’ He thought to himself.  The manager continued to drone on, trying to make pointless corporate buzzwords and double speak sound exciting. This was another in a long series of updates that really had nothing to do with his job, but he had been put on the committee.

 

The manager was new, still very excited and gung ho. His soul hadn’t been crushed by the corporate machine yet. John thought that there must be some kind of psychological paper you could write tracking a person in Corporate America from exciting optimism at the beginning and see how long it took before they were another crushed soul.

 

“You are a very important piece of our company…” The manager continued on.

 

‘Now sit down, shut up and get back to work. Don’t question the system, just go with the flow.’ John added in his head. ‘No wonder people brought guns to work. The system will break everyone.’

 

John had to get out of here. Every day it gets a little harder to not just run screaming from the building. He saw everything as a facade. Fake walls separated the desks and cubes, pretend friends and fake smiles in the hallways. All of it hiding the soul crushing depression they were all feeling.

 

‘Stephanie wants me to work on my novel. She has seen the notebook with ideas.’ He thought to himself, focusing on her, on his life outside of work helped him to put the nonsense of work into a proper perspective.

 

“If you write your novel, you could get of that crappy job.” She told him when he complained about work. ‘So easy for her to say that, it’s another thing to actually do it.’ He thought to himself.  ‘Stop it John. You are being defeatist again. Stephanie would not approve of this attitude.’

 

“Focus on your strengths, and you can pull yourself out.” She had told him that back when he decided to make a serious effort at writing. He had begun repeating it to himself as a mantra every day to keep himself focused on what was important.

 

‘I can do this.’

 

“You coming John?” A new voice interrupted his thoughts, it was Tommy who sat across the row from him.

 

“Oh, meetings over, hope nothing important was discussed.” They shared a laugh as they walked back to their desks.  The job was not his favorite, and it was not his first choice.  However, he was reasonably good at it, and liked his coworkers. There were a lot of worse things he could be doing. Focus on the positive.

 

It was finally 5:30 on Friday, time to go home and not think about work until Monday morning. John made a promise to himself as he walked across the parking lot to his car, this weekend I’m going to get some work done. Come Hell or high water, I’m going to move this thing forward. He felt energized and ready to go.  Stephanie wouldn’t be home for a few hours so he had the time to himself. This was the worst part for him, he was so tempted by the TV, the internet or just relaxing with a book.

 

“No! I’m not going to waste this time. I’ve wasted too much time already.” John said to the empty house. He felt that since he had said it aloud that he had made a vow with some unseen force, and he was determined to stick to it.

 

He stuck to it and forced himself to just keep the thoughts going, keep the pencil moving, just get the words down. He was thinking like a sculptor, you don’t start with a statue, you have to shape and carve, build some sections up and tear others down. It’s a first draft, not a final piece. He kept these thoughts and images in his head whenever he started to feel like he was running out of steam.  It doesn’t have to be good right away, you have the talent to make it good. Stephanie’s words repeated in his head. He wrote until Stephanie came home. He finally stopped when he heard her come home.

 

“Oh no, don’t stop because of me. You seemed like you were really on a role there.” She said as he started to get up from the desk.

 

He got up from the desk and walked over to her. Immediately putting his arms around her and kissing her and leading her across the hall to the bedroom.

 

“What got into you?” She asked.

 

“What? It’s Friday and I’m glad to be home with you and off work.” He said.

 

“That’s not what I’m talking about. I haven’t seen this level of passion or excitement in you for quite a while. I don’t know what changed, but I’m glad it did. I was getting worried for you.” She sat up and looked into his eyes.
“Honestly, I don’t know what changed. I just made a promise to myself that I was not going to waste any more time. I was going to get something done, be productive, for good or for bad.”  He smiled.

Stuff I’ve Written: Live Your Dreams (part 1)

In the past I’ve shared some of what I’ve written here.  It may be good, it may be terrible, but I need to get it out into the world.  If you like what you read, let me know.  I’ll be posting the stories in installments, and I will eventually put up a pdf of the full story.

 

Live Your Dreams

 

The scariest thing in the world for any creator is the blank page. Staring back at you, waiting for you to fill it. You have to fill that space with your thoughts, your emotions, your very essence.  To fill that space you need to expose the deepest, darkest part of yourself, things you would never dream to share, and put them out for everyone to see.

 

John Miller dreams of being a writer.

 

John sits at his desk, leaning back in his chair, staring up at the ceiling.  A blank notebook open in front of him.  He had stopped trying to write on the computer. He said the monitor was hurting his eyes. Secretly, he felt the flashing cursor on the screen was mocking him.  This was where he placed himself everyday, forcing himself to squeeze blood from a stone. This had become less of a hobby and more an S&M session. The only thing missing was a leather clad women yelling at him.

 

“I wonder if I should get Stephanie the outfit and riding crop, I might get more work done” John said to himself with a laugh.  He had been at it for 45 minutes tonight, staring at the blank piece of paper, trying to resist the urge to pull up Facebook on his phone. His resistance was failing.

 

“I’ll do better tomorrow. I just need to unwind after my shitty day at work. My stress levels are too high tonight. Let me rest and recharge tonight and I’ll dive into it tomorrow.” John muttered to himself as he picked up his phone. “All the more reason to get out of this room, I’m starting to talk to myself.”  Leaning forward in his chair, he heard footsteps coming down the hallway.

 

“There is the artist hard at work on his latest masterpiece.” A female voice said from behind him. It was his wife Stephanie, home from work.  She had been working second shift all this month, so John had taken the evenings when he was home alone to work on his writing. Stephanie had been urging him to write more since she discovered his Creative Writing notebook from college. “Are you done for the night? Already?”

 

“Yes, I’m too tired to focus on anything right now” He got up out of the chair and met her in the hallway.

 

“You gonna join me on the couch? The Simpsons starts in 10 minutes.” Stephanie had already changed into her sweatpants, her blonde hair in a ponytail.

 

“How long have you been home?” He asked, suddenly embarrassed.

 

“Long enough to hear you making excuses. It’s okay, come join me.”  She said with a slight teasing smile, leading him to the other room.  “I grabbed a pizza on the way home.”

 

John wanted nothing more than to just collapse on the couch with her and veg out in front of the TV until it was time for bed. Heck, it’s the new American Dream: an HDTV and a comfy couch. Even better if you can share it with a beautiful woman like Stephanie.  She had supported him through so much, always pushing him to follow his dreams and to not accept his position as another cube drone. Always telling him that his writing wasn’t something he should hide, he should share it with the world.  For the last 2 months he had been trying to get this story started. What did he have to show for his hard work and frustration? The spare bedroom was now his “study” and he had a very nice leather bound notebook full of doodles.  His self esteem dipped every night when he gave up still no closer to actually finishing anything.

 

He plopped on the couch beside her, grabbed a slice of pizza and was quickly entranced by the bright and shiny colors on the TV.

 

“Are you in there? Or should I get you a bedpan and a drool bib?” Stephanie woke him out of his shame spiral.

 

“Yes, I’m here, just…” John flatly replied.

 

“Just…? Just what? You kind of trailed off there. Tell me what’s going on in there.” She sat up and turned to face him.

 

“Am I that obvious?”

 

“Well, it’s not just you. It’s the giant flashing neon sign behind you as well.”  She was teasing him, but there was truth behind it. He couldn’t hide his feelings from her, she knew him too well.  Friends always said they must’ve been able to read each other’s minds.

 

“I feel like a failure. I go in there waiting for lightning to strike and I don’t even get a tiny spark. The more I think I about it the more I feel what ideas I do have are slipping away.” He confessed to her.

 

“Oh honey, you aren’t just going to magically make a masterpiece come out in one night. It’s a long hard process. Get in there and focus on keeping the pencil moving. That was what my professor in college always said ‘Keep the pencil moving and let the story form itself.’ It doesn’t matter if the story isn’t good right now. You have the talent to make it good.”

 

“So you’re saying I have a talent for polishing turds?” He said with a small smile forming and some of the light returning to his eyes.

 

“Haha, you think you’re so funny.” She stuck her tongue out at him. She knew that he was masking his insecurities with humour, but it was still good to see him smiling. “You’re always so hard on yourself, I believe in you.”

 

“Thank you for being my support and kicking me in the butt when I need it.” He leaned over and kissed her. “Now if you really want to have fun with that tongue of yours..”
“Oh really now, what did you have in mind…” She smiled a mischievous smile and kissed him again.

Job Stress and Hope for the Future

I’ve been under a lot of stress recently.  It’s mostly the usual stuff, bills, jobs, not eating right or sleeping enough.  However, my job has been increasing my stress level a lot recently.

I work in a call center.  For the most part I have a pretty easy job and it’s a fairly relaxed environment.  Back in March I changed positions, I went from a role dealing with general public customers to a role dealing with agents who sell the product.  I was getting extremely burnt out on dealing with the customers.  It was a lot of factors that lead me to look for new opportunities and openings, and I jumped at the chance to switch departments.

I was pretty happy with the change for a while, until I got asked if I wanted to take customer calls part time as part of a new cross training program.  I really wanted to say no, but I have a work ethic that got drilled into me early.  Also, in this current climate it’s helpful to be the guy who has multiple talents so they are less likely to downsize you.  Full disclosure, I had agreed to be a part of this cross training program back before I had actually switched departments.  I was burned out and wanted something new.

That’s where I am now.  Taking calls that I want to take part of the day, and then halfway through my day switching and taking calls that I was trying to get away from.  It’s pushing my already high stress levels through the roof.  I’m now at the point where I will do almost anything to not go to work.  Everyday going into work just seems to be difficult.  I try to take my mind off of work as often as I can, between calls I read twitter, facebook or read a book.  I can actually feel my emotions swing downwards when the phone beeps.

This is not a healthy way to live.

I really want to get out of this role I’m in, but I kind of feel trapped.  While I was one of the guinea pigs for the new program, they are now pushing everyone to go through it.  My former teammates on the customer side are learning about agents, and my new teammates get to learn about dealing with the customers.

For quite a while I’ve had this feeling when I go to work, that I don’t belong there.  I’m used to not feeling like I belong.  I’ve lived most of my life as an awkward outsider looking in.  I’ve started looking for new jobs, but most of the “normal jobs” in the area are just different variations on what I’m doing now.

That brings us to the point of all this.  This is one part a way for me to vent off some of my frustration and negativity that doesn’t burden my poor wife with more of my emotional baggage.  At the same time I’m hoping that by putting my thoughts, feelings and wants down and sending them out, it will solidify the message and spark a response from the universe.

I’m not a religious or highly spiritual person, but I do believe that what you put out will come back to you.

What do I want?

I want a job more in line with my interests.  I love geeky things, so getting paid to talk, write and discuss movies, comics, games and the latest geek news would be perfect.  But that’s not all I enjoy.

I don’t want to be rich.  What I do want is the freedom from living paycheck to paycheck.  Enough money to pay my bills and have some left over.

That’s what I want.

Now, I’m not expecting the perfect job to just land in my lap.  I am taking steps to help make this happen.  I’m taking my writing more seriously.  I’m trying to get posts up on a regular schedule over at http://www.FanboysTalking.com and I have a novel that I am going to finish.

That’s where I am now.  Just getting all of this out has made me feel better already.  It’s a start.