Brain Pickings

Famous Creators on the Fear of Failure

By:

Embracing what is, or how to fail like the world’s most successful creatives.

While failure may be an integral prerequisite for true innovation, the fact remains that most of us harbor a deathly fear of it — the same psychological mechanisms that drive our severe aversion to being wrong, only amplified. That fear is the theme of this year’s student work exhibition at Stockholm’s Berghs School of Communication and, to launch it, they asked some of today’s most beloved creators — artists, designers, writers — to share their experiences and thoughts on the subject. While intended as advice for design students, these simple yet important insights are relevant to just about anyone with a beating heart and a head full of ideas — a much-needed reminder of what we all rationally know but have such a hard time internalizing emotionally.

When you put love and enthusiasm into your work, even if people don’t see it, they realize that it is there, that you did this with all your body and soul.” ~ Paulo Coelho

It is very important to embrace failure and to do a lot of stuff — as much stuff as possible — with as little fear as possible. It’s much, much better to wind up with a lot of crap having tried it than to overthink in the beginning and not do it.” ~ Stefan Sagmeister

What it comes down to is accepting the fact that many ideas and many solutions that we provide to our clients may always, or sometimes, fail. The trick, I think, is to A) accept it and B) have the courage to accept it and move forward with what you believe in.” ~ Rei Inamoto

But my favorite has to be Milton Glaser:

A characteristic of artistic education is for people to tell you that you’re a genius. [...] So everybody gets this idea, if you go to art school, that you’re really a genius. Sadly, it isn’t true. Genius occurs very rarely. So the real embarrassing issue about failure is your own acknowledgement that you’re not a genius, that you’re not as good as you thought you were. [...] There’s only one solution: You must embrace failure. You must admit what is. You must find out what you’re capable of doing, and what you’re not capable of doing. That is the only way to deal with the issue of success and failure because otherwise you simply would never subject yourself to the possibility that you’re not as good as you want to be, hope to be, or as others think you are.” ~ Milton Glaser

Explore all the videos on the exhibition site and feel free to share your own recipe for dealing with failure in the comments below.

Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner:





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount:





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

New Dawn, New Day: Introducing the New Brain Pickings

By:

Today is a big day here, for today is the day that Brain Pickings sheds a skin that never quite fit and is reborn into what it always aimed to be, visually and editorially.

I started Brain Pickings in 2005 as a text-only newsletter going out to eight people. At the time, I was in college full-time and working three jobs to pay my way. But I wanted to take it online, so I took a web design night class, sifted through several hundred hours of tutorials, and taught myself just enough design and code to be able to wrangle WordPress, still somewhat of an early-adopter enigma at the time. Over the next six years, Brain Pickings found its audience — folks like you and me with a cross-disciplinary curiosity for what the world has to offer, creatively and intellectually — but remained visually stunted. The irony of the disconnect between a heavy editorial focus on design and a layout that looked like a sixth-grader designed it, with their feet, never ceased haunting me. But I had made the decision very early on not to sell advertising on the site and instead fund it out-of-pocket, relying almost entirely on the generosity of readers, so I never had a budget for a “real” designer.

(If you ever wondered, all those banners on the site were pro-bono for causes, nonprofits and social enterprises I believe it and wanted to support by giving them share of voice, in lieu of being able to give them money — friends and fine folks like Holstee, Creative Commons, Do The Green Thing, Longreads, HappyRambles, TOMS Shoes and Dead SULs. I’m still brainstorming ways to keep supporting these guys, but it can no longer be at the expense of a clean and fluid reader experience.)

Today, I’m nervously excited and incredibly proud to unveil something years in the waiting: An honest, clean design that better reflects the heart and soul of Brain Pickings. Forgive the string of superlatives, but they come from sincerity: I’m unspeakably grateful to the infinitely talented, patient and generous Josh Boston for the beautiful work — please bake him cupcakes and give him some love on Twitter.

Lest we forget, this what Josh had to start with:

(Yes. Exactly.)

And here’s what he turned it into:

As a child of the mid-noughties, Brain Pickings adopted many of the decade’s conventions-turned-cliches. So today, “we” are also dropping the Royal We, which is to writing style what grungy textures and dot-rays are to design style — a worn and unnecessary adornment. Back in the day, I felt like the first-person plural made the tone more inclusive and Brain Pickings sound like a bigger operation than it was. But the truth is that, for the past six years, it’s been almost entirely me, writing into the wee small hours of the morning, with very occasional help from these good people, to whom I’m also very grateful. From now on, however, all articles will be in the much more human first-person singular, authentic to each writer’s byline. So say I.

Lastly, I owe two big THANK YOU’s for the generous in-kind support by MediaTemple, who swooped in to save the day when our… argh, my… this is going to be a harder transition than I thought, heh… old web host booted Brain Pickings with virtually no warning for “having outgrown [their] capacity,” and the lovely MailChimp, who have kindly taken on the Brain Pickings weekly newsletter.

And so it goes — a new dawn, a new day. I hope you enjoy it and here’s to many more years of cross-disciplinary interestingness.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Fictional Interviews with Luminaries

By:

What near-death experiences have to do with Shakespeare, Jesus and Isaac Asimov.

In 1997, iconic writer Kurt Vonnegut pitched an idea to New York public radio station WNYC: He would conduct fictional interview with dead cultural luminaries and ordinary people through controlled near-death experiences courtesy of real-life physician-assisted suicide proponent Dr. Jack Kevorkian, allowing the author to access heaven, converse with his subjects, and leave before it’s too late. The producers loved the idea and Vonnegut churned out a number of 90-second segments “interviewing” anyone from Jesus to Hitler to Isaac Asimov. The interviews — funny, poignant, illuminating, timeless, profoundly human — are collected in God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian, a fantastic anthology playing on the title of Vonnegut’s 1965 novel, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, some of the best cultural satire of the past century.

During my most recently controlled near-death experience, I got to interview William Shakespeare. We did not hit it off. He said the dialect I spoke was the ugliest English he had ever heard, ‘fit to split the ears of groundlings.’ He asked if it had a name, and I said ‘Indianapolis.’” ~ Kurt Vonnegut

Thanks to the wonderful Letters of Note — which you should be reading, or else you’re seriously missing out — here’s Vonnegut’s original pitch to WNYC:

Image courtesy of WNYC via Letters of Note

The interviews offer a priceless blend of cultural commentary and existential human preoccupations by way of comedy, from politics to the meaning of life, in what’s perhaps best-described as TED meets SNL.

I asked this heroic pet lover how it felt to have died for a schnauzer named Teddy. Salvador Biagiani was philosophical. He said it sure beat dying for absolutely nothing in the Viet Nam War.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut

Relentlessly entertaining and (un)surprisingly insightful, God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian is absolutely fantastic and a rare fiction treat even for those of us with a strong general proclivity for nonfiction.

Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner:





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount:





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.