I Am a Failure

Week 4 of the Pessimist to Semi-Optimist Project

If you are a first born or live in an immigrant family, there is immense pressure to be successful at school or in career. Never mind family, when you open the news you see celebrity culture and nouveau rich people who all become overnight successes via the internet. And they might be younger or the same age as you!

Sometimes when you strive to take steps towards a goal over and over again without success, you will start to feel like a failure at one point. How many times can you fail again with nothing to show for your efforts before getting super depressed?

If you feel like you are a failure, then you  must have a comparison point. There is a theory called “Relative Deprivation” in which  human beings tend to compare success and failure to our immediate surroundings instead of a larger picture. This is why author Malcom Gladwell thinks that being a big fish in a small pond is better than being a big fish in a big pond. He gives an example of really bright students going to elite schools and feeling like failures since there are even smarter people there versus bright students going to mediocre schools and becoming top students. He states – “the Big Pond takes really bright students and demoralizes them.”

Brain-xercise Week 4: Lowering Expectations

For me, I feel like a failure because I’ve been writing for a few years now and am not a bestselling author. My books are not in bookstores because I can’t afford to get them there and my manuscripts have been rejected by publishers. However, I have done a number of things as a writer and I write because I want to make a difference in the world. I’m disappointed because I had high expectations of success which has not materialized. When I think about writing as a journey, I have fulfilled my original purpose of sharing my work with the word. All the mistakes I have made I can learn from. Otherwise how else would I know what to do next time?


  1. Think about why you are a failure and who you are comparing yourself with
  2. Think about what you have done about the goal you want to achieve
  3. Think about why you wanted to strive for that goal in the first place

Semi-Optimistic Thoughts: Lower expectations and celebrate what you have already achieved! Fretting & worrying about giant goals is a waste of time. Strive towards your goals with small steps that make you feel good. All mistakes made are lessons for your life journey.

According to Malcom Gladwell‘s theory then, I should aim to reach as many readers as I can in the ‘small pond’ of indie readers and be happy with that. Monetary compensation would be great, but at the end of the day it’s the whip cream on top of the sundae.

I know that becoming a bestselling author is pretty far fetched. I don’t want my obituary to say, “she tried and tried but never made it to that list in the NY Times!” Screw that, it would say “she wrote awesome stories that touched people and was a fantastic person who was obsessed with green tea Kit Kat.” Hm…I think I have to write my own obituary and put it somewhere safe for people to find!

Song I’m listening to: “Happy” by Pharrell Williams

Here come bad news, talking this and that (Yeah!)
Well, give me all you got, don’t hold it back (Yeah!)
Well, I should probably warn ya, I’ll be just fine (Yeah!)
No offense to you, don’t waste your time
Here’s why…

(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

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