Success

Sometimes I feel like a failure. There's really no reason for me to. I'm not rich but I have everything I need. I own a house and my family's in good health. My wife and I are self-employed and could earn much more money if we wanted to put in the time. We just prefer to have that time for each other and our children.

I'm not famous. I wouldn't mind fame if I could turn it into money. In fact, I wanted to be famous when I was a kid but I've changed my mind since then. I heard an actor say that being famous was really neat—for the first week. I think I understand what he' was getting at. When I'm on my bicycle, I dread seeing someone I know because I have to say "Hi." Hi isn't such a big word but I'd rather just daydream. What if I had to say "Hi" to everyone? And that would be only the beginning.

I'm not powerful and I have no desire for power over other people. I find the very word offensive when it's used lightly on TV. The responsibility of teaching my children what they need to know in modern America is not something that I find easy. Who would want to carry a burden like that for strangers? I exercise the greatest restraint even in giving my children advice and never encourage them to pursue an activity unless I would do it myself without ambivalence. To me, people who seek power seem malevolent. Either that, or they are complete fools with no understanding of what they are getting into.

I guess I'd like to have more money. That's the first thing I associate with success. I missed my best chance for being rich a long time ago. I should have pursued the Dan Quayle strategy and arranged to have millionaires for parents. But I'm not sure that this strategy would have been wise. I know of a number of millionaires' sons and they turned out to be workaholics, laboring 50 and 60 hours a week. Maybe they feel like failures.

This business of being born rich can be very tricky. Look at Jane Fonda and Ted Turner. Her father was a superstar and his father left him an advertising agency. Whatever I think of these two, they are both very talented people who have produced immensely more than could have been expected. Jane Fonda is one of my favorite actors (and least favorite people). Nevertheless, the odds would have been a hundred to one against her ever landing a speaking role in a movie were it not for her name. I used to watch more of Turner's stations than any single network on TV. But if he hadn't inherited that advertising agency, he probably would never have earned more than $50,000 a year. Sometimes people think these two make an odd couple but I see something deep they have in common. I imagine that from time to time, both of them feel like failures.

I might have tried working very hard at something in order to earn a lot of money. But people only want to pay you to do things that you do very well, that are second nature to you, that have become boring. I think it's a lot more fun to learn new things instead of repeating the old ones until you become expert at them.

People pay you for what you know; no one's eager to give you money for learning. How much does a brain surgeon really need to know? The actual knowledge that they use during operations is very limited; you could probably become an acceptable brain surgeon in a few months. Or consider those highly paid pilots; their jobs are so boring that they often drink during flights or fall asleep. The truth is that brain surgeons are no more than learned butchers and pilots are only glorified truck drivers. Work's a bore because you have to do what other people want you to do. That's why they pay you. You can get other people's money by stealing it or arranging for the government to steal it for you but I find that strategy distasteful.

"For work, I'm too lazy

Investment's too slow

Train robbin's too risky

So gamblin' I'll go."

These lyrics from "Rye Whisky" express my situation. What should I gamble on? Professional athletes make a lot of money for playing games but few people succeed at it. I'm too old and too short for the business and I'm not sure it would be smart to try professional athletics even if I had a chance. The athlete has to devote his entire body and mind to maintaining a professional level of play; he has to believe that his particular little game matters desperately, that losing a game is a tragedy. I just can't feel that way. Some sports can injure the body; others merely numb the mind. I heard a sportscaster say that sandlot football players all over the country were picturing themselves as professional football players. I found that strange. I played football in vacant lots when I was a kid. In my neighborhood, boys from 8 or 9 to 14 or 15 all played tackle football together. We never thought of the pros and a person who cited the rules was considered something of a cheater. No one, absolutely no one, rewarded us in any way for playing. Punishments awaited those with ruined clothes. We hardly sympathized with injuries and parents were likely to greet bruises and strains with emotional recriminations. We were only dimly aware that people actually played football for money. We didn't picture ourselves as pros. But what we were was perfect: Pros envy what we were. At least they do if their minds have not been completely befuddled.

I hear rock stars make a lot of money but I don't think I could take the work. Don't get me wrong. If I could make 2 or 3 hundred thousand in one night, I'd do it—then retire. I can't think of many things on Earth closer to hell than a rock concert. One night would be enough for me; after that, I'd be content to work at Burger King. Starring in movies or on TV looks good at first; then you think about the people who are doing it. The business is full of alcoholics, dope addicts, and people exhibiting the most excessive behavior. Lately, I've heard more about Woody Allen's personal life than I want to know. He's certainly leading a colorful sex life. It's all very entertaining—from the outside. But I believe that those colorful sex lives can be depressing if not actually heartbreaking from the inside. I don't envy anyone his excesses; they are only symptoms of unhappiness. What sort of personality do you need to succeed on TV or in the movies? Oprah and Roseanne both say that they were abused as children and every star who doesn't lead a miserable life in the present seems to have a dismal story about his past. I had a happy childhood and am leading a happy life: I don't think I have what it takes to make it in the entertainment field. Maybe I should beat my kids so they'll be equipped to succeed in America.

OK, I feel like a failure sometimes but what can success give me? Look at John Lennon. The man had hundreds of millions of dollars. His fans adored him and I don't think he would have had much trouble getting women (looks notwithstanding). He was an artist who had the internal resources to entertain himself and create. Whenever he couldn't create, he had enough money to pursue any kind of entertainment he wanted to. And what did he want? This person, successful from his youth, chose heroin and became an addict. There was nothing in the world for him that could make his inner landscape pleasant, nothing but heroin. And then he started hating heroin and tried to get off it with methadone. I can't say that I have a beautiful inner landscape myself and I'm not averse to drinking a beer or five. Still, I seem to be a lot happier than John Lennon was.

I've heard that what makes a person happy is having a long term goal and approaching it by achieving a number of short term goals along the way. I don't doubt that this is true but I can't just make up a goal and "go for it." You have to believe in it first. It's a matter of faith rather than works. What happens when the goal is reached? Do you have to set up a new set of goals. I'm sure that this does make people happy. I'm also sure that there are many happy people who have devoted their lives to Jesus. And there are certainly many happy people who have devoted their lives to opposing religion or working for the Marxist revolution or stamping out heavy metal contamination in the environment. I just can't make myself believe in the importance of things.

The Day of the Dolphin was a movie about a doctor who tried to communicate with dolphins. The doctor was played by George C. Scott but the character was based on a far wilder real life neurologist. This man gave up neurology to study abnormal states of consciousness and dolphin language. He took drugs by the fistful and had, not one, but two near death experiences: one in a motorcycle accident and one in a deep scuba diving mishap. He said that each time he entered a new dimension (you'll have to ask him for a definition), he would meet a being claiming to be God. But eventually the being would admit he was not really God, that God was in the next Dimension. I know that this is what success is all about. As Shakespeare says, "Enjoyed no sooner but despised straight." And yet, knowing all this, sometimes I feel like a failure.