Thursday, November 12, 2009

More on Failure

In all the years I was in trading, there was unavoidable competition with my friends and fellow traders. (There is a difference - not all of my fellow traders were my friends). It took years away from the scene to shake that trait and get down to how I felt about my place in life, regardless of whether some dope was making more dough than me. It hasn't gone away totally, but morphed into something slightly different.

At a Martin Short performance last month, he joked that his worst moments far exceeded the best parts of his audience's life. Funny, yes. True, I don't know. I do know that I look at some famous folks in the news lately and, yes, end up feeling much better off. That doesn't apply, though, to Jay-Z or Derek Jeter. They rule.

Take Nicolas Cage. Here's a guy who had a lot going for him and now he's on the skids. Once he was a great actor, really, and now he's a histrionic farce. But that's on the opinion side. Lately, he has made headlines because he owes the IRS $6 million in back taxes. To pay off this huge debt, the Steve Austin of tax evasion is selling off his plethora of homes, collecting the millions needed for the government. Sure, it helps to have a lot of houses, but if you gotta sell them to pay your bills, what's the point. And, now that he's divorced from Lisa Marie Presley, I bet he can't even go upstairs at Graceland anymore. Family only, you know.

Randy Quaid. Here's a guy with a fairly decent list of credits, a journeyman who has carved out a successful career as a character actor. My fave Quaid roles - Seaman Meadows in The Last Detail and Ishmael in Kingpin. So, how does he get to be an alleged felon, accused, along with his wife, of ripping off fancy hotels to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars? Strange, right? I wonder what he was thinking and how he goes forward from here. That always scares me, the very idea of having to start all over, just when it seems like everything is going well. How do you muster the strength to do it again? It must take more than being believable as an Amish bowling phenom.

I couldn't help but think long and hard on the nature of success and failure as I watched Brian Wilson last week (see previous post). A certifiable legend, but happy? I don't know. Pretty brutal upbringing with an abusive dad, inconsistent support from his band mates, who were also family, and a breakdown that lasted on and off for over 20 years. Is his a successful life? Hard to say, though I wouldn't want to switch places with him.

I used to play a game with myself (wait, that sounds wrong). I used to think about who I would rather switch places with. Paul McCartney - not bad, though the downsides are early death of mother & ridicule of press. Joe Namath - pretty good, though I'm not sure I like the burning out so fast. There were others whose lives I would inspect closely, in case of a "Freaky Friday"-like experience. I take it as a healthy sign that I don't think that anymore.

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