Some time in 1995 I started playing guitar. It was a friend from high school who turned me on to it. I saw him playing on an acoustic guitar the chord progression of a Green Day song and I was completely blown away. He taught me some chords and standard first-learner stuff like the arpeggio to Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters and Zepellin’s Stairway to Heaven. I practiced a lot and banged away on an old Mexican acoustic until my fingers bled. I bought and learned from books. I learned some more chords and learned scales. I bought rock albums and learned guitar riffs by listening to them. I went to the Mall to buy the Guitar World magazine every time I could. I worked at a water bottling manufacturing plant to save up for an electric guitar and an amp. The idea of starting a band soon followed. I played with a couple of people. I met a bassist who introduced me to classic rock and got me all romantic about the mythology of rock n roll. I jammed away and recorded silly home made demos. I came up with ideas for songs, mostly just instrumental structures, a title, and maybe a couple of lyric verses. I bought a Tascam multitrack recorder. I played one gig for free at Nuyorican Cafe in Old San Juan. I was deeply into music. Like a music scholar. I really saw myself as a musician. I did this throughout 95 up to 2004. I’m pretty sure I put in 10,000 hours. It was something that I gave a shot and pursued for about 10 years. But I had to let it go because I had to start paying bills.
In the early 2000’s I became interested in working with computers. I was told and encouraged by my family that that was were the money was at. You could be a computer programmer like Bill Gates. You could make web pages. This was the future. This is the future. Kind of. All I knew is that I loved using computers.
So I went ahead an got enrolled in New Horizons, an IT training institute that prepares you to get certified in “recognized” industry certifications like Microsoft’s MCSA and Cisco’s CCNP. Those were too expensive to take. So I went with the more entry level certifications like A+, Network+, and MCDST. That last one stands for Microsoft Certified Support Technician. I finished and got certified around 2006-2007. But it took me a year to land a job in computers. That was Compusa. Of course, it was horrible. Super low pay, stressful, and not what I expected. The company as you know went away. I worked a year. I learned the hard way that getting interested in working with computers because you love using them, is like getting interested in working with pencils because you like writing.
Then in 2009 I found a job at Best Buy with Geeksquad. I started part-time and have ended part-time. The company looks like it’s going the same route that Compusa and Circuit City went through. My job is in limbo right now. I’m still employed but they’re not giving me any hours.
There’s a fad theory about embracing failure that I’m having a lot of trouble with. The idea is that if you embrace failure, then you’ll learn better from the mistakes. That you should go out there and fail a lot. It’s a reasonable premise. But there are thousands, perhaps millions of people going through the same shit I’m going through. People that have failed, and failed, and failed, with no hint of when that success is coming. Successful people that embrace the failure theory probably have no idea why they’re successful. The truth is that success can’t be explained convincingly any other way other than luck. Of course that’s something that’s hard for us to accept.
The failures only make sense in hindsight. When your deep down in the shit gutter of failure, there’s no way you’re going to see the lessons behind them.
The same goes with the working hard theory. The above pic is a quote from Conan O’brien. There’s no doubt in my mind that Conan O’brien has worked really hard and that he’s a super kind person. But that advice is yes, fine for Conan. There are people that have literally, figuratively, and mentally worked hard their whole lives, but are still right now living paycheck to paycheck.
I can control the success of me making a good cup of coffee right now. I can use the failure theory by studying my previous attempts when it wasn’t good. Maybe I added too much water or just the fact that the coffee maker is a piece of crap. I can add less water and buy a better coffee maker. I can learn from those mistakes and fix that. But the failures at my chosen careers don’t teach me anything. Is not something I have any control over. This blog post for example, like it has happened may times before, will probably be completely ignored even though I have put a lot of effort into it.
It’s a boring and simplistic realization, but having success, a least what we think of as big success, is just plain old luck.