How to Fail Miserably

Charles T. Munger’s 1986 Harvard School commencement speech was inspired by a prior commencement speech given by Johnny Carson. Carson’s sarcastic speech provided a blueprint for guaranteed misery in life. Carson’s prescription included:

  1. Ingesting chemicals in an effort to alter mood or prescription
  2. Envy, and
  3. Resentment

Munger commented on Carson’s recommendations, and then added four more prescriptions:

  1. Be unreliable
  2. Learn everything you possibly can from your own personal experience, minimizing what you learn vicariously
  3. Go down and stay down when you get your first, second, or third severe reverse in the battle of life
  4. Ignore the advice of a rustic who said: “I wish I knew where I was going to die, and the I’d never go there.”

Following suit, let’s consider some prerequisites for guaranteed failure and professional burnout. I will skew this towards the Physical Therapist, but can be applied to any profession.

First, resist change. Graduated with a DPT, you are now equipped with enough moxy to delegate patient care. Still drenched in research and free from the wisdom of an evaluated experience, begin entertaining the thought that you are now the international filter of ideal patient care and physical therapy treatment. Continuing education courses are merely confirmation of what you already know; a checkmark to maintain your licensure. This applies to you too; yes you, the seasoned physical therapist. Don’t risk professional evolution by assimilating new and relevant research, or by learning from the very individual you are attempting to treat. A surefire recipe for failure is holding onto the past; hold fast.

Second, fly solo. If history is any guide, then you must not risk attaining a rewarding career by collaborating with those around you. Do not, by any means, aid or abet the very organization that represents and preserves your profession. Also, related to change avoidance (see above), beware social collaboration. It would serve you well to abstain from the wisdom distilled from the following quote by Stephen Landauer:

In Plato’s Republic, guards were taught by poets. Views contrary to your own are always helpful, as sometimes you will see truth in them and effect change, and, if not, you will be stress-testing and ultimately strengthening your own convictions.

Your desire for failure may hit a roadblock as closely held ideas and perspectives could be challenged, and errors exposed. Remain steadfast in your resilience for professional atrophy; stay inside.

And, finally, stop focusing on solutions. Given the dedication to failure, one must avoid solutions; instead, spin the wheel of status quo by repeatedly underlining problems without suggesting creative alternatives. Maintain a purely subjective point of view, avoid objectivity. In fact, it might be easier to simply beat the drums of your favorite dogma. Becoming an agent of change could put you at risk of developing a meaningful and impactful career. Embrace cognitive ossification; stop exploring.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, keep staring at your feet.

Find me on Twitter @Cinema_Air

Sources:                                                                                                                      “Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger” by Peter Bevelin                                                “Maximize Your Potential” edited by Jocelyn K Glei

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