Lesson 72: Prepare to Fail Daily

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I was reminded by a friend at brunch today of a basic life rule that most of us learn by 35:

The more I learn, the less I know.

It’s true. And a rite of passage when you realize how much you don’t know, and probably never will. Not about math, or marketing, or quantum physics – that’s the easy stuff. But about this crazy game of life, and how to successfully navigate through it.

I don’t know about you, but I fail daily at life. In multiple ways. All day long. From getting up on time or finding a decent car wash, to flossing and brushing my teeth at night. Years ago, I actually started flossing in the morning once I accepted that I was never, ever going to be awake enough to floss before bed. Problem solved, mostly.

In an attempt to combat these failures, every day I make a list of all the things I need and want to do to move my life forward. In fact, I’m obsessed with making lists. Wunderlist is my jam. I have lists for Today, This Weekend, Tonight, At Work – but my favorite and most used list is Urgent.


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“Urgent” was intended to be the list for the really, really important stuff that just HAS to get done, but it has naturally evolved to also include a variety of things I really want to do, or SHOULD do, to be a productive and successful human being. Some of it is mundane, like grocery lists or a reminder to call the cleaners. But some of it, like working on a timely article or my memoir, is bigger than that. Maybe it’s not “urgent” in the sense that I’ll be thrown out my apartment for neglecting to do it, but urgent if I want to feel good about myself.

Yet I still rarely get half the items on my To Do list done.

This leaves me feeling like a failure nearly every single day, and unable to go to bed until the wee hours because I don’t feel like I’m “done.” My dad suffers from the same well-meaning dysfunction. His infamous To Do lists span countless Post-It notes and beverage napkins. We’ve teased him for years about his mantra-like response to any request: “It’s on the list!”

He will often sit at his computer until 2 in the morning, even though he’s falling asleep. All in the vain attempt to get everything done that day. I’m literally doing the same thing, now…

(Cut to the next day.)

Clearly it’s not gonna happen. There are only so many hours in the day and time always times out before you’ve gotten “it” all done. The reality is that one thing on the list often must be neglected for another to be accomplished.

I think I’m finally realizing how unproductive it is to have these unrealistic expectations, and that writing while half asleep just cuts into my sleeping time. Which I need. And I’ve been reminding myself that in the end, somehow, it all always gets done. Eventually.

I also think the key to feeling ok about myself lies in accepting that I cannot possibly do all I’d like to do in a day. All I can do is try. It’s the effort not the outcome that matters most. And prioritize the best I can.

Which is why I’m ending this post now. I’ve got stuff to do…

Stacks of books


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