In the last decade or so, I’ve been consistently amazed that so many Americans seem to succeed… by failing.
It’s not always clear failure but, often at least, people get rewarded without rising to the level we would expect to be required. Sometimes it’s about taking advantage of personal relationships while other times, it’s about public perception. Consider that attending (and re-attending) rehab has been the spark plug for dozens of careers in the entertainment industry even though addiction is often a career killer for average people.
Rod Blagojevich was a virtual nobody until he was caught trying to sell a Senate seat. Now he’s cashed in tremendously and has the kind of name recognition that most governors only dream of obtaining. Amazingly, Blago is not only getting rich but he’s still famous, not infamous. Whatthehell?
Harriet Miers almost joined the Supreme Court solely because she was George W. Bush’s close friend and counsel. She was widely viewed as incompetent and it was only the uniformity of this view that kept her from rising to a lifetime appointment interpreting America’s laws. Scary stuff.
Conan O’Brien seems the best current example of this phenomenon. Maybe he’s actually the ultimate late night talk show host and I just haven’t noticed… This week he’s been at the top of the media world having been rewarded with a brand new TBS show, overwhelming public affection and a second giant contract. All this, even though he was booted from his dream job to make way for Jay Leno’s return. NBC would never have made that move if Conan’s audience were as big as Jay’s so in the most direct sense, Conan’s show failed. What is it that could possibly have built so much buzz that Conan is now bigger than he’s ever been?
It seems as though we not only accept failure, we often reward it. Now, if I can only convince someone with clout that my career as a poet has been a disaster…