"No, no, no. It's all about the opportunity to fail. You have to embrace failure, learn from it in order to grow,” Chad said. The reporter scribbled away on a legal pad. “Why doesn't she have a computer. She should be recording this with her phone,” he thought. “Christ, nobody has a dumb flip phone anymore,” seeing Margaret's in her open pocketbook.
Chad was a bit of a local hero. At 26 he'd published his first book - Success Through Failure. "Out of failure comes the seeds of success, but those seeds cannot take root in doubt or fear,” he said, taking the final sip of his now cold coffee.
Truth was, Chad had resolved to do what he had no other choice but to do : to make the most of a bad situation. Having graduated with nearly $30,000 in student loans, Chad worked part-time at 7 Eleven and three nights a week buffing floors at the local hospital. His blog, also "Success Through Failure", has a decent following. It's connected to his Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. He fills it with stories and posts about turning lemons into lemonade and frowns upside down through the sheer force of will. It's not that his efforts aren't noble in their own way. He justifies his pollyannaish posts as inspiration for himself as much as for his readers. He receives a lot of likes.
The idea for his book came from a cartoon he'd watched one night on Netflix. The dog in the cartoon had literary ambitions, but no one would publish his book. Convinced that all the public really wanted was self-help books, he decided to write one. Chad thought “brilliant” - and decided to take his blog posts and create an ebook. Priced at 99 cents, the ebook was a mild success that had drawn the attention of Margaret - who sat scribbling before him for the local paper where she worked part time, supplementing her income with dog walking and babysitting. No wonder she still had a flip phone.
"So, what's next?" Margaret asked, biting on her pen.
"I've been contacted by a couple of publishers who are interested in making my ebook into a real book."
"Yes." The strangeness of what he'd just said seemed lost on Margret. Maybe it wasn't so strange really? After all, the world had changed and publishing was trying to change with it. He tried to remember the last time he’d picked up a newspaper.
"No, I meant, what's next for you? Based on the premise of your book, is this success?, “I mean are you there?” she said looking around the coffee shop as if it belonged to Chad.
“But, how will you know? Is it a question of money or happiness? How do you measure accomplishment using a failure model?”
Chad looked at his phone to check the time. The interview had already gone over the time allotted. Not that he had anything else to do. Margaret was biting on her pen again. Chad looked out at the snowy parking lot, half empty now, the early rush of business over. He imagined workers in cubicles, each with coffee cups next to keyboards, catching up on emails and bracing for the day. “Thank god he wasn’t in a cubicle.”
Following the interview (Margaret thought the story would run within the next week or so ), Chad drove back to the small apartment he shared with Samantha. He and Sam weren’t really boyfriend or girlfriend, though they had slept together a couple of times. They had met in grad school and decided to live together to save on expenses. Sam had less than $20,000 in student loans and was working at a radio station writing commercial copy for local businesses.
Chad checked his email, mostly junk. He needed to contact the publisher about his book. If there was any kind of advance, he planned to put it towards the loan debt, to see if he couldn’t bring it down some. Probably not the wisest decision. After all, there was his credit card debt and the monthly payments on the Fusion. Sometimes he woke in the middle of the night adding and re-adding numbers in his head. If Chad couldn’t go back to sleep, which was usually the case, he’d work on the novel he’d started in grad school or update his blog. He thought again about what he’d said to Margaret. “Success isn’t an end goal, it’s in the moment. If you have peace of mind you’ve made it.” This hadn’t sounded quite so depressing when he’d said it. He even thought, it might be the kernel of his next book. Margaret had looked pleased as she folded back the yellow sheets of her legal pad and tossed the pen into the pocketbook with her flip phone. Chad hoped she wouldn’t quote him.
The conversation with his publisher didn’t go quite as Chad had hoped. There would be no advance. Unless the book became a national bestseller, he wasn’t going to see any real money out of the deal. At least he’d have a physical book to show for his efforts. Though it wasn’t the book he’d hoped to publish, or even write. He thought again of the dog in the cartoon, how he was ultimately humiliated by the truth that he’d only written the book to make money, that it was written out of cynicism and a true disdain for the reader. Chad couldn’t hope to have failure on such a grand scale.