As mentioned in my director's commentary, I wrote a first draft introduction to "How to Fail" all the way back in 2004 or 2005 on the actual day I first thought of the idea for a self-hurt guide. Below, I've reprinted the original draft of that intro and detailed how little it had changed five years later when it appeared in print form. The strike-throughs denote stuff that was eliminated from my original draft; the boldings stuff that was added.
HOW TO FAIL TO WRITE A COHESIVE INTRODUCTION
They say some men see things that are and say, "Why?" Robert Kennedy dreamed things that never were and said, "Why not?" Well I see my life unspoolingfolding and I just say, "Why me?"
I shit where I eat. I dip my pen in the company inkwell. I bite the hand that feeds me, and I never take my vitamins. Often, I’ll drink beer before liquor, and I always take the easy way out. I frequently take “No” for an answer, but, conversely, I rarely say “No” to offers of greasy food, cheap drinks, and sleazy sex. I hemorrhage the little money I have on frivolous items that are only tangible ‘til they are poured down my gullet and filtered through my poor liver. I rarely capitalize on promising offers. And I’m lazy. My God, am I lazy. Oh yes, I AM FUCKED UP.
I am thirty years old and a failure. But lest you worry, dear reader, dear successful reader, I wasn’t always that way. I once was a success—or at least headed on your typical American path towards success. Examining my life, I can easily show you how to become an adult failure in a matter of years. If not months. (That may require more narcotics.)
I used to be a success—hell, a wild success—relative to my age. A high I.Q., honors classes, a high school class Presidency, good athletic skills and accomplishments, science fair awards, writing prizes, a happy disposition, a winning smile, 99th percentile SAT score, "Most Likely to Succeed" senior year, the adoration and love of my friends, family, adoration of friends and the opposite sex, and scholarship acceptance to a top 50 private American university.
And then it went all down hill, right? Wrong. My successes continued in college where I graduated magna cum laude (Latin for “only drinks five nights a week,” summa cum laude must meaning “only drinks three nights a week”), won more plaudits for my writing, co-edited the school's "alternative" newspaper The Cock of the Walk, made countless friends and acquired sexual partners, and, if I wasn't the BMOC, then I was at least the "Kinda Large Guy on Campus." Though, seedlings of bad habit and eventual thirty-year-old failuredom had already begun rearing their ugly heads.
Oh My life used to be so promising. I used to be and I so idealistic. So Positive of my guaranteed future successes. And, in fact, I still am. Kinda. Oh, I’m jaded as a motherfucker by now, but still somewhat sure of success. I still have wild delusions of grandeur, of wealth, fame, screenwriting relevancy, and Scarlet Johansson on my arm at some cool club in my local urban environment that I’m currently not cool (successful) enough to know about the existence of. It is this megalomania, though, that paradoxically led toward a life of current failure.
Ruining your life is easy when you’re the kind of arrogant, delusions-of-grandeur fuck that always thinks he’s a day away from pulling himself out of the doldrums and becoming a legend—and rich—and. Nothing else matters. Oh yeah, and you’re frequently intoxicated. Living “in the moment” is often a really bad thing, I must say.
I haven’t given up on life per se, but I certainly behave that way. There's a subtle difference between the man that lives his life like each day could be his last on Earth and the man who lives his life like there's no tomorrow.
If I committed suicide my note might read: “I was bored.” Though I couldn’t afford a gun though and have no idea where to buy hangman’s rope (Bed, Bath, and Beyond?) And I don’t even have a bathtub to electrocute myself in. (Manhattan apartments are tiny!)
Current failure doesn’t mean I will be a failure forever, but it’s certainly possible. And Probable.
In the almost decade since I left college I have failed at everything. Job-wise, earnings-wise, savings-wise. I’ve failed at snagging frequent sexual congress, failed at finding love, failed at keeping love, failed at holding down jobs, failed at making a livable wage,. Failed at maintaining many old (now “successful”) friends(hips), at holding down jobs, at making a livable wage, and failed at even coming close to achieving my dreams.
I’ve squandered promising chances with good girls, and risked sexually transmitted disease acquisition from bad girls. My body has morphed from a taut athletic figure into one of decadence—cheap $1 drafts and 10 cent wings from 4 to 7 “decadence”—and sloth. Cheap one dollar drafts "decadence" and ten cent wings from four-to-seven "sloth." And, I’ve gotten into tons of trouble with all sorts of authority figures. Probably Disappointed my loving parents too. If not yet, soon, very soon. Soon as I answer the phone next time they call.
But, but, but, failure can sometimes be fun, you say. At least it ain’t that hard of work. Succeeding’s hard motherfucking work, but ruining relationships by not answering the phone because you’re on a three-day bender, man, that shit’s fucking simple.
In many ways, I am to be admired. You have your nice 62" HDTV and your lovely fiancée (save the first weekend in May ‘0611!), your good job that you never call in sick/hungover for because you’re responsible (responsibility and success go hand-in-hand), your purebred Cornish Rex hairless hypoallergenic pet cat named Sadie, and a promising future of routine, sober, lights off, missionary styleposition, rhythm method, 500 thread-count sheets, Saturday-nights-only “love-making.” And, I’m sure that’s all well and good, but wouldn’t you like to just be a little bit of a failure?
Wouldn’t you just like to get arrested once and have a mug shot? Wouldn’t you like to know the fear inside that you have after a condomless screw session with a girl you met wasted at 3 in the morning in your local urban environment’s dive bar section? Wouldn’t you like to take out stupid cash advances with 1925% APR interest charges just so you can to get wasted? Wouldn’t you like to know the fear inside that you have after a condomless screw session with a girl you met wasted at 3 three in the morning in your local urban environment’s dive bar section? Wouldn’t you like to not remember saying the wrong thing to the wrong person—not remember that—and wake up in the morning with inexplicable bruising, cuts, and gashes? Would you like to have a mug shot? Wouldn’t you like to lose a brand new cell phone three weekends in a row due to massive inebriation and have even the minimum wage workers at Best Buy thinking you a world-class fool? Wouldn’t you like to spend all day Saturday alone watching an “Intervention” marathon on A&E instead of going to Bed, Bath, & Beyond with your fiancée (“You can speak at the wedding, Stu, so long as you promise to not drink beforehand, and absolutely promise swear you'll not to say anything offensive. My eighty-nine-year-old grandma’s gonna be there, dude.”) Wouldn’t you like to just skip shaving on every weekday mornings?!
Wouldn’t you like to have the passionate love/hate relationship with yourself that I have with myself?
Even if one day I become a success, I will always live the life of a failure. because I now realize I have always been was predestined to be one. I will always be brash, and stupid, and impetuous. It's in my chemical makeup. I will frequently be chemically-impaired in environments where that is shunned and around people that will be doing the shunning. It's in my DNA!. I will often screw up shit that’s going good. My RNA, too!!! Even if I become a success one day, all that means is that my fall from grace back to the point I’m currently in will be even faurther. Funnier too, no doubt, to the passive outside observer or the hack who writes my biography.
“Shoot for the stars because even if you miss at least you’ll still end up in the sky.
Fuck that. I’d rather be a failure. And I don't really like air travel much either.
And, that’s the best part about it. As a failure, things can’t get much worse. I mean, yeah, they can, but not much worse. I’m not a ticking time bomb. There will be no climactic point at which said bomb explodes and I kill myself accidentally or get busted for shrooms at Newark International Airport. I mean, yeah, maybe that shit could happen but I doubt it. I’m not Len Bias or Darryl Strawberry or Courtney Love or Keith Moon. I’m just your garden variety fuck up. Failure. I’m haunted by demons but they aren’t very potent demons. They’re lazy, fuckup, failure demons just like their possessor. They kind of just stand on my left shoulder and goad me into drinking massive amounts of booze, impetuouslystupidly spending my little money, falling ass backwards into unpleasant intercourse with fatties and uglies, screwing up job interviews, and into calling the wrong kinds of people “douchebag.”
Thus I have decided to write this—quite possibly the first ever—“Self-Hurt” book, the utter opposite of a Self-Help book, to in which I will teach you gentle soul how to ruin your life as much as I have ruined mine my very own.
There are hundred of thousands of self-help books released per year. Probably millions, I'm almost surprised there's not a special Self-Help Annex at Barnes & Noble Self-Help Annex. Millions of self-help tomes on subjects such as gaining self-confidence to conquering your inner demons to mastering women to not being afraid of your pet cat. AndWhere has it gotten us as a people? Nowhere. Everyone's as fucked up as ever. Probably more so if they're following the "expert" advice of said books. Unconfident, haunted by demons, bad with chicks, and scared of Sadie. So what do you possibly have to lose by not following my advice?
William Randolph Hearst said (I’m obviously too lazy to look it up verbatim): “I am a man that could have been great, but wasn’t.” (Maybe Joseph Pulitzer said thatactually. Or was it Charles Foster Kane? Wait, he's not real, is he?)
Well, I am a man that could have been somewhat decent, but who chose to go to happy hour instead. Who chose to not meet his girlfriend's parents. Who chose to call in sick for work on the day of an important meeting. Who chose to fail.
Speaking of famous folks and famous quotes, there's a funny thing about that RFK quote that I lead off this introduction with. Most people think his bro JFK said it. No, that's not the funny thing. The funny thing is: He didn't originate it. Not in the least. Yet he gets all the credit. Totally something a successful person would do. Hell, Kennedy didn't even quote it correctly. The better written line actually comes from a George Bernard Shaw play, Back to Methuselah, where it's delivered by a snake. A fucking snake.
Gentle reader, ignore the snakes and follow my examples and you too will become a failure at life.
And, here, mentioned in the director's commentary, is the first (and so far only) draft of the screenplay to "How to Fail: The Self-Hurt Guide": The Major Motion Picture. Written circa 2005 or 2006 I would guess, I made it to about page 50, but this is just the opening scene.
If you enjoyed this, check out these other Director's Commentary and Deleted Scenes: