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Failing Up in 2024

The Romantic movement […] was a passionate protest against universality of any kind. The values to which they attached the highest importance were such values as integrity, sincerity, readiness to sacrifice one's life to some inner light, dedication to some ideal for which it is worth sacrificing all that one is, for which it is worth both living and dying. Isaiah Berlin: The Roots of Romanticism


For everyone setting a New Year’s Intention right now, your chance of failing is high. Data suggests an estimated 91% of all resolutions are abandoned by late January/early February. I’m prepping for failure in 2024. My cookbook, Forage. Gather. Feast. is launching this April. An author friend once described the experience as “the calm before the calm.” Most books "fail", as only 25% sell out their advances.  But I’m aiming for a noble, heroic failure, which means I must make a wholehearted attempt at success. Effort does not equal success in the publishing realm – or in many others. I’ve learned from my past books that it doesn’t matter how hard you try. And yet there is only nobility in failure if you tried your best.


As Isiah Berlin wrote in his book, The Roots of Romanticism, “You would have found that they {Romantic poets} believed that minorities were more holy than majorities, that failure was nobler than success, which had something shoddy and something vulgar about it…. What people admired was wholeheartedness, sincerity, purity of soul, the ability and readiness to dedicate yourself to your ideal, no matter what it was.”


And yet even the Romantic poets’ concepts of success and failure are one dimensional as we all live in multiverses that have different measures. The one we can’t avoid is where money and material success are our primary markers. This dictates our social standing, our importance, the power we wield in this world, and at its most drastic, whether we find ourselves the hammer or the nail. But there are also social currencies - do we make people laugh or comfort them? Show up when most needed? And skills currencies – some people aren’t so good at small talk but super skilled at surgery or repairing your computer or car that saves the day. There's kindness and compassion.  And then there’s the world of non-linear and unquantifiable wealth, the worlds of the forest and sea. Nature doesn’t care what you did or who you are. They’ll give anybody a fish or a mushroom. Everyone gets to witness a beautiful sunset. And I can choose which of these worlds to measure my life by. I may again fail in the realm of late-stage capitalist patriarchy. Yet be wildly successful (at times) at collecting bay nuts and chanterelles. Blessed and enchanted with the relentless beauty of this place. Truth be told, I’d like them all. Most of us would. And they don’t have to be mutually exclusive.


But you can’t go into a book launch thinking you’re going to win capitalism. You’re showing up to a gunfight with a bowl of pasta. But I’m going to try and make this matter for something bigger. I’m going to fail up. The main point of my cookbook, and of Flora & Fungi Adventures is believing in the idea that humans can become keystone species that benefit all life on earth and encouraging others to believe the same. We do this by going out into nature. Foraging means we need to learn the seasons and tides and monitor the rains and cold snaps, notice the direction the sun is coming from and the trees growing nearby. We learn to live a little more by nature’s rhythms, fall in love with her a little more each time, learn about her systems and how they benefit all creatures, take stewardship of our local landscapes. Along with wild food adventures, this year I’m launching The Institute for Ecosystem Based Living.  In 2024, it will be a series of salons that bring together science, art and food around different themes. The overarching theme for 2024 is “Not Knowing”. Events will start in May and I’ll keep you posted as they're scheduled.


So for resolutions, lets challenge ourselves to come up with unique resolutions that serve you and the greater good. Not to lose 10 pounds but rather, commit to laughing more. To trying new, different foods. To hiking with friends. To taking classes in calligraphy or wood carving just because. To seeing more art and live music. Dancing more. Get out on the water.  Every time we go into nature, see great art, or learn a little about science, we expand and become better. We move out of the trappings of our id and ego and learn more about what our soul craves. Let’s create new metrics for success. Let’s make feeding our souls and cultivating curiosity, awe and creativity in our lives the measure for our success. Systems won’t change until we change. So let’s fail up together in 2024.

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