On Failure, an Icelandic Main Course

This week’s book learning is from ‘The Geography of Bliss’ by Eric Weiner.

Eric Weiner was in Iceland, one of the happiest and most creative countries in the world attempting to find the secret to ‘Icelandic Happiness’.

He met with Lars Johansson. In his 40 years of living, Lars has earned a living as a professional chess player, journalist, construction company executive, theologan and music producer.

‘It’s completely normal in Iceland to have a resume like that.’ Lars explains. ‘We believe having multiple identities (and not multiple personalities) is conducive to happiness.

The reason we are able to make these switches is that we, as a nation admire failures as long people fail with the best intentions, like if someone failed because he didn’t want to be ruthless in business. So, we try a lot and fail a lot.’

They then discussed the astonishing number of crappy artists in Iceland but Eric soon realizes that the crap acts like fertilizer – it enables the good stuff to grow.

He realized that Americans, for example, love a good failure story as long as it ends with success. Failure sweetens the taste, it’s the appetizer. In Iceland, it’s the main course.

Eric points out how Iceland’s ideas around multiple personalities runs contrary to American/Western ideas of ‘specialization’, where people learn more and more about less and less.

In Iceland, people learn more and more, about more and more and are much happier!

That runs consistent with a book learning ages ago on Richard Feynman. Fascinating thought!

Here’s to taking failures lightly i.e. the Icelandic way this week!