Sunday Snippet: Michael Chabon, Manhood for Amateurs

“But in the pages of Marvel comic books, [Stan] Lee behaved from the start as if a vast, passionate readership awaited each issue that he and his key collaborators, Kirby and Steve Ditko, churned out. And in a fairly short period of time, this chutzpah–as in all those accounts of magical chutzpah so beloved by solitary boys like me–was rewarded. By pretending to have a vast network of fans, former fan Stanley Leiber found himself in possession of a vast network of fans. In conjuring, out of typewriter ribbon and folding chairs, the C.C.B.C. [Columbia Comic Book Club], I hoped to accomplish a similar alchemy. By pretending to have friends, maybe I could invent some.”

Some might call it the law of attraction. You might call it a self-fulfilling prophecy. Other people may think it’s nothing more than unjustified optimism and wishful thinking. Whatever it may be, we have always been told about the power of positive thinking and how we should always “act as if” we are already there. It is only when you truly believe in your imminent success that you can realize your dreams.

Of course, for so many people who have so many bold goals and grand ambitions, those dreams never do come true. Many a struggling actor, many an independent artist has fought tooth and nail, working so hard for the big break that never comes. It didn’t matter how much they believed in themselves. Even so, you’re told to keep your chin up and keep at it, because it is only with that steadfast persistence that you will persevere through the hardships and tough times.

If you expect to succeed and you act like a person who has already succeeded, you have a shot at getting there. Conversely, expect to fail and you probably will. If you expect to fail, you won’t put in your best effort and you won’t put in the “hustle” to access the best resources and tap into the best talent. You won’t stick with it.

The quote at the top comes from Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon. I recently received the book as a gift from a good friend and it can be best described as a series of personal essays on what it means to “be a man” in modern society. And part of being a man is being persistent, even when you have no real reason to believe in yourself. Stick to your guns and you could be the next Stan Lee.

On the flip side, being a man also means understanding your faults and your shortcomings.

“Though I derive a sense of strength and confidence from writing and from my life as a husband and father, those pursuits are notoriously subject to endless setbacks and the steady exposure of shortcoming, weakness, and insufficiency–in particularly in the raising of children. A father is a man who fails every day…. Success, however, does nothing to diminish the knowledge that failure stalks everything you do. But you always knew that.”

Are these two perspectives–that of unbridled confidence and that of quiet resignation–completely contradictory? Or do they simply describe the complex relationship that men have with their roles as husbands, fathers and sons?

I’m not sure. What I can tell you is that both of these excerpts came from just the introduction and I look forward to reading other fine nuggets of profound wisdom on the nature of manhood. Whatever that means.

Image credit: banky177 (Flickr)