Iceland: Happiness is Failure

This weekend I found myself thinking about the things in life that bring me happiness – live music, cycling, Town Lake, long conversations over coffee, sunny weather, and getting lost in a good book, just to name a few.  Luckily my weekend involved all of these.

Town Lake, Mute Math at Stubbs, Cafe Medici, Tour de Cure Training Ride

I want to submit a drawing to Draw Happy – an ongoing global art project inviting people to draw what makes them happy. The project began in Iceland, a place that I hope to visit one day. You see, I do not consider myself a creative person and lack pretty much all artistic ability, however it is said that pretty much everyone in Iceland is an artist. How can that be possible? Apparently they do not worry so much about talent as much as they do personal expression and trying new things.

This project brings me to one of my favorite books, The Geography of Bliss. During a year the author, Eric Weiner, travels to ten countries attempting to discover each culture’s definition of happiness.  One chapter is titled “Iceland: Happiness is Failure.” To most people, including myself, this concept of happiness seems absurd. What about the American dream? Isn’t it all about success? To better understand their perspective, take a moment to read this excerpt:

Iceland was an essential aspect on my journey to discover contentment. This country has consistently ranked in the top percentiles -if not number one- of the happiest places in the world. After questioning many native Icelanders, I had come to the conclusion that this is because failure is admired in their culture. Well, failure is admired if it is a result of good intentions. For instance, if an American businessman uses ruthless tactics to reach success this is considered the ultimate taboo. Icelanders think that it is only the trying that counts, not the end result. They like to try and learn new things even if they know the end result will not necessarily be a masterpiece. This explains why it seems like absolutely everyone in Iceland is a poet or an artist of some sort, or why so many teenagers have garage bands with no hope of success. I imagined that the lack of pressure to succeed only caused more success and a deeper understanding of one’s inner self.”

I am going to try to make 2012 a year of creativity – good or bad I don’t care, it will just be for me. Like this blog.

Finally, while I am on the subject of Iceland, I would also like to share a band I recently discovered – Of Monsters and Men. They will be visiting Austin for the upcoming South by Southwest festival. Enjoy!


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