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Success is overrated

August 11, 2012

By Emily Jones
Deluded Diva

The Olympics and all this hype about all things British is mildly amusing to me.

I visited England years ago and found the country a bit pretentious and stuffy. Now I find that I was all wrong about England which can be quite jolly after all.

Have you heard about the Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain? In order to join, you simply have to be ‘not terribly good’ at something — and preferably downright awful at everything.

The Club received international exposure with the publication of “A Book Of Heroic Failures,” written by Stephen Pile, co-founder of the club. His book was a celebration of human inadequacy in all its forms. Ah, a man after my own heart!

In his very funny book, Pile gathered the cream — or, rather, the glorious dregs — of the best stories of abominable failure. For example, there is the story of the Most Unsuccessful Tourist, who got off the plane during a refueling stop and spent three days in New York thinking he was in Rome.

The most Unsuccessful Hijacking episode was in 1976 when an armed passenger drew his gun and took the flight attendant hostage. “Take me to Detroit,’ he demanded.

‘We’re already going to Detroit,’ she replied. ‘Oh ... good,’ he said, and sat down again.

The narrative exposes stories of breathtaking human incompetence (which Pile insists separates us from the animal kingdom), but it was so popular it caused Pile to be banned from his own club.

The book contained an application form for membership in the Club. The result was predictable and tragic: membership blossomed. Overnight, it rose to the point that the club was — for want of another term — a roaring success. Under the terms of its constitution they had no option but to close down immediately.

I guess the world is full of people who can only aspire to the mediocre, yet, unintentionally become the very best they can be at being awful. You’ve got to love it!

I’ve decided to form a chapter in my community. In order to quality for membership, you need only provide evidence of some embarrassing failure. I’m qualifying with a calendar I produced for the Federal Land Bank of New Orleans which contained the month of “Febuary.” I thought my career was over. Low and behold, it’s become a collector’s item among the farm community. Go figure.

Let me know if you’d like an application. Dues are a little steep — $2000 a year, but may be paid with monopoly money.

Emily Jones is a retired journalist who edits a blog for bouncing baby boomers racing retirement.  She welcomes comments at

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