The cabin lights of the plane dimmed just after take off. Wayne opened his laptop and was about insert his noise canceling earbuds when the man next to him spoke.
“There’s always more work to be done, isn’t there?” asked the man.
“You know it,” replied Wayne as he inserted an earbud in his left ear.
“What sort of work are you in?” asked the man.
“I’m an architect.”
“Wow,” replied the man. “On your way to a project, then?”
Wayne sighed. “Coming back. I need to finish up a few changes and connect with my office.”
“Me, I’m a one man show.”
“Really,” said Wayne.
“Yep. My own boss. A specialist,” added the man.
There was a moment when Wayne wondered if he should give up hope of getting any work done. After a few seconds, he succumbed to the social pressure.
“What do you do?” he asked.
The man presented Wayne with his business card. It read ‘Malcolm Weatherby, Professional Failure.’ Wayne examined his seat mate for the first time. He was immaculately dressed, right down to the Nomos watch.
“Is this a joke?” asked Wayne.
Malcolm laughed. “It’s as serious as a heart attack. But I already know what you’re thinking.”
“You’re thinking ‘Malcolm, if you’re a Professional Failure, then you better not try skydiving.’ Am I right?” he said.
“Actually, I was wondering how someone gets paid to be failure.”
“That’s a great question. It’s easier than you think and it pays very well, thank-you very much.”
Wayne pulled the earbud from his ear. “I don’t get it. What do you do exactly?”
“Well,” said Malcolm. He sat up in his seat and readied himself to expound deep mysteries. “Are you familiar with the saying ‘failure is the best teacher’? In practical terms I’m an educator who parlays failure into an intellectual asset.”
Malcolm smiled. “I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you. It’s my own trade secret.”
“Okay then, tell me this. How does one become a Professional Failure?” asked Wayne.
Malcolm looked straight ahead and his tone drifted off into the philosophical. “Like everything else, it was a matter of the right place, right time.”
“Isn’t it always?”
“Opportunity knocks but once, but regret lingers for a lifetime.”
Wayne pondered on those words. “That’s really profound.”
Malcolm laughed. “And that’s why they pay me the big bucks.”