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  • Jeff Eaker

The Butthole Surfers school of decision making.

Updated: Aug 1, 2021




Locust Abortion Technician was the third studio release from The Butthole Surfers. The album’s first song, “Sweat Loaf”, begins with an ethereal instrumental intro with a bit of dialogue between a father and son. It goes like this.


“Daddy?”


“Yes, son.”


“What does regret mean?”

“Well son, it’s a funny thing about regret. It’s better to regret something you have done than to regret something you haven’t done. And by the way, if you see your mother this weekend, be sure and tell her SATAN! SATAN! SATAN!”

The lead singer of The Butthole Surfers, Gibby Haynes, is a weird and wise fellow. There’s a great documentary about outsider artist and musician Daniel Johnston called “The Devil and Daniel Johnston”. I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it. Daniel Johnston’s music isn’t for everyone. But if you listen closely, it’s as good as anything written by much more well-known and more critically acclaimed artists.


Gibby films his interview while getting a cavity filled at the dentist. I don’t know if that was planned or if the film makers simply had to settle for this rare opening in Gibby’s busy schedule.

Daniel Johnston was plagued by several debilitating mental illnesses. But when you run in the same circles as The Butthole Surfers mental illness can easily fade into the woodwork.


Gibby describes the time that Daniel had a bad experience with LSD at one of their shows. The interviewer asks Gibby if he had been the one to give him the acid. Gibby laughs and says, “No. I think at that point it was pretty much known that he was not necessarily an unstable character, but slightly unstable of character. Not the kind of person who you want to engage in a psychedelic experience” More wisdom. It really just drips out of Gibby Haynes like sap from a maple tree.


Regret is different than remorse. Remorse implies personal responsibility. You can regret that a giant tornado dropped out of the fucking sky and destroyed an entire holding company. But you should show remorse for accidentally punching an incompetent account person in the throat seven times.

Regret is also different than disappointment because disappointment is more about a personal reaction to a decision someone else made. You can regret telling your boss what you really think about him. But you can only feel disappointed once he decides to fire you because you told him to eat a bag of dicks.

So, while regret has a few close cousins, linguistically speaking it’s a unique individual who likes to do their own thing. Which is perhaps why Gibby Haynes chose to use it as part of the composition. You simply can’t be the lead singer of a band called The Butthole Surfers without a hearty respect for individualism.


By declaring that there are two distinct flavors of regret, Gibby takes the thinking a bit deeper. He declares it’s better to regret the things you have done than those you haven’t. And this is where the listener has to choose a side. Are you on the bus or off? You gonna shit or get off the pot?


Personally, I’m a shitter. You could say I have a lot of fiber in my lifestyle. I like to do, rather than don’t. I always want to see what happens. I need to know if it's gonna work or not. I gotta find out if that fuse is really connected to the bomb.


There are other similar expressions that echo what The Butthole Surfers are talking about.


Wayne Gretzky, perhaps the greatest hockey player of all time said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Hunter S. Thompson, one of the most unique voices the literary world has ever reluctantly known said, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”


And then of course there’s Nike’s never to be replaced tagline. “Just do it.”


They all say the same thing. Take the risk. Push the button. Dive in. Jump. Go.


There’s a woman named Bronnie Ware who worked for many years as a palliative caregiver. She wrote a book called “The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying” in which she listed the five most common regrets she heard from her dying patients. They are as follows:


1. "I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me."

2. "I wish I hadn’t worked so hard."

3. "I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings."

4. "I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends."

5. "I wish that I had let myself be happier."


So you’ve got four in the “I wish I had” camp and only one in the “I wish I hadn’t” camp. It’s not exactly scientific but it seems to confirm the Gibby Haynes doctrine.


Personally, I have a very special relationship with regret. First of all, I have tons of it. Gobs. A buttload. I got regret all over the God damned place. But I don’t regret having regret. In fact, I champion it. I say, the more regret you have, the more you did. The more you tried.


I write a blog called Kingdom of Failure for a reason. I have failed at so many things in my life that if you’re reading this, I can almost guarantee you that my failure can beat up your failure. I’ll take you on in a failure fight any time. Let’s go, right fucking now.


Time and time again I have come up short, finished dead last or just outright got my butt kicked. Luckily, I’m in advertising which is actually very kind to people like me. As much talk as you hear about winning (especially right now with Cannes and all the other shows going on), failure is not only accepted in our business. It’s glorified.

Wieden & Kennedy is possibly the most consistently great creative agency of the last 35 years. Their motto is “Fail harder”. And now, all the dunderheads in the corporate world are talking about “failing faster”. That’s when you know failure has jumped the shark. When you start hearing your clients saying it.


But I stand by my regret because it is by far more for things that I’ve done than things I haven’t. And it’s not because I’m especially brave. I think it’s because, for some reason I've been mostly surrounded by people who tend to say go instead of stop. And maybe that’s the key.


Hang out with people who do shit rather than don’t do shit. Go places that you shouldn’t instead of just to the ones you should. If you got something to say, let’s hear it. Otherwise, you’re going to lay in bed all night long wishing you had spoken up. Personally, I don’t like lying in bed all night long.


Yeah, I got myself a lot of regret. And it fucking plagues me. But most nights, even after yet another blunder, I sleep like a fucking baby. Thanks, Gibby.



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