I Suck, but I’m Becoming Excellent

Halloween is when it all comes together for me.

Danni Michaeli, MD
5 min readOct 28, 2022
Photo by Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash

Two years ago, something changed for me. We were in the middle of COVID anxiety, Halloween was coming up and everyone was trying to figure out how to give our kids the trick or treat experience they spend the whole year dreaming about. Unlimited candy….mmmmmmmm.

In our neighborhood, as in many places, we landed on the candy chute idea. I didn’t really think giving out candy on my front porch with everyone masked was such a risky proposition, but I respected the prevailing opinion and went with the flow.

The thing is, with the way my mind works, a change represents a new possibility. I can’t just accept a utilitarian adaptation like a candy chute without considering how to glam it up a bit, to make it cool and interesting. My friends know my motto and it’s a never-ending source of humor and needling: More is More! Halloween and the season that follows is a fertile period for this, let’s face it.

I decided to build a winged dragon around the chute, swooping down from the Juliet balcony of my second floor, extending to the little arbor at the front of my property about 30 feet away.

I went around the neighborhood on recycling day and collected all the large cardboard boxes I could find and headed over to the hardware store to buy a few PVC pipes. I pulled out some lovely sheer fabric I’d picked up years ago at a market in India which I’d used for various projects, all glittery and sequined, dyed intense pinks and blues and oranges, perfect for the wings. I laid it all out on the floor of my basement and set out to paint and build this creature. On Halloween day, I asked one of my relatives to come over and help me figure out how to hang it without pulling the front of my house down on top of innocent superheroes and princesses. It took us the whole day, yanking and adjusting. The trick or treaters had already started arriving, but finally, we got it up.

It looked like crap.

It was nothing like what I had imagined, the wings were all twisted up, the body barely held together, the paint was pretty faded and altogether it looked like a total mess. Worst of all, the chute didn’t work!!! We ended up having to throw the candy down onto the front lawn. And then it started raining, so the whole thing fell apart that night… (which was for the best.)


That day, I got it into my head that I was going to make dragon-building an annual tradition, because more is still more.

The following year, I asked my kid what kind of dragon he wanted to build: a Wither Storm, a three headed living tornado with glowing purple eyes, shiny white teeth and tentacles flying around that only Minecrafters would really recognize. I checked out some images online and I thought, “oh wow, this is going to be a breeze! It’s just a bunch of boxes and stuff.” So excitedly, I set out to build the dragon.

I wandered around the neighborhood on recycling day collecting boxes and bought a roll of black craft paper and pulled a bunch of left over string lights from somewhere in the recesses of all my junk. I laid it all out on the floor of my basement and went about cutting and gluing and taping and tying. And on halloween day, I asked my relative to come over and help me hang the creature and we got it up in only about 3 hours this time, and I would honestly say that this time around, I’d rate my dragon as crap plus one.

It was a total mess, looked like it was about to explode at any moment and was all floppy, the eyes didn’t shine and the tentacles were like solid giant kelp. But I give it a plus one because the chute worked! One kid who came by even cried out to his dad, “Look! It’s a Witherstorm!”

I’m committed to building back better this year. What’s up with that? I just had another year of public humiliation, my neighbors doubtlessly walking by shaking their heads thinking “what now….?” (or worse.) Am I a masochistic lunatic or just a fool?

This year, we’re building King Ghidorah, the three headed kaiju with electricity breath. I grew up loving those old dubbed godzilla movies, one of the few things from my generation which retains a bit of relevance for my son nowadays. I’m feeling optimistic, but I’m also thinking it’ll most likely end up being crap plus two.

Have you ever been to a concert by one of your favorite performers that wasn’t very engaging? How about a comedy that wasn’t that funny, or a sporting event where your team sucked or your guy choked? Every professional who ever creates something and shows it off publicly knows this dilemma, needing to carry on after you’ve tanked. It’s not a great feeling, but every good coach knows how to work with their losing team. Only one team makes it to the Super Bowl, and some teams don’t win almost any of the games they play; how do their coaches keep them motivated? Strive for excellence, not perfection.

Excellence, not perfection. Strive for. Strive.

Important words strung together densely packed with meaning. Before we can Be Excellent, we have to Become Excellent. Becoming is something that happens to us over time and effort. I don’t really love the mediocre crap I produce, but I genuinely love the Becoming experience. I love the plus ones and the plus twos.

I’m lucky that I feel that way, because I don’t always feel that with everything I do.

Sometimes my frustration, shame and confusion is too much for me and I give up. Most of the time I give up before I even start, just imagining those feelings consuming me.

What hurts and confuses me is when I talk to people who only see the flaws in what they’ve created. It especially hurts me when they are amazing people who’ve created amazing things. I talk to people like that a lot.

What’s the answer? How do we all fall in love with Becoming? We talk about ourselves that way. We express gratitude for what we’ve done, for what we’ve accomplished. We celebrate what is as well as mourn what isn’t. And we declare out loud to everyone we know that we’re committed to becoming excellent and ask for help getting there.

I really want to do an excellent job with the dragon this year, but it feels like a long shot. What I can promise is that I’ll create something new, I’ll be challenging myself and I’ll be expressing myself courageously. I’ll be asking for more help. And each year, I’ll take the time to explain all this to my son, so when he grows up, he’ll understand this stuff about Excellence and Becoming better than I did when I got to adulthood. Maybe he’ll be five minutes ahead of me on the journey to wisdom.

That feels like the biggest plus one of them all.



Danni Michaeli, MD

A psychiatrist and a dreamer, I'm always listening for the magic and wondering what we're all doing here.....