It’s a truism that life is full of ups and downs. When you’re doing well, it seems like the sky’s the limit.
But when you’re in a trough, it’s really hard to see the forest for the trees, and to know when you might come out of a down period. Life constantly seems like a work in progress.
In case it helps you, I wanted to share a framework that helps me get through these troughs, which can sometimes last a very long time.
Life as a Work-In-Progress Story
I think of my life as a work-in-progress story with this title:
“All the Times I Failed Before I Finally Made It”
Basically, I know that the story of my life is still being written. It’s a story of a series of failures, dotted with some intermittent successes, before finally making it big.
It’s a long and boring story and needs editing — but that’s the way in which I summarise my life-in-progress. Struggle, some bright spots along the way, and finally, contentment.
Sounds great, right? Yes! In theory, it does.
But in practise, the in which times I fail are tough. They weigh on me. So I need this story to help me see the end in the beginning.
What does it mean to “make it”?
This is a personal definition. For me, it has evolved.
When I was young, to “make it” was something like ” to find happiness.”
Then it became a few material things, like a few houses in different parts of the world, like I wrote about in my personal daily affirmations. And now, the definition of to “make it” is evolving into a sense of contentment with myself.
But what’s for sure is that on the path to whatever it is, I’ve had many failures along the way.
I’ve been let go from jobs, lost money on investments, and tried many things that didn’t work. I’ve avoided things that in hindsight would have been fantastic — jobs, businesses, educational opportunities. I’ve wasted time. I’ve made bad decisions listening to my gut as well as listening to logic.
And that’s OK. It’s OK for me to think of my story as one that’s a work in progress, and whose final chapters are yet to be written. And it’s OK to be mired in a phase of what are, objectively speaking, failures.
On social media, people write about little failure stories in convenient, ultimately positive snippets. “We learned many lessons,” is the common refrain, “And now we’re doing great.” (It’s just one of many reasons I quit LinkedIn.)
In this ad, Michael Jordan talks about how he has missed more than 9,000 shots in his career, lost almost 300 games, and been trusted 26 times to take the game-winning shot only to miss.
And in the end, of course, after all those failures, he becomes Michael Jordan.
But what you don’t read is about the people who didn’t become Michael Jordan, or who don’t even have a much smaller heart-warming short-term success on which to end the anecdote.
The Final Chapter
Before every new job, round of investment, or acquisition, there’s sometimes a gruelling period of just… nothing. Stress, anxiety, time wasted. And sometimes that final good news doesn’t come, and the “lessons learned” post is never made.
Sometimes, the only lesson to be learned is that life is hard and sucks sometimes.
But it’s ok. The story is still being written, and finding positivity helps me reframe downturns as turnaround points. That final chapter is coming!