Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Life Well Lived

What do impressionist paintings and a successful life have in common? They both become much clearer when viewed from far away.

Think about it: when you initially set out after a goal, you're in the thick of things. This is the whole 'you can't see the forest for the trees' experience - it is incredibly hard to take a broad objective perspective on something when you're hiking through a valley forest and all you see are rocks, green stuff, and sky (followed by more rocks, green stuff, and sky). For all you know, that forest might go on forever -- and when you reach a difficult pass, it's easy to feel like that dark, thorn-infested, spooky-looking patch is just a preview for how hard the rest of your journey is going to be.

Worst. Hike. Ever.
For example, you may have heard of the man who wrote these words:
"That can't be my story.
That's only a start.
I'll say that a ZEBRA was pulling that cart!
And that is a story that no one can beat,
When I say that I saw it on Mulberry Street."
Jerk Alert.
That would be Theodor Suess Giesel, better known as Dr. Suess. Did you know twenty-seven different publishers rejected his first book, To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street? How in the world do you say "no" to Dr. Suess? Apparently they all hated fun, and probably spent their days twirling their evil mustaches and despising green eggs and ham. No matter -- even before Mulberry Street found a publisher, the Dr. Suess success machine was up and running -- but it might have been hard to tell that from behind a desk covered by rejection letters.

And what about Oprah? She seems pretty cool - I mean, she's only one of the richest and most influential women in the world. But first, she had to survive an abusive childhood and numerous setbacks -- including being fired from her job as a television reporter because she was "unfit for TV." Yes, the woman who presides over a massive media empire and and whose daytime talk show / awesome-stuff-giveaway-apparatus appeared in 2.6% of American households daily (that's 7.4 million people, Holmes) - OPRAH - was not the kind of person TV execs thought belonged in front of a camera.

Success tastes sweetest when served over hater's regret-flavored tears.
The point is that wherever you are in your journey, you need to keep in mind that things aren't necessarily going to fall into the imaginary narrative arc that you have planned out inside your head. Let go of those expectations, and just stick to the business of getting through the here and now. As Dr. Suess would say,

“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
ou can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You're on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go [...]
 You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So... get on your way!”

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