Most people struggle with keeping their focus and attention away from their failures and embarassments. We generally have a microscope set on maximum zoom to all of the things we so desperately want to forget. It's sometimes unbelievable how low we'll make ourselves feel because of things that didn't work out (or at least not how we wanted). These supposed setbacks range from massive shakeups like divorce to thinking we're waving at our friend Jim when - gasp! - that's not Jim! Oh the horror of doing something weird and awkward in public. We let those moments of feeling stupid hang on us like bags of cement, thinking that's all we are. Just crazy, stupid losers getting divorced and accidentally waving at strangers. If we could all just slam on our self-hating brakes for a moment and collectively go, "WOAH! Why am I racing to Shit-on-me-ville, and was that Starbucks always there???"
In my previous post "All the Right Places" I mentioned a book I had spent years writing. The book never sold, and it really knocked me on my back. It was that horrible feeling of having the wind knocked out of you. You know you're going to breath again, but for those terrifying few seconds you think you're lingering between life and death. It's true that the odds of making it as a writer are slim, and there was no guarantee of anything happening. But that doesn't take away from the sting that everyone knows I tried, and I failed.
For about a year after, I felt it wasn't worth it. I know there's a lot of people on the fence thinking about taking a plunge into something themselves. If you're one of those people, considering writing your own book, recording music, or starting a business, you probably want some reassurance it'll work out. You might be looking into other success stories for the courage to go for it. You've probably read a million stories about how so-and-so went for it, and, KAZAM! Now they're living their dream and richer than the ShamWow guy. Woot woot!
Of course, for every ShamWow guy there's someone who saw their efforts fizzle out. Now I'm one of those people, and if you're looking for reassurance that you shouldn't try, that's it's not worth it, then you're in the wrong place. I know you should try, and I hope you feel the same way by the time you read to the end of this post.
YES, you should absolutely go for it.
You should put your blood, sweat and tears into something, and no matter what happens, enjoy the journey. For every success story that reassures you it's worth it, there should be one of "failure" that pats your hand and tells it'll be okay also. Because it will. It really will. It's okay to fall. It's okay to stumble. It's okay to wander so far from the main road you wonder if you're still in Narnia.
There's a lot of reasons to go chase down whatever it is you're thinking of doing. One reason would be that you never know what it'll lead to. Today's failure could be tomorrow's starting block for something totally unexpected and amazing. Or you could meet your soulmate when you finally sign up for the thing (marathon, cooking competition, cruise, etc.). You might even find that people have been waiting for you to do what you do, and they're so relieved you had the courage, because they want to do it also!
But the real reason is a simple one. It's just a matter of, "Why not?" It's a matter of doing it because life is about trying stuff. Life is about having fun, experimenting, seeing what sticks and what doesn't. Why not try? Because it might not work out? As someone who went through that, I learned to say to myself, "So what?" I'll try again, and I'll let go of what wasn't working for me.
As long as you're breathing, you're got reason enough to try. This won't go on forever. Life. One day, those breaths will stop. And will it really matter what your snarky Aunt Sally said? No. She'll be dead too, rest in peace. It will only matter that you fulfilled your passion and shook your fist at the haters. 'Cause haters gonna hate. You can't change that.
You can only change how you feel about you.
So let's get started. Let's start changing how we view our attempts in life, both the good and the bad. And it's easy. The way to view it is so easy you'll wonder why you didn't do it before.
All you have to do is imagine that everything you do and try in life is a seed. It's a seed you drop. Dates, relationships, marriages, jobs, businesses, travels, friendships, they're all seeds. Some grow. Some don't.
We're going to take this metaphor further. I'd like to ask you to visualize a tree. A tall, beautiful tree in full bloom in the middle of summer. Maybe it's a tree that lines a road, adding some natural beauty to a city street. Maybe it's a tree in a field, providing shelter and shade to those who pass by it. Any tree will do. Now imagine all of the seeds that tree drops in its life. Have you ever walked around the base of a tree? Each year the ground is constantly littered with hundreds of those seeds.
A tree drops thousands, thousands, of seeds, all in the hope that maybe one will take root. Maybe one of those little seeds will grow into a big, sturdy tree itself one day. For the most part, those seeds end up rotting, stolen by squirrels, chewed up by dogs and swept into gutters. Now imagine if for each seed that didn't sprout the tree began to focus on it. It put all of its attention on those failed seeds. Those pathetic, depressing seeds that are ruining the tree's life because they are embarrassing it in front of all other trees. What stress!
Our poor tree friend is missing out on so much. Rather than seeing the other trees change into their beautiful fall colors, noticing the bird building a nest in its branches, or listening to the little boy laughing as he swing on its branch, all the tree can do is look down at the ground at his seed failures. And worse still, he's so afraid that one will never take root that he stops dropping new seeds. He's in a downward spiral and the next stop is a fertilizer addiction.
Of course a tree would never focus on the unrooted seeds. Because a tree knows that it's existence is enough. What a tree provides just by exisiting benefits the whole world. A tree doesn't go to work or get fancy or change anything to feel worthy. It just breathes. And by that breathing, our air is refreshed and the life cycle continues.
For you, it's the same. Your existence is enough. You are enough. Anything you do to enrich or expand your life, that's a bonus. That's a seed you've dropped. Maybe it'll grow, maybe it won't. And if it doesn't, don't stand around staring at it, wallowing over what could've been. Don't hang around kicking dry dirt and cussing it to death. Turn your head up, see the changing of the leaves, notice the birds in the sky and without even thinking it, you'll know that you'll drop more seeds. Water the ones you like, forget the ones that don't bring you happiness. Many spiritual teachers say it this way:
Where your attention goes, energy flows
You needn't see your failures (or successes) as defining you. They're as much a part of you as a seed is a part of a tree. I know some seem bigger than that, but that's because you've forgotten how big your spirit is. Your spirit is eternal. There is nothing bigger than the You that you really are. You only have to start remembering it, and those seeds you've dropped will start to come into perspective. They're small. You are huge. You are magnificent. You are the oak tree that provides shade in the meadow. You are important and worthy, and you were born that way. Life began when you took your first breath, and that was the moment you became important. As I said, everything else is a bonus that enriches life.
Now make like a tree and leave for your next adventure!