Thomas Edison tried over 2000 different filaments before he was able to create a market viable light bulb. Some filaments burnt out. Others were too expensive to source. Still others were too labor intensive. Edison…
I remember exactly where I was when the gravity of the situation hit me. I had heard that something happened in the financial world, but I was young— with few stakes in the game. It didn’t affect me at first. Then I started overhearing the stories.
I was on a bus and a group of men nearing retirement age were discussing it. The crash hit them hard. Investments that they had been planning their future on had dropped in value nearly overnight. The future they had envisioned no longer seemed feasible. It was a disaster.
The year was 2008 and we were living through what has become known as the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression.
Things looked bleak and the future was entirely uncertain.
That crash may have been the largest in quite a few years, but it’s not the only drop the market has had. In fact it’s just one of many.
Stock prices rise and fall on a daily basis. It’s why short term gains are difficult in the stock market. Some people play that game, but only a few win. The market is too unpredictable.
But there’s another story that the stock market tells— the longer view story.
No matter the rise and falls, over time there will be gains if you stay the course.
Take a look at these graphs of the stock market from the day that I’m writing this. The value is the vertical axis (ups and downs), and time is the left to right axis. (Note: it’ll be easy to skip this, but it’s worth your time to really look at them— I promise!)
Click through to see graphs and continue reading.
I’m sitting at my desk. Watching a cursor blink on a blank page. It’s 9:11am. I intended to start writing this over an hour ago. But I haven’t been able to.
I had hopes of writing something big and courageous to you today, but it’s just not how I feel. I feel small and afraid.
Creating something worthwhile, whether it be a blog post, a piece of art, a career, or a life, it’s hard and scary work.
This probably isn’t news to you.
I had a friend who took a cold shower every day for months in an effort to build mental toughness. I talked with him about it when he was well into the project. He said, “You’d think it gets easier. It doesn’t. You get used to the idea that you’re going to step into that really cold water and it’ll be hard to stay there. But the act of being in it doesn’t get easier. You can get used to getting in, but you don’t get used to staying.”
I want creating something meaningful to get easier, but like taking a cold shower, it doesn’t. You may get used to sitting in your chair, but the hard work of creating is always hard work. It’s easy to imagine that others have it easier— that others don’t fight the same battles you do — but they do.
The temptation is to give up because you have too far to go.
The step you’re taking today may barely matter in the face of where you want to be. The work you’re doing right now may not feel like it’s moving you any closer to the work that you want to be doing— but it is. And that’s the real battle: staying the course. Not giving up. Holding onto your hope. Believing that more is possible.
We’ve heard lofty promises about how easy success can be if you’ll invest in this or that product. I’m not here to say that there aren’t helpful tools, courses, and experts who know what’s what. There absolutely are (and I hope that I’m one of them!).
There’s just a danger of thinking that life should and can be so much easier, better, more clean, more clear, more streamlined, more linear, etc.
Easy success isn’t what any of us need. It’s thin. Getting an easy win only means you’ll need another later on. Sure, an easy win would feel great, but given enough time we’ll all be right back where are right now— needing the next win.
Take two sports teams of equal skill (you choose the sport). Have one compete against bad teams all the time to ensure they win. Have the other compete against the best teams out there to ensure they lose. A year from now have them play each other. Who will win? The one that has been given easy wins for the past year or the one who has been losing?
My money’s on the team that’s lost the most…
It’s easy to feel like you’re on your own as you try to lean into doing meaningful work. Whether you are still searching for your mission, or struggling to bring alignment between what you want to do and how you pay the bills— you can often feel stuck and alone. You feel overwhelmed by the distance from where you are to where you want to go.
If feels like you just have to do what you have to do and it won’t matter to others if you succeed or fail.
It feels that way to me at least (is anyone with me in this?).
In my worst moments I feel like people want me to fail. It feels like they’re waiting for proof that I couldn’t handle it, so they can laugh, and look at each other saying, “I told you so.”
(I know! What a cruel and cold world the inside of my head can be…)
I’m learning that there’s another truth, if I can find the space to believe it: people want you to succeed…