“Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” -Rumi
We’ll be disappointed. Things won’t go as planned. Try another route. Another idea. Another pitch. These failures are all material. The detours are the journey.
If I’ve learned anything this past year of saying yes, it’s this: your past failures and disappointments only define you if you give them permission to do so. I’ve fought against this a lot this year in every area of my life. It’s hard & necessary work. The truth is we get bitter or we get better. And it’s as simple and as difficult as that. I chose better. You with me?
I’m thinking a lot about how stories we tell ourselves affect our paths. What we say are our strengths and weaknesses, gifts and shortcomings, triumphs and regrets. If we change our stories, we can change our minds. And if we change our minds, we change our hearts. And if we change our hearts, then we can change everything.
Here’s a lesson we should adopt from Olympic ice skaters: they receive more points for attempting a difficult jump and falling than they do from downgrading the jump to something easier and landing perfectly. Why isn’t that the norm in our entire society. Let’s reward and celebrate one another for daring greatly and failing rather than taking the easy path.
I saw this list over the weekend:
Know this: it is never too late to do what you love. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to achieve all of our dreams at an increasingly younger age. We beat ourselves up because we aren’t a 30 Under 30 or a 40 Under 40. Here’s my advice: forget about your age. Stop tracking your life’s milestones against someone else’s.
Life is about the long game; it’s about being a little bit better version of yourself today than you were yesterday. That’s the greatest win of all. Your life could change at any moment, at any age. Do something you’re proud of doing. Celebrate your wins, learn from your losses, and most importantly, keep going. You’re going to find your way. You’re going to find what you’re meant to do, who you’re meant to be with, and where you’re meant to be. I can’t tell you when, but I can tell you that if you keep looking and trying new things, you will find your best life.
In Japan, “kintsugi” is an art form and method of mending. When a piece of pottery develops cracks, those cracks are filled with gold. The flaws aren’t hidden; they’re highlighted. We try so hard to give the illusion of perfection—in photos, in words, in life. What if we not only let our imperfections and flaws and mistakes and scars show, but we actually brought attention to them? What if we shouted them from the rooftops and claimed them as sources of strength and resilience and courage? What if we could celebrate them, in ourselves and in others? Imagine how much kinder and more productive we could be if we stopped being so afraid to try, and just decided to go for it without any concern of failure and success, only to embrace doing our best and learning every step of the way. What would you try first?
“The wait’s going to be at least an hour.”
That’s what one of the guides said to me at the Met when I inquired about the insanely long line to see the exhibit Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer. I almost left without seeing it. Almost. But then I remembered my commitment to say yes more often in 2018 (even though it was still 2017.)
So I wound my way through multiple gallery spaces and parked myself at the very end of the line. I knew it would be crowded; I doubted I would be able to get up close to the pieces. And that was okay with me. I just wanted to be in the presence of the work. So I waited. For about 10 minutes, not even close to an hour, and then I was there. The first part of the exhibit was crowded but I was able to get up close to the work in many of the galleries. Very close to it.
“Yes, I’ll stay in line” was the right answer.
Toward the end of the exhibit, I came to this placard. It’s short story hit me right in the gut. I audibly gasped. To give the illusion of perfection, to hide his process and his struggle in his work, Michelangelo burned many of his sketches. He wanted people to think his talent was effortless and god-given even though it was far from it.
Think of all that lost work. Think of everything we could have learned if he hadn’t been so concerned about the illusion of perfection.
I sat there in the middle of the exhibition and thought about how afraid we all are to show our stumbles and missteps, how we savor the performance and cringe at the endless practice it took to get there.
When I left the museum, I turned and looked back at the building in the cold, dark night. I was so glad and grateful to be able to come to this museum any time I want, to live in a city that build castles to creativity. And as I looked at the Met, I thought about how much art has changed my life. And how much effort, how much beautiful effort, it takes to be an artist of any kind.
What if we could all commit to being a little more authentic, to sharing when we’re lost and confused and unsure of how to proceed, to asking for help? What if we could be okay with admitting failure and defeat because accepting them while not being discouraged by their existence gives us resilience and confidence? Imagine what we could learn, what we could inspire, and what we could teach others in the process. I say, yes. Let’s.
Exactly two months ago, I decided to try to make ACanofCoke.com, my online college- and career-readiness service, a reality. This week I scheduled meetings with 3 NYC public high school principals to talk about doing a pilot with their students this summer and fall. It took emailing 398 principals to get this response. Hey if it’s a numbers game, then I’m ready to play.
The mission of this idea matters so much to me that I’m not bothered by the rejection. I could look at this as ~1% of the schools I emailed are interested or I could see it as ~99% aren’t. I’m going with the former.
Rejection is a part of business, art, and life. We will be rejected far more often than we are accepted – at least that’s been my experience and the experience of just about everyone I know. It’s not the amount of failure we endure, but the persistence and passion that matter most. As Babe Ruth once said, “It’s tough to beat someone who never gives up.” Keep going.
“For a star to be born, there is one thing that must happen: a gaseous nebula must collapse. So collapse. Crumble. This is not your destruction. This is your birth.” ~Zoe Skylar
We work so hard to keep things, even ourselves, from falling apart. Somehow we have managed to associate becoming undone with being completely done, forever. Don’t be ashamed of your undoing or your failure, your missteps or your losses. This is a cycle of life – catching and releasing, holding on and letting go, rising up and falling down. There’s so much to be learned and experienced in the collapse. There you can rest, restore, and rebuild. Wiser, braver, stronger, more focused, and with the knowledge that no matter what life throws at you, you will find a way to shine.
“The miracle is that we are here, that no matter how undone we’ve been the night before, we wake up every morning and are still here. It is phenomenal just to be.” ~Anne Lamott, Stitches
Have you ever noticed the perspective that comes with sleep? We can feel agitated, angry, anxious, and upset, and the next morning we have the chance to try again. Getting back up after being knocked down isn’t easy. It doesn’t always feel good. There are times that we wonder why we even continue to try. And I’ve found that there is something powerful and empowering in the act of rising, head up, eyes ahead. I literally narrow my eyes, drop the tone of my voice, take a deep breath, and will myself to speak up and take action.
The chance to try again, every day, is a gift. And it is ours to use.