Feel behind in life? You needn’t

You’re not behind. You’re right where you need to be. 

Just because so and so got that amazing title in their 20’s, or grew their business, published their book, got married, had kids, and did their thing before you did, that doesn’t mean you’re behind. 

You’re on your own track. You have your own story. 

Look at Colonel sanders. He started Kentucky Fried Chicken when he was 62. Was he behind? No, he was right on time. He wandered from odd job to odd job for decades and tried various ventures that failed, and even got fired for punching coworkers. But, he didn’t give up and continued to fight until he encountered birds in a delicious batter that made him famous. 

When I doubted my ability to get married and thought I was doomed to a life sentence of aloneness, a friend told me to “Stay in the game.” He was 44 when he found the love of his life. She was the right person at the right time. At 44, he wasn’t behind. He was timely. 

And he was right about staying in the game because I found the love of my life a few weeks later at a birthday party. It was love at first sight. Even though I felt behind since I was virtually the last of my friends to wed, the timing was perfect. 

Timing is everything. But everyone’s timing is different. You have your own pace; you have your own time. Don’t feel rushed, like you need to do what everyone else is doing when they do it. Find your way. Live your life. 

But make sure you keep fighting. Don’t give up.

Your time will come.

Love yourself when you make a mistake

When we make a mistake, we might be harsh with others. But the person we are often harshest with isn’t anyone around us. It’s ourselves.

Sure, you made a mistake. Yes, it was terrible.

But why make it worse? Why punish yourself more? The mistake is bad enough.

Let it go. Punishing yourself won’t change the past, but you can change how you treat yourself right now.

Remind yourself that this isn’t the end but only a part of the process of growing. Speak tenderly to yourself.

You aren’t your mistake. You made a mistake.

You aren’t a mistake. You’re mistaken.

Correct it now.

Love yourself.

You need to know this about failure to succeed

img_4447Failing isn’t just failure. It’s a sign that you are trying, attempting—alive.

When you fail, it doesn’t mean you’re silly or a loser or even a failure. No. It says you tried doing something outside of your comfort zone. It means you’re an explorer, adventurer, believer. You’re courageous.

You know that life isn’t just about living or staying alive. It’s about feeling alive, pushing yourself beyond your limits, growing.

Failure is just a part of the growth process. So don’t quit because you made a mistake, faltered, or failed miserably.

Get back up and see that this is the path you trod to gain great things, a greater you.

Doing that, you can’t help but succeed.

When creating feels impossible, you need to know this

Creating can feel like fighting nature: Impossible. Making that painting, writing that novel or blog post or, sometimes, even a sentence can make us break into a cold sweat.

And it’s tempting to think, “Oh, I’ll just wait for inspiration to hit,” like a kid holding a kite as he waits for a strong wind to pick up on a deathly still day in the Midwest. You might be there for months, still waiting.

Don’t do that. It won’t serve you at all. Instead, do this.

Make something crappy.

That’s right. Just pick up a shovel and shovel some metaphorical crap all over your canvas, paper, screen, or whatever you’re trying to create on. If it stinks like something ungodly, don’t stop, keep it going.

Because making crap is often exactly what you need to do to create something beautiful. Any great artist or creator whom you admire did just that. Look at how they started or some of their early work. Or, if you only see their good stuff, then they destroyed all of the work they hated and were embarrassed by. But, believe me, it is there. It is terrible. It doesn’t look right: The proportions are off, the pacing is wonky, it’s dark in the places it should be light and light in the areas it should be dark. It’s crap.

So when you feel embarrassed or ashamed, remember that almost every creative person goes through what you do. Not every piece is a masterpiece. Few of them are; many of them are mediocre. Most of them probably smell like a farm on a hot, humid summer day.

Can’t write a sentence? Don’t worry about it. Jot down a fragment. Scribble a word, misspelled. Just get it out of you. Then do it again and again. And before you know it, a sentence will form right before your eyes. It will be ugly, but it will be there. Don’t worry about how bad it is because you can go back later and make it fuller, simpler, better.

Beauty isn’t formed from perfection, no; it’s cultivated in awful, embarrassing, smelly stuff. Creating is like gardening. To create, you have to kneel into the dirt and dump fertilizer down, spreading it around with your hands. It’s not neat and tidy, clean and easy. It’s dirty. You’re in crap. It gets all over you. But that’s what makes your garden grow and flourish.

Crap is what feeds your creativity. It will make your work grow.

So pick up your shovel and start piling it on. Just do it.

And not only will your work bloom.

You will too.

To succeed you need to know this

Failure is a part of the process of succeeding. You can’t have one without the other.

So don’t despair when you don’t see the results you want, make a mistake on that project, or fail to find the right answer.

Learn from it. Grow from it.

Walk away stronger, smarter, better, and persist in pushing forward. Whether you go in the same direction or not, persevere.

For, success is less about succeeding and more about learning how to fail.

If you do that, you can’t help but succeed.

This is the way you can succeed

Failing doesn’t mean you’re a failure.

That’s a definition that is determined by you, not by your failures, mistakes, or even others.

You make that decision every day by choosing what you do with your time, energy, talent.

Get up and decide to learn from your failures and continue marching forward, trying this and that to see what will work.

Work on that thing you believe in, even if everyone else is laughing at you because you’re not alone.

Every successful person experienced failure. It’s an essential element of success. Failing is a part of the process.

So choose to move forward despite your fears.

For, there is no success without failing.


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Remember, you don’t improve without improving your thinking.

You don’t have to be a billionaire to feel rich.

You don’t have to be popular to feel loved.

You don’t have to get awards to feel successful.

Success starts in between your ears. And it’s not just about what you think. It’s about how you think.

It’s not just about thinking better thoughts. It’s about thinking thoughts better.

That’s why I write.

When being imperfect can be your greatest asset

Even if you are incredibly flawed, you can still succeed and even reach great heights. You just need to be one thing: Dogged. Look at Vincent Van Gogh.

For much of his life he felt like a failure, and you might be feeling like you can’t do anything right, let alone anything good. But you can. You just haven’t found what you’re good at–that thing you should do. Your parents tell you to do this or that career. So you do it. You see your friends succeeding in that or this thing. So you do it. But none of them work for you. You fail or feel unsatisfied. And you feel defeated, unworthy, washed up. But you’re not. Don’t give up. Keep looking, like Van Gogh. You can find that thing you should do. Keep digging like a starving dog digs for a bone in a yard.  

For, persistence pays–sometimes, literally. Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings are some of the most valued pieces ever. They go for astronomical prices. He was a genius, and his work is breathtaking. But for most of his life, even after he started painting, he was filled with pain, isolation, and scorn. He was flawed, deeply.

Van Gogh failed at almost every career path he attempted. Art dealer, teacher, clerk, pastor, and missionary. All but one ended in utter failure. One of the main reasons he failed was that he had deep-seated issues. He was mentally ill, he was painfully introverted, and he had some hygiene issues, like he wouldn’t bathe for long stretches, sometimes for weeks upon weeks. And he was argumentative and combative. It was like he couldn’t help but disagree with others. It’s not hard to see why most of the friends he had left him. Saying that he was imperfect would be an understatement. 

Before I go any further, I must say that I’m not celebrating mental illness, nor am I belittling it. Van Gogh was seriously ill and needed professional help. That’s goes without argument. He was broken, but beautiful. And the purpose in this piece is to look at his journey and see what what we can learn from it. And what I see is a man who fought.

He was persistent. Yes, he fell into deep spells of depression and felt suicidal at times, especially after failing. And he would lash out at others and dive into a pool of self-pity and wallow in it. Yet, all the while, he was working to find that thing he was supposed to do. Then he found drawing. And that went to painting. And that led to painting with oils, which is the medium through which we know his masterpieces that we see hanging on the wide white walls of lofty museums. Oil painting to him was an aha moment, an epiphany. For him, the universe went from dissonance to harmony. But, when he was using them, creating his famous work, those closest to him didn’t see genius, they thought it foolish and were appalled at how different and strange it was. Nonetheless, he continued to paint. 

I am indeed a person who struggles with many things, but to focus on one that I share with the great Mr. Van Gogh is this– combativeness. I am combative. I’ve always been that way. I seem to have some kind of disease that’s incurable. I can’t help but fight. Whenever I think someone is wrong, I’m compelled to speak and tell them how wrong I think they are. I do have friends, but many of them will attest that it’s not easy being my friend. “He’s an acquired taste,” they may say. I say that I’m flawed. 

Maybe you are, too. You may not be the nicest person; you may even be incredibly broken. You may have terrible hygiene, awful smelling breath, dress poorly, be uncouth, uncool, mentally ill, terribly unpopular, incapable of fitting in, holding a conversation, or starting one. But that doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish something great, incredible, world-changing, even. 

Every time I go to the Modern Museum of Art in New York City, I’m always compelled to visit Starry Night, arguable Van Gogh’s most famous piece. Sure, all of the tourists crowd around it, like piranhas around meat, taking pictures and leaning in, contorting their heads and bodies to get that perfect selfie, but I still go. I can’t stop myself. It’s too beautiful to miss when you’re in such proximity. It’s magnetic. It pulls you in by the luscious spirals of night, the spritely stars, golden crescent moon, sleepy little town, and the silent church that seems to anchor the whole piece. It’s magnificent.

But it was borne from deep pain–guttural and soul-wrenching. If it weren’t for that, Van Gogh may not have been able to transport such feeling into his work. And his isolation and introversion allowed him to focus and concentrate in ways that others could not. His “weaknesses” were the very things that helped him create such otherworldly art. 

Deeply flawed people are often those who are profoundly wounded. If you are one of those people, you know the anguish. Every day you live in it, suffering. If so, you need to know that it’s often you who create incredible work–the art, writings, poetry, songs, paintings. Out of the womb of pain gives birth to glorious creations. 

And, not only that, the pangs that you’ve lived with have helped you become persistent. You’ve had to learn how to deal with that ache every time you take a step, breath, or just lie there. Or you constantly feel like you don’t fit and have had to learn how to deal with your flaws or the way others treat you, fighting daily. That fight–that doggedness–helps you continue, and it can fuel your work, your life. Your pain can teach you persistence and transform your deficit into an asset.

Even that incurable disease I have for confrontation is the very thing that seems to help me confront my fears, when I feel like a failure. That combativeness helps me combat the daily struggles that I have and the temptations I face when I want to doubt myself or shrink from doing the hard things in life and work to succeed. My flaw becomes a strength.

You may be flawed, too, but those deficits also make you unique and can transform into assets, and they can even propel you onto a path toward greatness. In your despair, don’t feel defeated. Persist. Continue inching forward. And I believe you can find your oil paint, your aha moment, your epiphany. And you, too, can hear the beautiful music of the universe harmonize. 

But no matter what, fight on.


Get Van Gogh’s full story here (affiliate link). It’s an incredibly well-written biography of one of the world’s greatest artists; it inspired this post.

One of the best words to use when you feel bad

“Again” is a common word, but for those who’ve failed, been rejected, feel ashamed, it’s incredibly powerful.

It means you get to start afresh; you get to find new love or rekindle an old one after feeling unlovable; you get to do that thing you never thought you would be able to do after failing so many times; you get to find a new career after getting laid off. “Again” is a whisper of possibility, a hint of opportunity, when you think there’s no point, no future, no more. It’s a resurrection, redemption, death to life, hell to heaven.

Life isn’t over when you fail, get rejected, fall in shame.

Try again. Get up again.

Go again. Fly again.

Live again.

Hope again.