This post argues that most people are much nearer to making it than they may think. There are three main stages that separate people from “making it”, regardless of whether the “making” is professional, personal, getting into uni or achieving the American dream, starting your own business, breaking a bad habit, kicking an addiction, it can be anything. The first one is before they try anything. This is probably the most intimidating of the three and for good reason. Making it in any way requires winning a fight and that, in turn, requires overcoming some difficulties which, before you try to overcome them, you don’t know the nature of. So, most people stop there. They don’t try to make it because it looks like a mountain too high to climb, and a mountain that they can’t even see how high it is due to fog. It may be too high, too cold, too steep and so on. Of course. But the problem here is not the “high”, or “cold”, or “steep” bit. The problem is the “too” bit. Because at this stage most people don’t know that it is “too” whatever. They only think it may be, therefore they don’t try to overcome the difficulty. This stops a huge percentage of people from trying altogether. It is funny, because it is really only a state of mind. To use a second metaphor, if you can visualise someone thinking of swimming from one island to another, this is the stage where one looks into the ocean, but it is not clear how far the target island/shore is.
The second stage comes after one has started swimming and reached what they thought were their limits (but not before). At that stage, most people find that their limits – physical, emotional, intellectual – stretched further than they originally thought. This can only happen mid-ocean. This is a stage that transforms people, in a positive way. It makes everybody better, stronger and more experienced. If things don’t work out, you know your real limits or you know what went wrong and you can retry avoiding mistakes (this can happen many times). In the ocean metaphor, you encounter currents. You realise what they are, sometimes they hold you back, sometimes they push you where you want to go, sometime sideways, sometimes there aren’t any. It is not so much that you learn to swim against currents, but you learn to stay afloat and that is sometimes all you need. There will of course be times that you need to swim. It is really a win win situation, even if the temporary outcome is that you go back to square one. Second effort is better.
The third crucial point is a bit before you reach the shore. This is important because it requires that you TELL YOURSELF to keep going. You have indeed stretched your limits, and you were right to think that it was a fight that could be won. Currents can still push you back but you know what to do now because you have done it before. You have probably bounced back from several setbacks, so you – YOU – were enough for this. But being near the shore is not being quite there yet and it may require some harsh realizations. Some stuff may need to be re-done in ways that may be quite extensive. Now, at least, you know what is needed. It sounds very Kipling meet Kavafis, I know, but this is it. At this stage you know how much you can do, you know whether you really enjoyed the journey there, and you know your new limits and why you shouldn’t have left yourself without trying. People already see you in a different way and this can change many things as to how they treat you. Better yet, you have now “left behind” about 99% of those with whom you are supposedly competing, it is a different level already.
You’ll get there.