Found/Written Words – Cary Tennis

Had a Salon article sent to me by a friend. It struck on some themes that I’ve been meaning to write on, so I figured I’d start with a quote and elaborate from there:

“These assumptions are that success and achievement would follow an orderly path, that whatever you encountered in life would lead to greater happiness and freedom, that you would excel at whatever you attempted and that any opportunity you chose to pursue would bear fruit.”

This idea, that success is orderly and you go from one successful thing to the next, is something I’ve been struggling with/reading about lately. I tend to think of it in terms of momentum; doing well at something launches me into doing something else that’s bigger and better.

But, the more I read, the more I think that framework is bunk. Just finished 3 Cups of Tea, and before that Kaplan’s Lincoln. In both of those books the protagonists go on to accomplish amazing (and worthwhile) things. But they also both deal with prolonged periods of failure. For Mortenson, it was years of living out of his car and a storage unit, with no money. For Lincoln, it was being in debt, losing elections and power, and struggling with his family.

All of this is starting to merge into a coherent theme. The first is that sustained success is somewhat of a myth. The second is that to accomplish great things in the fields that interest me, particularly non-profit/community work and policy, the down turns might be even more pronounced.

That’s not something I’ve seriously considered up to this point.

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