Psychology Today did an interview with me. It was about my most triumphant moments in my life, and how I overcame obstacles to get there. I knew immediately that the interview was going to be a disaster, so I told them I wanted to do the interview written, rather than on the phone.
Then I didn't write the interview for a week.
Then I complained about the questions: I don't really believe in triumph. Because the most triumphant moments are the days when I have no idea how I’m going to fix anything, but I get out of bed anyway. On the other hand, the moments of huge achievement are not actually that hard to get to. By the time you’re close, you are so motivated to get there that it doesn’t feel like work at all.
So I wrote that. And then I felt bad. So I tried to give an example. People like examples. And I like Psychology Today. And I didn't want to disappoint them.
So I wrote that the moment when I was a freelance writer and a new mom and had post-partum depression but I knew I had to keep working so I had to get out of bed and write. Maybe there were fifty moments like that. Or five hundred. But those are the moments of triumph. The thing is, I think it was probably messed up that I kept working and did not check myself into a hospital. And then I started thinking that all my moments of triumph came at the heels of me having done something totally terrible.
Like, let me tell you right now that before I could play volleyball professionally, I was literally starving. So I stole bagels at the bagel shop. I have had about ten editors take that out of my writing. Out of my Business 2.0 column, out of my book, and my editor will tell me now that this is not good to put in a post. Stealing is bad, right? But my point is that it's very hard to do some extraordinary triumph without taking some extraordinary risk or making an odd judgment that other people would not make. That's why the triumph is extraordinary.
Another thing about the bullshit of big triumphs: Our big moments — where we can change the world — come because so many other people have helped us, and luck has come to us. But our small moments, when no one is watching and no one cares and the only thing that makes us try again is an unreasonable belief that we can get what we want for ourselves — those are the triumphs that we do all by ourselves.
When I have been on the cusp of huge success, there have always been people to help me. For example, my agent stayed with me when I was out of money but about to get a six-figure book deal.
But there was no one helping me get out of bed the day I knew I had to start writing my book proposal even though the odds of getting a big book deal from it were terrible. The daily task of believing things will improve when then things look bad. We do that on our own, and each time I do it I am thankful, in a deep, spiritual way. I’m not sure what keeps me going when everything looks terrible, but I know that each time I do it, it’s a triumph. And it happens a lot.
Another thing. Everyone, please shut up about your biggest failures. I hate when people write about their failures because they always write about how they pulled themselves up, or what they learned. And really, then, it’s not a failure, is it? It’s a learning opportunity, or a chance to shine. Failure is something you did not overcome. You did not learn from. And most people are too embarrassed to write about it. High achievers don’t have failures because they can learn from everything.
There is no finish line, there is no gold prize. There is only living with yourself, day after day. So each day needs to be a small triumph so you can pat yourself on the back before you go to sleep. I try to do that. Today’s triumph is doing this interview with Psychology Today. Sure, I couldn't quite do it, and I had to be quirky and weird, and it probably cost me getting into the article. But at least I wrote something.