It was a glorious weekend filled with family and fun: the photo shows me with the little sister of one of Griffin’s friends who joined us for his Season-End Soccer Party. How sweet is that?!
Last week I read this quote:
When you are in doubt, be still, and wait;
When doubt no longer exists for you then go forward with courage.
So long as mists envelop you, be still;
Be still until the sunlight pours through and dispels the mists
– as it surely will. Then act with courage.
– Chief White Eagle
Many of my long-time readers will recognize in the quote the “I know I’ll know” lesson that I often share. And it’s so true.
For months I’ve been feeling the pull to things other than my coaching business.
As many of you know, I had a literary agent who was “shopping” my book to a lot of publishers over the last year – and all of them came back with some form of this response, “We love Stacey’s message but we feel it would be a hard sell given the fact that she doesn’t have a background/degree in mental health.”
When I first heard that feedback a year ago I rejected it. I thought, “NO WAY am I getting a degree in mental health!” But after hearing it over and over again over the last year, the sunlight finally poured through on the decision that I clearly needed to make.
I’ve now applied for a program that offers a masters degree in counseling and it seems likely that I will get in and start my studies in January. So in the interest of pursuing this degree, something has to give – and that’s my coaching business.
I will no longer promote my business, create new programs or write this newsletter. I will still take on coaching clients from now until the end of the year, so if you’ve been thinking of working with me – NOW is the time!
I’m also offering half-off on all of my self-study programs – until November 15th and then they will be off the market forever. Just go to staceycurnow.com/coaching, choose your program and enter “halfoff” in the coupon code box.
I published the article below in February of this year and it’s particularly salient now because the questions I ask helped inform my decision to take my full focus away from my business and onto graduate school.
If needed, I hope they will help you find the clarity and courage to make a big change in your life too!
You’ve heard me talk before about purposeful perseverance.
But here’s the thing: If all you need to do to succeed is not quit, then why are there always people less motivated, less talented, and less tested who have their day in the sun before you do?
And what if the thing you desired so much, or loved so much to do, just doesn’t have the same pulling power it once did?
It used to make you tingle with anticipation, and now it’s about as exciting as an old sweater, and serves you about as well.
Sure, it still fits, but it’s also moth-eaten and smells of mildew. So why do you keep it around, anyway?
I think Helen Keller put it best: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.”
I’ve been thinking about that quote a lot. I’ve also been thinking a lot about Seth Godin’s book The Dip: A Little Book that Teaches You When to Quit (And When To Stick).
They both have a lot to say on what it means to live your life as a daring adventure.
Almost everything worth doing involves a lot of time and effort. Ask any concert pianist. Excelling means doing your best and whatever else is required. There’s usually a long slog between starting and mastery.
We’re talking about a long time of doing stuff you’re not even very interested in, or that doesn’t involve your “natural” talents.
And that’s fine because you can learn all that stuff if the dream or goal truly does matter to you.
Think of anything you’re proficient at now that you once tried as a novice: You wanted to speak Spanish fluently, write a novel, play a chord progression—and it took a lot of time and effort. Most of us understand that.
Where it gets tricky, though, is when we can’t tell if we’re just going through a particularly challenging patch on our way to the final goal or beating our heads against a brick wall.
Godin describes two curves that you can use to classify all the challenging stretches you might meet as you try to accomplish something.
Understanding and addressing these two types of situations—one that might make you want to quit, and one that’s telling you that you should quit—is the first step toward figuring out whether or not to keep working.
The first of these two situations is “The Dip.” The Dip is the long stretch between beginner’s interest and real mastery. Most people who undertake something bail during The Dip – and that’s exactly why society puts such a high value on real accomplishment.
But the second situation—the second curve—is just a dead end. You work and work and nothing changes. There’s not a lot to say about The Dead End, except that when you spot it, turn around and get out of there.
That dead end is keeping you from what you’re really supposed to do. Your life energy is too precious to invest in a dead-end anything.
There may come a time when you are doing work you love, work you feel you were meant, no, destined to do—but it’s hard and you’re not seeing the results, the accolades, the paycheck you’d like to have associated with it.
If you reach that point, or if you’re at that point now, and you’re considering quitting, here are the questions that Seth Godin suggests you ask yourself:
#1 Am I panicking?
Panic is never a good reason to quit. That’s why it helps to think about possible crises before you start any passion-driven work, and decide beforehand the point at which you would be willing to give up.
For example, before I started my business I decided it would be time to quit if I ever couldn’t pay my bills or didn’t absolutely love it.
Bottom line: panic is not a reason to quit.
#2 Who am I trying to influence?
If you’re trying to influence one person (like your boss), or even a small group of people (like your colleagues)—that is, if your success is dependent on changing someone else’s mind—forget it. Changing someone’s mind is difficult if not impossible.
Bottom line (and this applies to everything in life): your happiness should NEVER depend on getting a particular response or outcome from any one person.
Note, though, that if you’re trying to influence a market, the rules are different, and it’s fine to try to influence a big group of people.
In fact, getting feedback from a bunch of people is one way of keeping tabs on your progress (see #3). But don’t expect to get a big response from The Market until you’ve been tested and proven with a lot of individual players in it—until you’ve learned on a small scale what people are after and that you can give what them they want.
Sure it would be great if you had tons of adoring fans right off the bat, but it really benefits them and you that they wait until you’ve honed your skills a bit.
#3 What measurable progress am I making?
This ties in with number #2. If you’re not getting a little better every day, you should quit. To succeed you have to be moving forward, even if you’re taking small steps.
If you’re standing still and you’re choosing not to quit because it’s easier or safer (or because you believe in persevering as a virtue in itself), I can promise you that there is something far better, far more satisfying and rewarding for you to be doing.
And the world needs you to do it.
Pelé called soccer the “Beautiful Game” and I think the photo to the right, taken after Griffin’s last game, exemplifies this.
I was especially gratified to see these smiles because it was a hard game with some official rulings that were very frustrating to Griffin.
Incidentally, in a previous game, Griffin had been tearful after a particularly egregious ruling, and after the game I tried to remind him that there are “bad calls” in every game and they are opportunities for him to practice resilience in the face of adversity.
Griffin said my advice wasn’t helpful and just then a friend’s mom came up to us and embraced him in a hug and said how sorry she was about the bad call. I saw Griffin melt in her arms and I realized that my “teachable moment” could have waited until after Griffin was comforted.
Later that day Griffin was able to reflect on the game with more equanimity and I know we both learned important lessons from that day.
Keep reading to learn more about the importance of resilience and how you can develop more in your life too.
If you were to gather up the day’s news you would invariably come to the conclusion that the world needs saving, right? Well, I expect it will need saving tomorrow, too.
In the meantime, I am going to reflect on what it means to “do something” in the face of great suffering.
Yes, the reports from around the world are dire, but they reflect something else, too: The scale of suffering is balanced by resilience, courage, and hope.
I’m reminded of a recent article that described resilient people: they’re distinguished by the fact that after a trauma, they don’t just return to their point of departure. They cope and then get strength in the future from their success in the past.
Our resilience as individuals has created an extraordinarily resilient species. Studies show that many people will come out of a trauma stronger for the experience.
Thomas Merton was a 20th century American Catholic writer, a Trappist monk, a poet and a social activist. He promoted interfaith understanding and was one of the first Westerners to develop relationships with the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hahn.
He was a man who saw the suffering in the world—and had dedicated himself to addressing it—but he wrote “To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence.”
He proposed that unless rest, wisdom, and delight are embedded in the problem-solving process itself, the solution we patch together is not likely to offer genuine relief. Born of desperation and exhaustion, it almost guarantees that an equally perplexing problem will emerge as soon as it is put into place.
Really, what good can come from the nonstop effort? When we are working constantly, eating poorly, sleeping little, stressing and worrying, we are little good to ourselves. In this condition, how can we possibly be of service to others?
I often fear that it may be too late; that there is much to do; that there is not enough time, money, or people to do it. But I also realize that this fear itself wears me down. I believe that the overwhelm, the overwork, the over-caring that we feel actually diminishes our ability to care, our willingness to help and our effectiveness in the long run.
I can’t speak for others. I can only look at my own life and ask these questions. And so I do: Are my important relationships suffering? Am I frequently mentally fatigued and emotionally fragile? Am I experiencing an illness or pain in my body?
The answer to any one of these questions is too often yes. So I go back to Thomas Merton’s proposal for undoing all of this harm: Commit to rest, wisdom and delight. Not as a means of avoiding our work in the world, but as a means of making us stronger for the work in front of us.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, wrote that we are at risk of losing the talent of appreciating ease. I think she’s right. Italians actually have a name for this talent—dolce far niente (which translates to “the sweetness of doing nothing”).
The fact that we don’t even have an English equivalent for this lovely sentiment speaks to a certain malaise in our culture, don’t you think?
So here’s my prescription for ridding myself of the malaise and injecting some dolce far niente into my system:
Start small. Eat and drink well. Treat others as they wish to be treated. Smile and make eye contact with the people around you. Say you’re sorry simply and without defensiveness. Learn from your mistakes. Be a good friend. Take walks daily and look up often. Laugh a lot.
And then, once you’re rested and ready to begin again, focus on the work in front of you.