Why Your Missteps are Your Greatest Stepping Stones to Success
“Character is built during the confrontation with your own weakness.”
– David Brooks, journalist
I like listening to parents talk about their offspring. I’m not one to mind when strangers whip out their wallets and smartphones to show me pictures of their children. I feel these parents have a license to my willing ear; after all, they pulled off something I hadn’t yet – they raised a decent human being.
So it is with great humility that I listened to a concerned father speak of his son’s career path, hearing the unmistakable pride when he spoke of his son’s accomplishments and understandable worry over his son’s future because the brilliant young man was going through, in his words, a series of “stops and starts.” That is a loving way of saying someone is stumbling. But I have a feeling the son is going to be okay. We stumblers always find our way.
While “stumbler” may not appear widely in the popular lexicon, all of us are familiar with the term “late bloomer.” Perhaps that will change after the circulation of this New York Times op-ed article by David Brooks.
If you fall into this category, you very well know that society is quick to perceive you as one who is confused and lacking direction. It is a Doing society, not a Being society. It is a society that thrives on proven formulas, known terrains and perception control. It is not about following your curiosity for the sake of learning and experimenting. It is not about taking chances unless the risks you took led to a huge pay off. It admires results, not the messy process to get there.
It is a society that likes to assign what age is forgiving for making certain “youthful” mistakes, failures and life experiments. And it judges harshly. Woe to those who have a high need for approval or have fear of judgment; then it is likely you will color within the lines.
What happens when you color within the lines is that you will submerge that part of you the world needs the most. The one that is inherently true, cannot be faked or filtered for the public. The one capable of greatness and beauty. I call it Your Singular.
I want you to remember one thing when you stumble:
Courage is the act of consistently showing up and letting your true self be seen. Regardless of what it might cost you.
You just can’t lose or be lost when you repeatedly do this.
Stumbler. It’s not such a bad thing to be one.
If you’re a stumbler, your life often follows a pattern of what Brooks calls, “defeat, recognition, redemption.” While the stumbler may “scuff through life, a little off balance,” such people, Brooks says, have incandescent quality, possessing of virtues that we should aspire to have in our moral bucket list.
“They have moments of pain and suffering. But they turn those moments into occasions of radical self-understanding.
“Suffering introduces you to yourself and reminds you that you are not the person you thought you were.”
Brooks further adds that stumblers have the ability to face their imperfect nature with unvarnished honesty and little squeamishness.
“The people on this road see the moments of suffering as pieces of a larger narrative.”
Quite simply, a stumbler is an overcomer with a success story.
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