Step, Stumble, Stretch, Succeed
Epiphany 42 – 43 – 44 – 45
Life is not lived in brief spurts, regardless of how many characters it seems we can summarize and reduce our being into on Twitter. Life is a building process and we, if we use the past properly, can and should be the architects of a productive and effective tomorrow.
Most of us go nowhere quickly when we refuse to take that next step. The wonderful thing about infants is that they have little fear in taking that next step. They see others moving and want to join the parade of life. They spend months learning to pull themselves up and, hesitantly, stick that leg out, completely unaware of what their foot is or its purpose in balancing them. They simply go for it and, generally speaking, fall flat on their face or rump. Most will be undeterred and immediately try again while a few cautious souls will wait a minute. The thing is, though – they continue to try… and fall… and try again.
Here is the point where I generally insert a quote and never fear, there will be a quote coming but first…think. How many steps did you take yesterday? For those health-conscious few who are tracking their steps the answer will be relatively easy. The next question is a bit harder. How many of those steps took you where you ultimately want to be in life? Here is where the quote, from Ralph Waldo Emerson, comes: “All things are engaged in writing their history…Not a foot steps into the snow, or along the ground, but prints in characters more or less lasting, a map of its march.”
Every step we take is an important part of our journey. Some teach us while others delight us. Often, we are like an infant and stumble. The world would have us think that stumbling is wrong. Yes it hurts and often puts us back a few paces on our ultimate pathway for our goals but is it really wrong? Is not the difference between success and failure merely our perspective? Can stumbling blocks really be steps to success?
Daniel M. Gilbert, in his book “Stumbling on Happiness” writes: ““Consider this scenario. You own shares in Company A. During the past year you considered switching to stock in Company B but decided against it. You now find that you would have been better off by 1200$ if you had switched to the stock of Company B. You also owned shares in Company C. During the past year you switched to stock in Company D. You now find out that you’d have been better off by 1200$, if you kept your stock in Company C.
“Which error causes you more regret? Studies show that about Immune to Reality nine out of ten people expect to feel more regret when they foolishly switch stocks than when they foolishly fail to switch stocks, because most people think they will regret foolish actions more than foolish inactions. But studies also show that nine out of ten people are wrong. Indeed, in the long run, people of every age and in every walk of life seem to regret “not” having done things much more than they regret things they “did”, which is why the most popular regrets include not going to college, not grasping profitable business opportunities, and not spending enough time with family and friends.”
The infant believes that as long as he/she is moving, progress is being made. The wisdom is that belief is staggering because it is very true. As long as we are moving, we are taking the next steps that will lead us to our ultimate goal. We are going to stumble and perhaps even fail. It is inevitable. Getting back up and trying again is the first step towards success, however.
Have you ever watched an infant try again after failing to stand up and successfully walk? Whether they fell back onto their bottom or they fell forward and needed to turn over, at some point they are once again sitting up, ready to try to take that first step once more. So what do they do next? They stretch forward.
Whether you go for Lailah Gifty Akita’s “You have to stretch your soul to find your potential strength” or Sunday Adelaja’s “You are meant to stretch yourself in life”, the message is the same. Life requires us to stretch, to forego rigid movements and beliefs and reach for something just beyond our grasp. Often, like that infant, we will fall but we alone can decide whether our falling is really a step forward or the end. Nothing guarantees failure like staying in one place and doing nothing.
This post, a four-part post, is not that complicated. We take a step and then we stretch. Not the runners among you will be shouting right about now that I’ve got the order wrong. Before we step we need to stretch and I will not disagree. However, sometimes we have to simply make that first step and then, preparing to make successive steps, stretch. All too often we fail to take a step because we feel unprepared. Allow me to impart a small pearl of wisdom: We cannot be fully prepared for every step we take in life. Life is lived in the unexpected as well as in the prepared, carefully planned journeys. None has a complete sense of control in life.
“Expect little and we live up to the expectation. Expect a lot, and we stretch and grow to meet the expectation.” John Stahl-Wert uses this in working with corporate leaders and team-building seminars but it applies to our individual lives as well. We tend to be self-fulfilling prophecies at times. Believe you are a failure and you will be a failure. Believe you can take that next step and you most likely will. It might not be just exactly as you had planned but…. Reread two paragraphs up and realize that life sometimes gives up the unexpected as a learning tool. The infant eventually learns to walk and to try. Other skills quickly follow, not because walking is the first step to adulthood but because learning to try and try again is.
Each step you took yesterday got you to today and your steps today will lead into tomorrow. If at the end of the day you can count your steps, whether just a few or all of them, you will have been successful. I’m not talking about success defines as being the riches person on earth or amassing a huge stock portfolio or being the most beautiful or handsome or even winning the latest Twitter war of words. Success is found in the sum total of everything you did and each step you took.
Life’s successes are not sitting on a certain latitude and longitude just waiting for us to find them like hidden Easter eggs or the prize in a box of cereal. Each step we take leads somewhere and yes, sometimes we will fall. How we utilize that opportunity will grow and stretch us, preparing us to stumble at times but to also try again and succeed. An infant often seems like an inexhaustible bundle of energy and when that energy is dedicated towards learning to walk, they succeed. Each step is an opportunity towards success, an important ring on the ladder of life.