Success and You

Don’t let life discourage you; everyone who got where he is had to begin where he was – Richard L Evans

In my quote app (DailyQuote) this ^ is the “quote of the week”. Thankfully – since it’s taken me well over a day to internalise what’s it’s really saying. It’s obvious to the point of being cliche yet surprisingly deep when you begin to probe it. Therefore it merits bearing deeper consideration.

I see that it has two parts. The first is the “don’t let life discourage you…”. This is sentimental. A value statement. Advice given in good faith and probably with a bit of ego mixed in. It reveals the apparent purpose of the quote: to encourage the reader. It’s most pertinent when the reader is finding themself discouraged.

The second part is “… everyone who got where he is had to begin where he was”. This is rather factual, meant to enlighten and give reason to be encouraged. In what sense is this true though, if at all? What does it even mean?

Given the context of encouraging, we think of people that have “made it”. Whether that be becoming highly successful, getting through a tough time or anything in between. After all, those are the people who we wish to be more like.

There’s a basic truth here that once mentioned is almost too obvious, yet is overlooked all too easily when left unspoken. It’s that the people we idolise didn’t live in realities so different to our own. They were lucky in some measure yes, but didn’t have a crystal ball either so they were uncertain about what they would become. They experienced the same cocktail of emotions that we do, albeit in their own unique measure. They were subject to the same unwieldy outside forces and natural constraints that we are.

More existentially, the fact is that we are always where we are. Most anything else is mindstuff. We are rarely truly where we want to be because an object of desire is a different species to subjective experience. Thus Evans’ statement is a sobering reminder to soften our stance with what is, since we will never escape it for long if at all.

In summary; this statement is a call to remain patient and keep hope, though our aspirations may be frustrated or seem remote. All of us walk this same path. Those who are idolised weren’t always so.