The following originally was published on my LinkedIn feed a few days before this posting…
“Our ends know our beginnings, but the reverse isn’t true.”
This powerful comment is found pretty early on in Don Winslow’s gritty, tour de force novel, The Force and it frankly struck me hard between the eyes the moment I read it. Because while it may very well be the theme of his recent novel, its applicability to life in general seems undeniable.
You see, a common trope that one finds in the “self-help/personal growth” industry and on social media is the narrative that explains how the writer found success, sometimes after years of failure or hardship (“the wandering in the wilderness” period), all due to an unwavering belief in the absolute certainty and inevitably of said success.
Sure, they may credit the various daily affirmations and actions that they took, or sacrifices that they made, or books they read, seminars attended, gurus they followed, social media “hacks” they implemented, and so on.
Basically, once you strip away the added “color commentary,” these individuals imply or even outright state that they pretty much willed their success into being (albeit, sometimes with a lot of work), and that it was inevitable.
That’s unadulterated horse pucky.
I understand the appeal of this message. If I just keep my nose to the grindstone, and take all the “right” actions, and have the “right” attitude, the universe will be receptive to my wants.
And maybe to some extent it is. Or rather, perhaps what it is really receptive to are my needs.
I do think there’s some truth in the axiom, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
We have to put in the time. If you want to achieve anything worthwhile, invariably you will invest time, focus and energy to do so. Those are the universal currencies of “success,” I think, regardless of how we individually or collectively define it.
But there’s another truth we also should cop to.
It’s far easier to comment on the inevitability of success, however one measures it, when that state has been attained by the individual (or he/she perceives this to be true), and especially when it appears like it will carry on forever. Only then is one’s success, suddenly “inevitable” or the assured outcome of a litany of prior decisions, invariably intertwined, so incredibly, painstakingly obvious.
Looking back from the present, sometimes we have a clearer view of our beginning.
But not always.
The problem is that nothing in life ever remains unchanging.
And there are forces that act upon us, no matter who we are, that are sometimes beyond our ability to control.
These test us. They challenge us. Sometimes overwhelm and defeat us.
Don’t get me wrong.
Habits are important. Habits lead to consistent action.
Consistent action produces results.
But bear in mind, it is consistent correct action that produces the outcome you are seeking. So long as you are clear on what that outcome is. That’s where intention comes into play.
Intention leads to focus.
Without intention and focus, actions may be indiscriminate. Or inconsistent. Or both.
Attitude is really important.
Victor Frankl most famously elaborated upon this. If you haven’t read Man’s Search for Meaning, you really need to.
We can’t always control the forces that act upon us. But we can control how we respond.
That’s why attitude is so important.
Self-confidence is also important. The ability to not lose faith in even the darkest of nights. When no matter how you play your hand, it seems like you’re the patsy, and always left holding the losing cards.
Everyone wrestles with doubts. Feelings of inadequacy. Perhaps even the sense that we either don’t deserve whatever we’re experiencing or that it’s all an illusion anyway.
But those who persevere and ultimately evolve banish those thoughts and discount those feelings. That’s not to say that feelings are unimportant. But emotions can and must be harnessed. Not ignored. Not neglected. Harnessed.
Resiliency is really important. It’s become a popular subject to write about. You know why?
Because the ability to bounce back from setbacks ensures that when you encounter the first obstacles, you don’t just throw in the towel and quit. Life will hit us, and hit us hard. It’s okay if we’re knocked down. Just so long as we are willing to fight to get back up.
“Our ends know our beginnings…”
Sometimes the boundary between where a journey begins and ends is blurred. Indistinct.
Life is a journey. One that teaches us, but only if we’re willing to be receptive to the lessons. You can and maybe should begin with the ending in mind. Just remember, the ending you actually find may not be what you had anticipated.