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“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” — Bruce Lee
All doubt is gone: this was a bad idea.
You haven’t seen a break in the forest in ages. You just keep doing…things. You don’t know if you’re getting any closer to the top of the mountain or not. You keep trying. But there’s no payoff, no tangible wins.
You feel like you’ve been going in circles forever, getting nowhere, with a great deal of energy and heart expended to get there.
You’ve disappointed yourself. You’ve done your best, and come up short. You’re not where you want to be, you’ve no idea how to get there, and quitting feels so, so much like the only option left.
Why can’t I figure out which way is the right way? Why is this so hard? Why did I do this in the first place?
By now you’re having this dialog out loud with yourself, with the forest, with God and every creature near enough to hear.
You beg the universe for a sign – permission to quit the journey and throw this dream in the trash (where it probably belongs). You desperately just want to give up and go home. You’ve peaked. You’ve lost. Game over. You’ve gone farther than you thought you could, but you’ve hit a wall you can’t get around. You’re not as good as you thought you could be.
The obstacle is bigger than your belief.
You sit against a tree.
And you break down.
Right where The Resistance wants you.
This is where the lashings become truly brutal. A cruel voice growls directly into your soul.
God it hurts.
Your body is numb, leaving only the ache in your soul; a radiating, convulsing brokenness. Raw. Vicious. Sadistic.
Every insecurity pressed, every past shortcoming relived, every limiting belief believed anew.
You scream. Then whimper.
“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I don’t know why I’m doing this anymore. I don’t know why this is so hard. I don’t know…I don’t know…”
Your whimpers go silent. You take shuddering breaths. And you drift.
Somewhere between conscious and dozing, between defeat and quitting, you dream.
You dream of your life, changed.
Because in your heart, you know that whether you go on or go home, your life will never be the same.
Your subconscious asks you hazily: “Which You can you live with? The one who dreamed, or the one who did?”
Flashes. Scenes. Words. Conversations. Visions. You see at once both versions of your life, both stories, both endings, both obituaries, both legacies.
Considered side by side like this, on a level of clarity beyond what the conscious mind allows, you know beyond doubt that if you quit now you will hate yourself forever for it. But you also know you can’t go on. You know you don’t know what to do, where to go next, or how much longer you can survive this journey. You’ve lost your Why.
A switch flips inside you.
It’s as visceral an experience as shutting off the breaker to a warehouse. Metallic. Cold.
A cold wind hits you.
Your body shakes as the chill sets in.
This must be what death feels like. The death of a dream, of life-giving ambition and spirit and hope.
Your eyes snap open.
Every hair stands on your body.
The wind is cold!
You jump to your feet, turn your face to the wind, and begin racing toward it.
Your legs burn. Your chest aches. You’re cold, but warming up quick. You suck wind as you trod heavy but fast toward the wind.
A sharp rise. You scramble up the swell. You can feel the cold wash over its edge.
Clawing, fighting, calling on every ounce of energy and faith you have left, you throw yourself over the crest.
You look up.
And see light.
More light than you’ve seen since you took those first brave, anxious steps into the forest.
Sunlight meets snow at the edge of the forest, and reflects painful but welcome into your eyes. It’s a sight beautiful, overwhelming, and invigorating.
It’s not the top of the mountain. But it’s progress. It’s tangible. You can touch, see, smell, taste, even hear it. The wind coming off the snow at once bites, swirls, whooshes, chills, and cleanses.
It’s a new challenge. A new obstacle. A new plateau.
But you’ve made it. The end is close enough to feel.
Tenaciously, you have persisted where so many others have quit. You’ve strode through a cemetery of dreams left behind to die in that forest. So many who lost faith. So many who didn’t power through. So many who didn’t believe in themselves. So many who saw failure as a reason to quit instead of an opportunity to overcome.
You have survived The Dip.
And from here, there’s nowhere to go but up.
“Defeat is a state of mind; no one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality.” – Bruce Lee
In Part 4 of this series, you’ll have to fight for every inch of progress in the final stretch before you reach the top. And you’ll have to answer a life-changing question: “Where do I go from here?”
- The Way: If you haven’t read it yet, Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle Is The Way is the perfect book to put on your phone’s Kindle reader. Every time you’re tempted to check Twitter, scroll Facebook, play a quick round of Candy Crush, learn to load your Kindle reader instead. Take in a short chapter, a page, a few paragraphs of the empowerment within this book of wisdom. Stop distracting yourself from success and start holding yourself to a higher standard.
- Take Five: Set your alarm five minutes early for tomorrow. As soon as you’re out of bed, wash your face, and sit down with five minutes of inspiration: Holiday’s book, any book or audiobook on motivation, any motivational YouTube video, your affirmations, your vision board – anything that reinforces your dream and your capacity to reach it. Start every single day with fire.
- Brainstorm Session: Get out your pen and paper. Get real with yourself: what are all the horsesh*t excuses, reasons, justifications, weaknesses, and choices you’re allowing to stand between you and your dream of becoming a successful part time professional photographer? Give me all of them. Give me 52 excuses. Give me more. Make your brain sweat, as James Altucher would say. Now take this list of what’s truly holding you back, put a massive black X across every page, and then rip it to shreds. This one doesn’t go in your Brainstorms folder. It’s over: you are a new, better, stronger, unbreakable, unstoppable person, as of now – right now. Your success is inevitable because you choose it to be. Get to work.
- Subscribe Today: It’s my calling to help you earn your first $5,000 to $50,000 as a part time professional photographer. I am truly grateful for your readership, and encourage you to subscribe to my e-mail newsletter at the top of any page of this site.
- Do This Now: What’s the biggest struggle holding you back right now? E-mail me your answer (yes, right now!), and let’s make a breakthrough today.
- Start The Conversation: If anything in this post has spoken to and inspired you, please comment below or drop me an e-mail. I’d love to hear how you’re hustling to better your art, life, and business!