Don’t stop, no matter how (painfully) long it takes

In light of the 2020 election, it’s worth remembering that some dreams take years to come true. Or even decades.

History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.

Seamus Heaney, “The Cure at Troy”

Four years ago, I wrote the following:

I believe that people are inherently good, but with very negative and destructive tendencies. When people are prosperous, these tendencies are subverted and marginalized. But when people are hurting, these destructive tendencies come to the fore.

How can we alleviate suffering? That’s a difficult question to answer. My personal answer, in this moment is: find a way to spread prosperity around. How do we help make that happen? To me, that’s our work going forward.

Look to history: every time a major crisis happens, we believe that the world is about to end. And every single time, the world didn’t end. From World War II and the Cold War to 9/11 and the Great Recession, people were sounding the death knell of everything every single time.

And yet here we are.

Four years later, I think it only fitting to remind you that a seemingly-endless number of setbacks precede every earned win.

Why not me?

Almost a decade ago, I had a lark of an idea: wouldn’t it be great to escape the standard job rat race and work for myself, doing something that I was truly passionate about and being totally responsible for my income?

If so, what could I do? The answer was as simple as it was profound: I would help people with their finances.

I had a head for numbers and had been through plenty of financial anxiety, so I knew I could connect with others. It seemed like the right move.

But wanting something and moving forward with it are two different things. In fact, an early version of this site was almost named “Ex-velleitier“, after the word “velleity”, meaning “a wish or inclination not strong enough to lead to action.”

But even action isn’t enough. I made the decision to blog two times each week in hopes of building up an huge online following.

It never happened. And yet I’ve kept going.

I wanted to quit my job and devote myself to this, full time, but I was too scared to do it. Plus, I had a cushy situation, a total golden handcuffs deal, and it was way too scary to just leave that for a lark, even though I was effectively being paid to lie about things.

In fact, as I got promoted and made more money, it got even harder to let go.

But at the beginning of this year, I was laid off. For the first time since college, I had no immediate job prospects.

So I decided to make a go out of this full time.

I’m not going to tell you that I’m now lounging on a beach chair by the sea in my Palm Springs resort. I’m not going to tell you that I made six figures this year. I’m not going to tell you that I’ve figured everything out.

But I have made more progress this year toward my goal than any year in the past.

And most importantly, I keep working.

Don’t stop

Just like you need to keep working.

When you truly believe something, it doesn’t matter if the whole world feels against you.

Andrew Sullivan wrote an argument in support of gay marriage in 1989. Think how fringe most people must he thought he was!

And let’s not even go into the struggles for voting rights, civil rights, social justice, that continue to this day.

The point being is that the only people who succeeded in their aims were the ones who never stopped. Or if they stopped, they started back up again.

No one got what they wanted by giving up.

Why am I not making a living making music, as was my dream from my teenage years on? Because I stopped. There may be other reasons, of course, but none of them matter, because I also stopped.

Why am I not a world-class baseball player or Olympic gymnast? Well, there are lots of reasons, but one of them is because I never did either of those things after about age 10.

Why are you not where you want to be? There may be lots of reasons there too, but none of them will be relevant if you stop.

So, don’t stop.

A half-century long wait

At this point in our history, it seems fitting to remember that things take longer than you might want. Sometimes a lot longer.

Because almost 50 years ago, a man from my home state of Pennsylvania started a career in U.S. politics. He had wanted to ascend to the presidency from the beginning, and in fact had run as far back as 1988.

He had plenty of reasons to give up over the years. Family, age, the mood of the country. But he didn’t. And almost 50 years after that first election to the U.S. Senate, he became president. At age 77.

Don’t you tell me that it’s too late for you, that you’re too old. I don’t want to hear it.

Don’t tell me that you can’t get what you want because of glass ceilings. A woman of Jamaican and Indian descent may want to have a word with you.

If the obstacles in your way are unfairly biased against you? Then work to change them. Advocate. Protest. Make calls. Become a lawmaker. Smash injustice.

It’s not too late. It’s never too late.

You can achieve what you want; just don’t stop. Things might seem painfully slow, but that’s just part of the process.

Now let’s get back to work.

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