Self Improvement / Motivation / Success

Another Brick in the Road

Success. O Camelot, where art thou? It seems like we’re all waiting for that big break-through, you know like when the Rolling Stones released “It’s All Over Now” in 1964 and it turned out to be a nearly endless string of hit songs?

That’s only the way it looks from a distance. The road wasn’t smooth for the Stones and it isn’t smooth for anyone else. The Rolling Stones dealt with drug and alcohol problems, member turnover, and of course multiple brain transplants for Keith Richards who will never die.

Nope the road isn’t smooth. In fact, I’d argue it isn’t even paved. It’s more like a series of rocks or bricks kind of fitted together to make something like a road. But where do those come from?

Every success you have is like a brick. Every single one, big or small. Did you win the school spelling bee in fourth grade? Why yes, yes I did. That success gave me confidence. It was a brick I put down to give me solid footing. Did I win it in fifth grade? That’s not important. (But by damn I was the comeback kid in sixth grade!).

Successes come in all sizes and shapes. Sometimes the smallest of them is something desperately needed. That little rock fits right next to your other successes, making your footing just a little more stable. Put it down and now you have something solid to stand on as you take your next step.

In my first year at West Point, there were so many days when nothing went right. Sometimes success there for me was getting through a formation without getting my face ripped off by a screaming upperclassman, I mean one where I didn’t require additional development . . .

Sometimes people will experience a great win and then . . . they stop. They stop stepping. They just kind of hunker down on that nice solid rock and never move on. We all know these people. It might be the high school jock who scored four touchdowns in a single game and then became a shoe salesman (ahem, Al Bundy!). It might be that girl who was homecoming queen or it might be the guy who starred in the school play his senior year. They’re easy to recognize because their one big success always comes up in conversation.

Even more common are those people who never seem to have that big moment, yet they keep plugging along every day. Not everyone has those wonderful moments in the spotlight. But really, those countless small ones are the ones that make for a smoother road.

So if successes are bricks, what are mistakes? They’re potholes in the road. When you’re driving and see a big pothole in the road, what do you do? Do you just stop? Do you turn around and go back? Nah, you drive around it, or maybe back up a little bit and find another route. Sometimes, you just grit your teeth and drive through it, taking the punishment to get to the other side.

Mistakes are like holes only these holes you can pick up and take with you. Do you know what you get when you have a whole bunch of holes put together? That’s right, a bigger hole. Don’t pick them up. Figure out what happened if you can; what went right, what went wrong, and then what lesson you can take with you. Then you leave those mistakes in the past as dim memories.

They’re behind you. You ever try to drive down the road while staring in the rear-view mirror? The results aren’t pretty. You have to look forward.

No matter how much life looks like utter crap at moments, I go back to my bricks. Sometimes I have to back up a little bit to get out of that pothole, back up to terra firma where I can get my footing. The past is behind you. It cannot be changed. Those holes are back there but so are the bricks of success.

When life gives you a wallop and you get a little off-balance, back up until you find that solid ground. Believe me, I boxed in college and I took some punches. You better believe I was backing up! Then I felt those ropes at my back and got my equilibrium. Of course sometimes I bounced right back into the guy’s right hook. But you don’t win them all.

Every success is a brick. Grab it and put it in your road. There are days when my success is having a great conversation with my teenage son. There are days when success is a big fat paycheck for conducting a workshop. My road has a whole bunch of bricks in it. They come in a thousand shapes, sizes, and colors but they’re there. And I’m still building.

Retired Army officer with two tours in Baghdad, taught at West Point, married with four kids. Proud West Virginian and West Point grad. Amazon pubs.

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