My wife hates how fast I can fall asleep. I don’t want to exaggerate, but it’s a gift. I can go from wide awake, Jack Bauer like intensity to dead asleep in about 2.2 seconds or approximately 1.2 sentences from Jenny. I am not one of those husbands that is great at reviewing the day in bed at night. Working through issues as you both lay there under the same roof, and really the same stars, going through life together.
I fall asleep fast. Except when I was writing Quitter.
On several occasions, I couldn’t get to sleep during the weeks surrounding the writing process. Late into the night I would roll over and over, like a dog turning continuous circles before sitting down on a floor mat. Finally, my wife asked me, “What are you doing over there? Failing?”
Ahhh, wives of ten years. They know all your secrets and she was right. That’s exactly what I was doing. I was going through a steady list of every failure I’ve ever had. Why?
Because the closer you get to pursuing your dream, the louder the failure parade gets. Stephen Pressfield would call it “the Resistance,” Seth Godin would call it the “Lizard Brain,” and as a Christian, I’d call it the enemy. Regardless of how you choose to name your fear or source of pushback, there is an undeniable weight against you the closer you get to really working on a dream.
I was fine the month before I started writing this book. Even having moved my family from Atlanta to Nashville and uprooted everything we knew and loved, I slept like a baby. I didn’t sweat, I didn’t panic. But when I started digging into Quitter, when I really started turning some ideas into actual pages, the failure parade got loud.
One by one they’d march down the street of my head, boldly proclaiming some mistake I made. “Clang! Clang! Fix me!” They’d say. “I need attention, not the book! Until you take care of me it would be crazy to work on the book!” Or “Bang! Bang! You failed at this other thing, why would you ever think you’d be successful at a book!” Night after night, the parade would continue and I would occasionally share the floats with my wife.
“You know what I just thought of? I haven’t called Matt Johnson since we moved to Nashville. I am a horrible friend. I should give him a call tomorrow.”
“I wish I had sent that invoice on time. We’d be better off financially if six months ago I had sent that invoice the right way.”
“We don’t do enough date nights with our daughters. I should have been doing those for years. I am failing at raising our kids.”
From fresh failure to classics, they all came out. And regardless of the shape or size, the underlying message was the same, “quit.” That’s what you’ll hear too as you start making a little progress. As you start small and slow, don’t be surprised at the failure parade.
I wish I had a one-size fits all fix to this one, but I don’t. I’m not sure that even if you spend decades living your dream, that voice forever goes away. It’s a persistent one.
- Don’t be surprised by the arrival of the failure parade.
It happens to everyone. It’s coming and that’s OK.
- Label it what it is.
A distraction. An attack. A collection of lies. Stop in the middle of the melee and say, “Wait a second, this is the failure parade. Why am I acting like I need to handle all of these things right this second before I work on my dream?”
- Don’t quit.
One afternoon, while lagging behind on a family walk while her big sister rode ahead on a new bike, my five year old McRae talked me into taking a different way home to surprise the rest of the family. It was up a long hill and for a while we ran, but eventually, McRae got tired and we started to walk. Up the hill we slowly went until we turned the corner and McRae could see our house in the distance. Instantly her hand tightened on mine and she yelled. “Come on dad! We’ve got to run.” Then, in that way only little kids can, she exclaimed:“You don’t quit if you’re in the Acuff family or give up when something gets really hard.”
Parts of your dream are going to be hard. You are going to hear the word quit come at your from a million different directions. I do whenever I write a book or plan a big speech. You will too whenever you sit down to live your dream. But you need to ignore that failure parade. Don’t be surprised when it shows up, but don’t stare too hard at those marching regrets and mistakes.
Like most parades in life, the failure parade is loud and colorful but ultimately won’t lead you anywhere.