Why your life might not really begin until you hit rock-bottom?

It’s not because failures lead to success…

Life is like riding a motorcycle. You eventually wipe out.

I remember that when I was in my 20s and I had a motorcycle, we used to quip that there are only two types of riders: those that have already slipped and wiped out and… those that will!

So I kept riding because it was the best way to get around town. No traffic jams. Never spend more than one red-light at an intersection. And parking everywhere there’s standing room for my motorcycle. Well, the inevitable day came and I wiped out. Lucky for me, it wasn’t too bad. Just a couple of broken bones, scratched skin, and a dented ego. Heck, even my motorcycle didn’t look too bad and repairs were minor. So, I got back on again, and continued to ride until finally, my newlywed wife told me it was either the motorcycle or her. I chose her… naturally.

Life is much the same. You probably have already or eventually will wipe out and hit rock bottom. Some life-coaches go so far as to tell you that that you can’t really start to succeed until you’ve completely and utterly failed. This might be an unfortunate truth for many people. What is it about utter and complete failure that has a way of turning things around for people? If there is a universal lesson that can be extracted from this pattern — wipe-out to grand success — it might help a lot of us, even if we ourselves are still treading water and haven’t experienced (and hopefully won’t) a total meltdown.

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My own actual life wipe-out happened when I was 24 (I’m 48 now). I won’t get into the details, they’re personal and not that important for you as a reader, but I was sick with a chronic illness that in my case, absolutely wiped-out any and all quality of life. The feeling I had was that if I did actually go on living, it would be a terribly difficult and meaningless existence. Everything that had defined me as a person, as an individual, was gone. 12 months into this terrible situation, I no longer believed my life would or could ever be any different.

But, 6 months later, things began to change. Slowly at first, almost fractionally. But they changed. And 4 years later I was married and not much longer after that, I had started a family with my wife.

It was a long and arduous process. It took years to recuperate from, so the changes were very gradual. But, with the perspective of some 10 years, I looked back and came up with the following observation:

Things started to change when I no longer looked to my past to define my present.

Mind you, at 24, I had a pretty rich and full past to look at. My past was a firm and strong foundation for the rest of my life. So when my life blew up. I had grown up bi-lingual and bi-cultural. I had friends on both sides of the Atlantic ocean. I had the most supportive parents (thought I didn’t realize it at the time — the blindness of youth). I had completed a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering at a major American University and had 3 years of training in the army. Most importantly for my own self-image, I was a scholar. I knew how to study and I knew how to get good grades and dazzle others with my knowledge and intellect.

But all that didn’t matter any more.

I had hit the hard bottom of an ocean of misery.

So what was that I said about things beginning to change?
Ah, right. Looking back, I don’t know exactly when it happened, but I came to realize that who I was in the past, was not coming back. I would have to come to terms with who I am, as much as I don’t like it. I have to build a life out of what made up my life.

Since then I have come to realize that people who suddenly have to face a handicap — like losing their legs in a car accident and other terribly debilitating situations — go through the same process. There is a lot of denial about the present. Feelings, that if I can’t get my life back to what it was, I will not have a life at all.

You’ve probably all read about this, denial-acceptance process, so I’m not going to repeat it (here are some other essays on Medium dealing with this process). What I want to do is to generalize and help you use this process NOW, as long as you are still treading water, so that perhaps you will be spared the terrible suffering of a really debilitating situation, LATER.

Don’t live life backwards!

Life was meant to be lived from the present to the future, not from the present back to the past. And yet, this simple fact escapes us. We keep referencing the past, we keep thinking that we need to recreate our past successes and prevent ourselves from making the same mistakes we once did.

But, that means that instead of defining who we are and where we are going based on our past experiences, we need to start opening ourselves up to the future. To realize, that every day is a new start. Every present moment is a gateway to a future that awaits us, and in this future, we are not yet defined.

Ever hear the Science-fiction staple, “the future is in flux.” Take it from Yoda, “Difficult to see… Always in motion is the future.” Your future self is absolutely undefined. Who you will be a year, 5 years, 10 years from now is absolutely not the sum of your past choices unless you decide to live life backwards and focus on the past as predicting your future.

What this is not: This is not a rant against accountability. You need to be accountable. You need to make plans and do your best to carry them through. This is what you owe yourself (and those depending on you) RIGHT NOW. Accountability is what the present should be about.

But, don’t believe for a second that the future is determined by the past. If you let your future identity and self free themselves from how you see your past self, then you will be surprised to learn that the future is indeed free. Your future is open-ended, provided you don’t force it to be connected to your past.

This may mean that in the future you will be like nothing you thought you would or could be. But, you will be surprised for the better.

When brokers tell you that “Past results do not guarantee future performance,” they are covering themselves. But, no one would invest if we didn’t know that in the long term (sometimes longer than shorter), conservative investments result in profits (I’ll write about this particular aspect of future-focus some other time).

The first step you need to take, and you need to start right now, is to stop defining yourself in terms of your past. You need to believe in your future, heck, you need to believe in the future itself.

So when you hit rock-bottom. When the world has told you, “this is the end of the line,” when that happens: You need to shift your focus. You need to focus on the future. The future is abstract and undefined because it is the canvas upon which we draw our lives. The cleaner the canvas, the more original a painting your life can become.

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Life coach and therapist interested in everything that can help better our lives and bring us closer to fulfilling our mission.

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Moshe Genuth

Moshe Genuth

Life coach and therapist interested in everything that can help better our lives and bring us closer to fulfilling our mission.

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