The Two Things You Have to Stop Worrying About


“You must once and for all give up being worried about success and failures. Don’t let that concern you. It’s your duty to go on working steadily day by day, quite quietly, to be prepared for mistakes, which are inevitable, and for failures.”  Anton Chekov

My friend Ed posted that quote on his Instagram account a few days ago, and I think it applies to any discipline, any practice, from writing to business to taking care of your children. Of course, it’s rather simple to give up worrying about success and failure momentarily, but to give it up once and for all? That, I suppose, is the real feat.

Why, though? Why must we give up worrying about success or failure? Failure’s always right there around the corner – shouldn’t we be on the watch for it? And success…that sounds like so much fun! So much better than living a life of anonymity.

Here’s why I think we need to give up worrying about those two things. It seems to me that the things we have been created to do are the things placed squarely in front of us. Sometimes these things seem rather far off, rather unattainable, but there they are. Straight ahead. When we worry about success or failure, I think it draws our vision to the right or the left, so that we’re no longer focused on what we should be focused on.

Straight ahead now, my friend, not glancing to the right or the left. The mountain of success rises like a cliff on the left. The canyon of failure drops off to the right. There is nothing but the thin thread of doing, and it’s one step after the other. It’s a dirt path, nothing more than that. But it’s worth following, all the way tot he end.

The next step. That’s all you have to take.

* * * * *

I sent out my twice-monthly newsletter last week (you can sign up for it HERE), and I asked people what they were hoping for. I read every response to those emails and try to reply to everyone. This idea of hope, wow! I got some moving replies (a few of which I’ll be sharing in the coming weeks).

Here is one that jumped out at me:

“This post resonated with me this morning. I hope and hope for writing success, but then I don’t even know what success means and if it’s even worth the struggle.”

How often do we feel that way? We want to be successful, but why? For the money? The fame? The appreciation? I actually think it’s something a little deeper, something we can’t quite put our finger on. And I don’t think what we truly want actually has anything to do with success. This is how I replied:

“Your kind words mean a lot to me. Success isn’t worth the struggle, but the writing itself is.”

I believe that. Success, the hope for success, the promise of success – I don’t think it’s worth all this effort. I don’t think it’s worth the 500,000 words I’ve blogged in the last six years. I don’t think the chance of success is worth the 15 books I’ve written for other people. I don’t think the chance of success is ever worth it. It’s just not.

But the writing is worth it. And if you’re doing what you love, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re growing a business or starting a church or taking care of your family or taking a risk, it’s worth doing, not because of the promise of some future day, but because today, it’s enough. Simply doing it is more than enough.

Is your target success? Are your eyes on failure, doing everything you can to avoid it? Tread carefully, my friend. The path of doing is a narrow one.

What are you hoping for?

Twice a month I send out bonus blog posts and updates on the books I’m writing. If you’d like to receive those emails, you can sign up HERE. Your information will never be given to anyone else. You can also sign up in the right hand column if you’d prefer to have every blog post emailed straight to your inbox as they’re posted. How’s that for convenience?