Don’t judge. I admit I wasn’t the coolest – I never have been.
But I’ve always been one to try and distill truth from wherever I could find it.
Many of these authors would use maxims about success or personal growth. If you’ve ever read any of these types of personal development books then you know there’s a hefty amount of repetition in that regard.
Early on, there was a phrase I saw a lot:
“Success comes in cans.”
The first time I read it I stopped and reflected. Then I thought…
“What the hell does that mean?”
Seriously, I had no idea what it meant and it bothered me immensely. I read it and re-read it - but I simply could not fathom what was being said. Some of these were pretty old books, was there some kind of floor wax called “Success” back in the day? Maybe it meant something in another era. I honestly was lost. So I just moved on.
But it would pop up again and again.
In books, essays, talks – it appeared so much that I just started to ignore it. It literally became invisible to me.
Then one day I was sitting at a red light, I looked out my window at a church sign and saw this written on it:
Success comes in cans.
Failure comes in cannots.
It was like looking in the mirror and discovering I had eyebrows.
It wasn’t the maxim itself that was a revelation. It was the idea that I could be so blind to something so obvious. I literally chose to ignore words because I did not understand them. Not just ignore them, but literally make them invisible – as if they did not exist.
This is not one of my proudest moments.
I wasn’t dissecting King Lear. I was confused by four simple words.
In retrospect, it was so ridiculously obvious. ALL of the context pointed to that meaning. The problem wasn’t the words - it was me. The maxim may have been pretty parochial but the reality it ultimately revealed about our ability to not see the obvious solution has stayed with me.
I was confused and instead of trying to understand – I doubled down on my confusion and decided to stay oblivious. That is an easy path to take.