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What to Do When Things Fall Apart

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This story originally appeared on Lewis Howes

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.”-Pema Chodron

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When things fall apart, we sit still.

When things fall apart, we run fast.

When things fall apart, we hang on.

Marilyn Monroe said, “Sometimes things fall apart so that better things can fall together.”

Falling apart is to be expected in the process of life, growth, aging, and death.

What if we stop looking at breakdowns as falling apart, but rather the place between what was and what will be? The time just before things come together in a different way.

When the caterpillar enters the chrysalis and its metamorphosis begins, we can only imagine that the process of this transformation will be uncomfortable. The cells of the caterpillar literally become what are called “imaginal cells” as the tiny creature grows into something completely different and utterly magical.

Unless the caterpillar undergoes this radical transformation, it will never fly as a beautiful butterfly.

If we don’t breakdown, we don’t breakthrough.

There isn’t a single successful person out here in the world who hasn’t learned to weather breakdowns and failures.

Pema Chodron said, “Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

Mistakes are painful. Sometimes they are life threatening, or send us to prison, or cause the loss of those we love. Squirming through the discomfort of perceived failure can be downright humiliating.

But when did we decide that worrying and panicking would make any difference?

When you come up against a situation like this remember that on the other end is a golden nugget of hard-earned truth molded from experience. And stretching yourself in that way will lead to expansion.

You get to become comfortable being uncomfortable. We say this a lot. Amazing things rarely happen in your comfort zone, on the couch eating Doritos. In your comfort zone is where you only dream of amazing things happening.

I will never forget the time I was at one of my early team handball practices with the USA National team.  Things weren’t going the way I wanted, I was pissed off, my legs were burning, and I was far from comfortable.  I was in a bad mood and complaining to myself when something literally life changing happened for me.

As I turned around to take a look at the other end of the court we were sharing with another team’s practice, I saw that this wasn’t just any team. It was a team of basketball players in wheelchairs. They were going at it hard, leaving everything on the court. Here I was complaining to myself about my legs burning when I realized in an aha moment that I was beyond blessed to have the feeling of these legs burning at all. What would any one of those players give to feel what I was feeling?

Those players could’ve given up when they lost the use of their legs or never started playing at all. But they dreamed of playing and so they did whatever it took to get on the court. Words can’t express how much they inspired me to see my life differently.

Oftentimes when things fall apart, if we just open our eyes, we will see something immensely beautiful. 

We will emerge from the cocoon, spread our wings , and fly.

Lewis Howes

Written By

Lewis Howes is a New York Times bestselling author of The School of Greatness and The Mask of Masculinity. He is a lifestyle entrepreneur, high performance business coach and keynote speaker. A former professional football player and two-sport All-American, he is a current USA Men’s National Handball Team athlete. He hosts a top 100 iTunes ranked Apple podcast, The School of Greatness. Howes was recognized by the White House and President Obama as one of the top 100 entrepreneurs in the country under 30. Details magazine called him one of “5 Internet Guru’s that can Make You Rich.”  Howes has been featured on Ellen, Good Morning America, The Today Show, The New York Times, People, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Men’s Health and other major media outlets.