Succeeding Is Breathing

Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it. — Henry David Thoreau

Yesterday I read a New York Times bestselling novel, Divergent, which, after only two years in publication, is already being turned into a major motion picture.

Veronica Roth, the author of that book, is only 24-years-old.

Now, I personally didn’t think the novel was that great for a number of reasons: 1) Jealousy 2) The font of the text was unappealing 3) Jealousy

But no matter my opinion of the prose or the plot, this book, above anything else, provided inspiration.

I’m not a big proponent of motivational speakers, but my friend showed me a video the other day of Eric Thomas telling this story:

A young man who desperately wants to make a lot of money comes up to an old guru and asks for his help. The guru agrees and says, ‘Meet me at the beach, tomorrow at 4:00am.’ The young man, although doubtful, is committed to his goal and shows up.

At the beach—the wind blowing, the sky dark—the guru commands the youth to walk into the water with him. Although daunted, the young man complies; if this is what success takes, then he’s willing to do it.

When they get out about waist deep—the young man already shivering, his teeth clattering—the guru commands him to walk deeper. Beginning to question the guru, the young man hesitates but does as told, the water now up to his neck.

The guru, right beside him says, ‘Now I want you to go even farther.’

The young man, too cold and too tired, says, ‘I’m not here for swimming lessons. I’m done with this.’ And he spins around to return to shore. But the guru calls out, ‘I thought you wanted to be successful? Just come back to this spot.’

Begrudgingly, the young man turns around and walks back. But once he nears, the guru dunks the young man’s head underwater and holds him there. Thrashing and kicking, the young man flails beneath the ocean. And just before he passes out, the guru releases him.

Above water, the guru says to the young man: ‘I’ve got a question for you…When underwater, what did you want to do?’

The young man takes a moment to catch his breath. ‘I wanted to breathe.’

The old guru smiled. ‘When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.’

When you’re choking underwater, when you’re having an asthma attack, wheezing, clawing to get air, you’re not thinking about your friends, you’re not thinking about the movies, you’re not thinking about how tired you are and how nice sleep sounds.

All you want to do is breathe.

And until I want to be an author as bad as I want to breathe, I’ll just continue to be a writer.



Author: jdt

Jake writes weekly posts every Wednesday on the intersection of psychology and philosophy. To learn more about him, or to propose a topic you'd like him to cover, go to

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