The Myth of the “Big Break” and What it Takes to Achieve Success

Everybody is waiting for their big break.

I’m not talking about the “break” to become famous, although maybe some of us are waiting for that. I’m talking about that breaking point when all the pieces of your life fall together and suddenly everything is perfect.

Photo Credit: Peter, Creative Commons

“Just follow these five steps and you’ll overcome depression.” “Take these small steps, and you’ll break free from anxiety.” “10 principals can earn you a better marriage.”

All the myths of popular culture support this view.

Every romantic movie (Cinderella), every success story (Justin Beiber), every blog post (heck, even this one right here) has the tendency to make it seem like there is this “moment” where everything seamlessly comes together. There might be suffering or struggling, but then eventually you read my ten points, or are discovered by Usher, or the shoe fits and… poof… It’s all downhill from there.

And yet the more time I spend around people who have lives and careers and marriages I admire; the more I try to build a life and a career and a marriage worth admiring too, the more I realize: There is no such thing as a big break.

It just plain doesn’t exist.

When I first quit my job and set off on my journey to write a book, I figured the publishing deal would just sort of “happen.” It wasn’t just popular culture that supported this view. My Christian upbringing did it as well. Although I had no idea what it took to publish a book, I figured God did. And I was waiting to see what God would do.

I imagined there would be this moment—this sort of magical, the-shoe-fits, Usher-wants to-pick-you-up-in-his private-jet moment, where I bumped into the right person at the right time, and they would think my book was amaaaaazing (they’d say it like that).

And poof! I would have a book deal.

I don’t think I even need to say it didn’t work like that.

It’s not that there weren’t moments of serendipity, or that, looking back, I can’t see God’s hand in all of it. I can. It’s as if He were weaving the tiniest of moments together, until they were all cozy and tangled, like strands of a comfortable blanket. I can see now how, when several insignificant strands are woven together, they become something useful.

But when I was in the moments, they rarely felt like significant moments. They usually felt like disconnected and confusing.

There was tons of hard work and tons of struggle, followed by small, satisfying moments of progress.

This is what life is like—more than a fairy tale.

In other words, if you want to make progress in your marriage, there is no magic formula to fix it. There’s no 10-step program or “success or your money back” guarantee. There are good books full of wisdom and advice, but there is mostly getting out there, putting the advice into practice, putting one foot in front of the other.

There is trying, failing, trying, failing and then trying again.

If you want to succeed in your career, know this: there is no moment.

There is no promotion, no award, no compliment or accolade or encouragement that will make you feel like you’ve made it. There is no big break. There is only caring about the work you do, putting in the time, growing in your craft, showing up day after day…

The are moments of struggle, and of hard work, followed by small, satisfying moments of progress.

You get out what you put in.

This is the secret to being successful, if you ask me, and the only remedy to the “big break” myth. If you wait for your big break, you might be waiting your whole life to get the things you really want.

But if you get started working now, and don’t give up, you just never know where that path might lead.

2 comments on “The Myth of the “Big Break” and What it Takes to Achieve Success

  1. There may not be ‘a moment’ but this blog was as near as damn it! Oh I just loved it… the content, the flow of the words, the heart… well just about everything… and such a timely and wise and personal word from Heaven to me. Thank you so much for using your experiences to wise the rest of us up! Sending heaps of blessings, Christine Lewis x

  2. Allison, excellent points as always. I have struggled over the years with BIG goals that were all-or-nothing. Only recently have I shifted from the “Hail Mary” approach to more of a short-pass game. I have always advised friends that there is never a good time to buy a house, have a baby, make a job change, etc. The good time is the time that is possible, the rest is guts.


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