The Seasons of a Man’s Life

by Brett & Kate McKay on August 15, 2010 · 62 comments

in A Man's Life, On Manhood

Embracing the opportunity and promise of self-improvement is a big part of the mission of this website. I’m a firm believer in constantly trying to better all aspects of your life and putting the goal of becoming a better man ever before you. Onwards and upwards, right? Well…yes, but…

I’d like to talk about that but today. Because if you believe that life should be a continual line of progress, you may stall out before you even get going.

This has been a hard lesson for me to learn. When I would get stuck in a rut, whether personal, professional, physical or spiritual, I would immediately feel like something had gone terribly wrong somehow. That the lack of progress was a problem that needed to be fixed. Either I was the problem-I was doing the wrong things or having the wrong mindset-or there were circumstances in my life that needed to be remedied. And I would embark on a combination of self-flagellation and frentic search for what was ailing me. I tried to eliminate my rut through sheer force of will. But the more I fought against the feeling of being stuck, the more stuck I seemed to become! It’s like being in quicksand.

But lately I’ve been rethinking my approach and trying to see these plateaus in my progress in a different way: not as a problem, but simply as a natural part of the different seasons of life.

Instead of kicking against the pricks like a mad man, I’m learning to accept that success doesn’t happen in a straight upward trajectory. Rather, a man’s success in life is often cyclical, like the seasons of the year. All of us will experience the springs of life where everything goes our way. We’re flourishing and blooming in all aspects of life. We start to think it will last forever, that it should last forever. But as assuredly as the sun rises and sets, fall will come and the winds of change will blow in the cold winter season, when everything seems dead and barren.

This is how we imagine our progress in life should go. But success in life never follows a straight, upwards trajectory.

Just as we don’t have much control over when the seasons of nature change, we often don’t have control of when we get into life’s ruts or when we start to flourish again. We can rant against the change in seasons-bolt the door and crawl under the covers or live in denial and trudge through the snow in the shorts and t-shirts of a warmer time, even though we’re chilled to the bone. Or we can accept the new season and adjust to it, taking advantage of what the season has to offer while preparing once more spring.

Ralph Waldo Emerson and His Pear Trees

American Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson is one of my favorite thinkers. He’s had a big impact on how I see the world, and lately, I’ve been revisiting some of his writings. One thing I’ve noticed in his journals and letters is that Emerson enjoys talking a lot about the pear trees he’s growing. He gives frequent updates on how they’re doing and what sort of crop they’re yielding.

Throughout his career as a writer and philosopher, Emerson would frequently suffer severe writer’s block. No matter what he did, ideas just wouldn’t come to him. When your life’s work is writing, getting stuck like this is devastating. For a time, Emerson did what most people do when they get in these ruts. He’d fight like hell only to end up mentally and emotionally drained. But Emerson’s pear trees helped him change the way he saw this “problem.”

In a letter to an acquaintance, Emerson compared the mind to a pear tree that goes through a season of barrenness only to suddenly burst forth in fruitful growth. Emerson learned that to avoid the frustration of barren times, a man needs to “adopt the pace of nature” whose “secret is patience.” Just as the farmer must continue pruning and grafting his trees in the winter in order to reap the harvest in the spring, Emerson continued to work and cultivate his mind to prepare for the return of inspiration. After a mental winter, his mind would inevitably bloom once more.

This is how our progress in life can realistically go. In the upwards direction over the long term, but with peaks and valleys along the way. Take note: If we work through the dips, we always rise higher than our previous peak. The valleys are where we are tested to see if we have what it takes to get to the next level.

Great Men and the Changing Seasons of Their Lives

As I’ve studied the lives of great men from history, I’ve noticed that their success rarely, if ever, followed a straight upward trajectory. It came in cycles or waves. They all had to walk through the long, cold winters where they faced setbacks and failures, only to rise triumphantly into the spring of their lives.

Take Abraham Lincoln. We often remember him as the president who saved the Union and as the Great Emancipator. But before Lincoln enjoyed the fruitful spring of his tenure as U.S. President, he endured a horribly long and barren winter filled with failure after failure, and setback after setback. Lincoln lost six elections, failed in several businesses, lost his first love to typhoid fever, and had a nervous breakdown.

But Lincoln had the wisdom and understanding to not incessantly kick against the pricks of life’s failures. He had the humility to admit that he was “the subject of the divine force–call it fate or God or the ‘Almighty Architect’ of existence,” and that he wasn’t the captain that was guiding life’s ship. However, Lincoln’s acceptance of his lot in life didn’t lead to docile complacency. While he didn’t feel he was the captain of the ship, he didn’t see himself as just an “idle passenger” either. Lincoln saw himself as a “sailor on deck with a job to do.” ((http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2005/10/lincoln-apos-s-great-depression/4247/))He kept trudging along. He continued to prune, graft, and sow seeds so that when the spring of his life finally came, he’d be ready for the harvest.

Winston Churchill was another man who experienced the changing seasons of a man’s life. After enjoying a precipitous rise in power at precociously young age, Churchill went through years of political exile because of several blunders he made. But Churchill kept working and waiting for his spring to come again. And it did! His leadership during WWII inspired the British to stand up to and defeat Nazism.

But even this season of success was short lived. In 1945, the same year of the war’s end in Europe, Churchill’s fellow citizens voted him out of office. Many voters felt that while the British Bulldog was an exceptional leader during war, his skills and abilities wouldn’t suit the country during peace time. The defeat was personally devastating to Churchill, but he accepted that he had another winter to face in his life and got right to work sowing the seeds for his next spring. It took six years, but in 1951 Churchill was elected as prime minister for a third time. Spring had come once again.

The Seasons of Your Life

Now, I don’t want to people to get the wrong idea. I’m not advocating complacency or idleness here. Sometimes life’s dry spells happen naturally and are out of our control, but sometimes the problem is indeed you. If you’re lying around in your basement all day playing video games and wonder why you’re not meeting chicks and don’t have a job, your problem isn’t the seasons of life, it’s your slothfulness.

But sometimes you’re working hard and doing all the things you’re supposed and yet you’re just not seeing results. The temptation is then to freak out about the plateau, convince yourself that you’re on the wrong track, and throw in the towel. But if you stop working, you won’t be ready to capitalize on new opportunities when spring returns. Once we’re idle, it’s hard to get going again. Bodies at rest stay at rest, right? Instead, we’ll have to spend an exorbitant amount of time and energy getting ourselves in the working mindset again. By the time we’re primed and ready to go, our personal spring may have already come and gone. That’s why it’s so important we keep hustling during all the seasons of our lives.

Preparing for the Spring to Return

So if you’re journeying through a personal winter, what can you do to prepare for the return of spring? It’s going to be different for every man and every situation.

You can certainly try changing things up. Maybe what’s worked before doesn’t work now. If you hit a plateau in your fitness goals, try a new routine. If your small business has seen fewer leads, try tweaking your marketing. The winters in your life are a great time to try new approaches. The key is that you keep working and continue planting seeds so you’re ready for spring.

But maybe your tactics are sound and there isn’t much you can change. What do you do then? Just keep working so your mind and psyche are primed for when the stars of your life align once again.

For me, I’ll go through funks where writing for the blog just doesn’t come easy at all. My idea bank just dries up. What do I do during these times? For starters, I try to keep writing every day, even if it’s just a journal entry. I’ll read up on how to improve my writing style. I do a ton of reading of all sorts during these fallow times. It’s my way of fertilizing my mind with different ideas so when my spring finally comes and the Muses decide to visit again, I’ll be ready with new material to work with.

Too many men think that a dry spell means they’ve made the wrong choice, and it’s time to bail out. Their relationship plateaus, so they move on to a new woman. Their progress on a project stalls, so they chuck it. They experience doubt and turn from their faith. They walk away from what they’ve planted, unaware that if they had held on a little longer, the buds were just about to sprout through the surface.

Settle in your mind the fact that bust times are just as natural in life as boom times. Instead of seeing them as an aberration, instead letting them scare you, just get comfortable with them. When winter settles in on your life, keep your shoulder to wheel and keep pushing along. Your spring will return. It always does. And when it does, you’ll be ready.

{ 62 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dan Smith August 15, 2010 at 10:40 pm

I can’t tell you how true this has been in my life. I recently faced two winters almost on top of each other. The first one caused me to lose heart and I nearly gave up on my faith, but somehow I came through it. When the second one hit, I was determined not to let it destroy me. I wish I had been able to read this before that winter, but I’m grateful anyway because it is like a map of what did happen to me. I didn’t give up on my faith and I worked hard during this second winter and it paid off. It’s springtime here right now!

2 Halley August 15, 2010 at 11:33 pm

An inspiring blog. I too have been in a real tough rut and have been wanting to call it quits, thinking everything I have been doing has been wrong and everything I have thought to believe in was a lie or for nothing. Perhaps it is just cycling through another winter, a harsh and cold winter where it means that spring will be reaped with even more benefits. What you say sounds right and you have a lot of examples to back up your idea, so maybe I’ll keep trudging along, sharpening my mind till the harvest comes once more.

3 Chris August 16, 2010 at 12:55 am

Talk about hitting me where I live.

I’ve felt like a failure for about 2 years straight, and strangely I’ve come to appreciate its merits. Nothing has inspired to me act quite like losing everything that I thought mattered to me. I try to drum up business and get precisely nowhere, I have no significant other, I had to sell my home, I haven’t been in debt this deep since college, and you know what? It’s alright. At no time when I was “successful” was I ever this productive. I started my blog, as well as several other projects, and while being creative still feels like crapping a pineapple depending on the day, I feel more engaged now than I ever did when I was a “success.”

The circumstance that I’m in now is precisely what I feared most, but now that I’m in it, I can only see what I can gain from it. Most notably, I’ll never feel entitled to success again, and should I enjoy it once more I will not be as lazy with it as I was before. That could mean I’m getting wiser, or I’m simply deluded. Either or….definitely one of them.

4 Keith Claridge August 16, 2010 at 2:01 am

Very inspiring and I feel you have hit something really important, Life truly does come and go in seasons. We have a lot to learn from nature, but many of us (including me) are so divorced it that we miss the lessonswe can learn. Thank you for this article and for the reminder,

Thank you to everyone involved in this blog, you are helping and inspiring me to become a better man.

5 Christian August 16, 2010 at 2:18 am

Great article and that last part immediately made me think of this Tom Waits song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgeZEdbv_m8

6 Bob Iger August 16, 2010 at 3:08 am

Excellent article… I’ve been struggling with these “seasons” unknowingly in my life. Especially the example of Winston Churchill taught me that one does not reach the summit of his life in the start or just at once.

7 ramón August 16, 2010 at 3:54 am

Thanks, needed this right now. I need to work on my patience but it is so hard when I wanna live the good life right now.

8 Days and Adventures August 16, 2010 at 5:45 am

I really like this entry. I know what you mean. I used to fight the down times too but I’ve learnt that they’re a natural part of life to be welcomed. It was Kahlil Gibran who taught me that “the deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain”. If you’re interested, I actually wrote a short note on this a while back here – http://marcpapain.wordpress.com/2010/06/20/from-slums-to-clear-skies/.

Marc

9 Core August 16, 2010 at 6:16 am

@Article
Very interesting concept. Make’s sense in a way.

@Christian
Wow… what a unique singer/song.

@ramón
Now that’s something I relate to. I’m like you, in a rush to live the good life.

It’s so hard for me to keep focusing on my small business, and other project dealing with a graphic novel. I get in this situation where I am like…”Well lemme find a good job, or career so that I can get some money rather than mind my own business and work for myself” which logically all the successful people I have read about, were people who worked for themselves. And I know I need to do the same to be successful, because as the old saying goes. Mind your own business.

I’m beginning to wonder if I have ADD or something…

10 bob August 16, 2010 at 6:19 am

for a little more reading on this topic, I HIGHLY recommend the slender volume “The Seasons of Life” by Paul Tournier, a Swiss doctor:

http://www.amazon.com/Seasons-Life-Doctor-Reflects/dp/B000NZ0MXC/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

11 Chris August 16, 2010 at 7:04 am

Fantastic post. It is so true that we men all go through times where we feel that nothing will go right and sometimes we feel like giving up, but we can’t. Persisting and fighting on is the only way to achieve our long term goals.
Thanks for all the great posts and helping us all to become better men.

12 Patrizio August 16, 2010 at 7:55 am

I needed to hear this so badly this morning. Since last September, I lost 66 lbs. Then in May of this year my spouse revealed the truth to me that a two year affair occurred during our fourth and fifth year of marriage. We would be celebrating ten years in 2011. I hit rock bottom. That’s how I found Art of Manliness. I have experienced the deepest valley in my life these last few months. I started doing 30 days to a better man in an effort to turn my depression and feeling of failure around but I fell off and have gained all the weight back and have resigned to giving up on most aspects of life.

I’m so glad I read this today. It made another miserable Monday morning in my recent life into a morning of hope. I believe I’ll take some steps to climbing back up out of this situation. Thank you for writing this blog.

13 terry sperling August 16, 2010 at 8:29 am

I think Dylan sang-”there’s no success like failure and failures no success at all”.
http://www.bobdylan.com/#/songs/love-minus-zerono-limit

14 Eric Granata August 16, 2010 at 8:33 am

Posts like this one are what I’m thinking of when I tell other men that AoM has changed my life. What a great encouragement that was! I’m bookmarking it to read again on Wednesday!

15 Brian August 16, 2010 at 9:14 am

I read somewhere that we do not progress gradually, in fact nothing does. We make leaps. All things happen suddenly. If you find yourself stuck in one spot, it’s usually because you’re about to make a leap. I know that I’ve had questions in my life that I just couldn’t find the answer to; the anger and frustration I felt was almost unbearable. Then I saw light: I leapt. Emerson is one of my favorite thinkers, and while I don’t think his pear tree analogy is wrong, it’s a different way to look at it that isn’t 100% accurate because when we go throgh our “falls” and “winters” we do not die, we grow. I think that’s the only flaw in his argument. Brett, keep posting things like this, anything that makes a man examine himself is a good thing!

16 Dave August 16, 2010 at 9:17 am

Brett, this was excellent. Personal and very helpful. Well done!

17 Rob August 16, 2010 at 9:51 am

Apparently you are going through a fertile season, Brett, based on this writing. Great article. One additional thought…It’s when we go through the winters and barren places in our lives that we are forced to make changes. Changes we would never make if we were coasting along through good times. Don’t let these down times destroy you. If we can somehow view them as an opportunity for improvement in some way, we can benefit from the experience. No pain, no gain?

18 Gianpaolo Pietri | Simply Optimal August 16, 2010 at 10:11 am

This is one of the best posts I’ve read in AOM, and that’s saying alot because there is so much wonderful material here. Seems the muses have struck once again … The ideas behind this post are indeed timeless.

I have spent alot of time going over the different seasons in my own life. I have had several. Most recently I went through a period of severe drought. Though I felt I was moving forward toward my goals in many ways, I also felt I wasn’t moving fast enough. I wasn’t on the exact path I thought I should be, and I wasn’t seeing the success I thought I deserved for all the hard work I was putting.

That and the loss of a special relationship I was involved in due to logistics (visas and distance) led me to enter a cold and barren winter rife with self-defeating propaganda. I went through all the stages. First denial, then I tried fighting through, and then came close to settlng for failure. The truth is that even within the winter seasons of your life there will be smaller peaks and valleys.

The idea of fluctutation is as natural as the peach trees Emerson makes reference too. We see it in everything from weather, to the evolution of species in nature. The one common thread that ties all of natures creatures together is the cyclical nature of our co-existence.

Thanks Brett. This is a must read for any man looking to better understand the organic nature of his evolution, growth, and flourishing. Great fodder for the intellectual.

19 Turling August 16, 2010 at 10:11 am

Very nicely done. The ebbs and flows of life are just that. My mantra has been, “just keep moving.” Once I stop, it is, as you say, very difficult to get going again.

20 Tama August 16, 2010 at 10:35 am

Bravo, Brett and Kate. I find it very interesting that almost everyone that stumbles upon this article “needed to hear it”, as if it were self-perpetuating. A very inspiring article nonetheless. The only thing I would like to add is that the mind is capable of such great things, that we sometimes don’t give enough credit for it. After all, it is a matter of mindset, no? Or perhaps God simply works in mysterious ways…

21 grateful subscriber August 16, 2010 at 11:19 am

I needed to hear it. Thanks for taking the time to share this other gems of wisdom on this site.

22 Greg August 16, 2010 at 11:47 am

Robert M. Pirsig has some great things to say about being stuck in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” Phenomenal book — add it to your reading list if you haven’t experienced it already.

23 Ron B. August 16, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Wow! That was one amazing read. You may have just inspired another, again. Thank you for sharing these life lessons. For me, this may be your best writing yet (together with many). Keep it up! For manliness’ sake. Good man.

24 John August 16, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Great Article. The part I agree with the most is if you are not busy, you need to keep working on something, anything. I have definitely felt the grasp of idleness, and when you get in the habit of doing nothing, it is hard to get back into the mode of productivity.

25 Tom King August 16, 2010 at 2:36 pm

It’s snowing on me right now. Well written piece. Kudos especially to Kate. Few women appreciate how a man’s career swings from highs to lows. Women, by and large, want a slow steady rise. They do not appreciate that there will be slumps and the struggles you will go through in order to accomplish anything of value with your life.

Air Force Colonel John Boyd, arguably the finest military aviator and tactician of the last 100 years used to tell young Air Force officers who took his fighter tactics class that one day, as officers, they would come to a fork in the road and they would have to choose whether they wanted to “do something” or “be somebody”.

Down one road, he told them, you compromise, turn your back on your friends and violate your conscience. In exchange you’ll get choice assignments, promotions and power. You’ll belong to an exclusive club. You’ll get to be ‘somebody’.

Down the other road, he cautioned them, you can do something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself, but if you decide to ‘do something’ you may lose promotions, get lousy assignments and be constantly in trouble with your superiors.

Boyd explained that the reward for an officer who chose to “do something” would be that he could remain true to himself, his friends and his beliefs and that he just might make a difference in the process.

Boyd, himself, received high honors and accolades as well as a string of poor fitness reports. He left dozens of angry colonels and generals in his wake over the course of his 30 year career. He was threatened with court martial, demotion and transfer to Alaska. At the end of his service he was denied promotion to general. John Boyd chose to “do something”.

The brilliant tactical success of US aircraft in the past two Gulf wars has been built upon the work done by Col Boyd and those of his protege’s who, like their mentor, chose to “do something”, bucked the system and built the most awesome and effective military force in the history of the world.

26 Brucifer August 16, 2010 at 3:03 pm

I too, am *right there* with ya, Chris. All my life, I’ve been “doing all the things you’re supposed and yet you’re just not seeing results” as Brett writes. Got a good education. Served my country in the military. Worked hard, didn’t complain. Kept-up on trends and technology. Kept my nose clean. Yet, I constantly see people who have done almost *none* of that get better opportunities than are offered me. I feel like society has lied to me. I wish I was a optimistic about Brett’s “when spring returns” stuff. I’m 60 and well, … I’m frankly running out of time. And age discrimination and reverse sexism and even reverse racism now reign in my line of work. I’ve frankly hit one too many ‘speed-bumps’ and it’s become hard to try to muster the energy to keep pitching. But yeah, it can be strangely liberating to just say F-it. To quote from another Bob Dylan song, “When you ain’t got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose.” Maybe this “season” of my life is the one in which I achieve my goals simply because I have nothing to loose by being audacious and outspoken instead of cooperative and compliant. Or, maybe I’ll just simply drop-out instead. I feel I don’t *owe* society a thing anymore.

27 Kate McKay August 16, 2010 at 3:35 pm

@Tom-

The first part of your quote reminded of a great line from the Grapes of Wrath (the movie):

Pa: You’re the one that keeps us goin’, Ma. I ain’t no good no more, and I know it. Seems like I spend all my time these days thinkin’ how it used to be. Thinkin’ of home. I ain’t never gonna see it no more.
Ma: Well, Pa. A woman can change better’n a man. A man lives, sorta, well, in jerks. Baby’s born and somebody dies, and that’s a jerk. He gets a farm or loses it, and that’s a jerk. With a woman, it’s all in one flow like a stream. Little eddies and waterfalls, but the river it goes right on. A woman looks at it that way.

28 Nathan August 16, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Almost all of the posts on this site are good, but this was by far the best writing on here yet. Keep it up!

29 Martin August 16, 2010 at 4:32 pm

I enjoy most articles on your site, but every now and again, one will really hit home. This was one of those. It can be frustrating when one’s progression does not follow the planned and linear path, and it is very easy to get impatient or depressed about it.

Thanks for this, I really enjoyed it.

30 jx August 16, 2010 at 6:52 pm

This article reached the right person in the right moment. Thanks, I really needed these words of encouragement today.

31 L.B. August 16, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Best blog entry I’ve read anywhere in a long time. It reminds me of a saying my mentor would frequently recite whenever things got slow: “You make hay when the sun shines, and when it rains, you sharpen your tools”.
This is also a good reminder to me to go re-read some Emerson.

32 James August 16, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Great article. It moved me to certain thoughts and insights.

I liked Brian’s comment, “…we do not progress gradually, in fact nothing does. We make leaps.” but I wanted to add to it. The comments reminded me of when I first took up skiing as a 15 year old. I was horrible at skiing but I was determined to learn, as it looked like so much fun. I remember taking on intermediate runs after a few days out at Bear Valley (in California) and just falling and falling, getting wet, cold, and banged up. I was getting pretty frustrated. Near the end of the day, I had taken my last fall and just sat there thinking for a minute: “What was I doing wrong? Am I ever going to even the get basics down? Maybe I should just quit…” Just then, a little kid blasting up to me and stopped. He had see me fall and offered to give me some pointers.

Now, when you’re 15, and some 8 year old is offering you a lesson, it’s a little embarrassing. But, I swallowed my pride, because the pain of embarrassment was far less than the pain I was feeling on my backside. And what do you know… that little kid showed me how to turn, how to stop, and even throw spray, all within the remaining 20 minutes to our day.

It was a leap of learning. It happened just like that. I had jumped to a whole new plateau of skill. I was in love with skiing. The next day you couldn’t get me off that mountain for anything, not even lunch. And, I progressed from there, rapidly.

Yes, things do happen in leaps, and it’s very satisfying when they do. But, I really want to point out that the only way they will happen in leaps is if you put yourself out there to begin with. You must persevere. If I hadn’t put in that time of falling, freezing my butt off, trying trying trying, I wouldn’t have made that “leap”. I was lucky enough to have the kid help me out. I was humble enough to learn. And I had been trying my hardest to that point in time. Those three ingredients were the recipe for “the leap”.

Another point I want to address is having a “second” passion, one that you can trade off with. For example, Henry Miller (the famous author and god father to the Beat Generation writers) would wait for inspiration to come to him, like any artist, knowing he couldn’t force it. But when it came, he took off like a shot. He could write pages for hours straight, banging them out on his typewriter. And, he couldn’t write them fast enough, the ideas were flowing so easily. Yet, sometimes the ideas didn’t come. Henry, being the eternally happy, positive soul that he was, would say, “No matter!” and turn to something not a whole lot of people knew he did: He painted. He actually painted a lot. He was painting and displaying his art (most of them watercolors, I think…) long before he was “made” as an author.

So when one area started to dry up, he easily flipped his game to the alternate; this fed his creative soul.

Always have that second, or even third thing going. Exercise them, feed them.

Finally, Brett brought up the concept of fighting, where he realized the more he fought being in the rut, the more deeper of a rut he seemed to be in. I can truck with that. Fighting, after a certain point, clouds your eyes to the true objective. You can’t find your center. But, I really want us to be clear that fighting in another way might help your situation. I’ve often felt that strategically fighting you way out of a situation in life is quite effective, and healthy, too. This point of mine borders on semantics, or who you just look at the word, but I think it’s interesting nonetheless. I say, “Yes, fight your way out, but fight smart.” Plan, be strategic. Develop goals, Plan A and Plan B. Discover your reasonable trajectory, given every resource you have right now. Then fight like hell and hit every target. Never give up. Let’s not lose that concept of fighting.

Thanks, again, great article. I also wanted to thank all the commenters here. Often Brett writes these things, and they take on triple the value by the time several commenters have jumped in with insights, experiences, ideas and inspiration.

Keep going, everyone!

33 L.B. August 16, 2010 at 7:28 pm

Just now read through a bunch of the comments… Wow: a lot of struggle out there. Things aren’t all peaches and cream on my end, but it really puts things in perspective. I wish I could stand on the sidelines and cheer some of you blokes on…

@Patrizio: hang in there my man! You’re bigger than the problem… don’t give up. You’ve got to keep punching. You lost it once, which means you know you can do it again!

@Brucifer: A) Thank you for your service B) You can’t give up hope… I know *exactly* how you feel: I’ve been passed on, passed up, and passed over more times than I care to recall, but you’ve got to keep the faith. Don’t go the drop-out path, unless it’s to strike out on your own.

34 Slick August 16, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Awesome Article. This article was a prayer answered! Just what I needed to hear at this time in my life. Thanks so much!

35 Patrick August 16, 2010 at 9:39 pm

Brett, thank you for writing these articles. They are an absolute inspiration.

Long time fan.

36 Patrick August 16, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Sorry, I meant to thank Brett and Kate. You guys do such wonderful things here.

37 Dale August 16, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Great post!

38 Helen August 16, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Wonderful article Kate & Brett. Feel like I’ve been in a winter of my life this summer, but I keep trudging along, finding new things to do that I thought I would never have any interest in learning or doing!

39 Helen August 16, 2010 at 10:16 pm

They can happen in women’s life too!!

40 Frank August 17, 2010 at 12:41 am

What great timing this article has. For the last 4yrs, I have been in a “rut” of working, paying off my debt(in other peoples names) and living at home(moms). Now that I am on my last bill of debt, I am starting to focus on my own life. I have of few of my OWN bills of debt that I can now start working on, that once cleared, I can get an apartment and focus on going back to school when my credit gets better. This article has reaffirmed my belief, that things are getting better. Thank you for all the great articles and for your efforts in maintaing this outstanding website.

41 Frank August 17, 2010 at 12:42 am

*maintaining

42 Josh Calkin August 17, 2010 at 2:54 am

I deal with this concept on a regular basis, as a college music educator. My students (understandably) want to get better, and constantly. I have to remind them frequently, when they are experiencing frustration, that progress is neither constant nor linear. It comes in spurts and plateaus, and the mark of the best musician is that he/she fights through the plateaus; when improvement comes quickly it is easy to find motivation to practice.

Unfortunately, frustration and impatience seem to come sooner and easier to students with each passing year. I won’t go into a diatribe on students’ need for instant gratification, since that has been done to death. Instead I remind the students of the lives of great people and the tribulations they went through on the road to greatness. In our society we all need to try hard to engender patience, in ourselves and in others. It is one of the virtues disappearing most rapidly from our culture.

@bob: Thanks for the link to “Seasons of Life”. I’ll be checking that one out for sure.

43 Joe D. August 17, 2010 at 12:41 pm

One word for this post: Spectacular.

@Brucifer: in the words of the great Jim Valvano, “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up”….

44 Colin August 17, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Thank you very much for posting this. I think many of us identify with the idea that success increases over time, or that if it doesn’t it’s because of our own faults. It helps to look at the situation of life in the manner you have presented, especially in this format; associating manliness not with defying the state of things and strong-heading through it, but understanding it as a phase of life and accepting it and working positively within it and through it.

45 Fel' August 17, 2010 at 6:18 pm

One word:

FANTASTIC.

This is inspiring. I’m living exactly what you just wrote. For the past year, I’ve lived a long and cold winter… broke up with my girlfriend, felt really sad, didn’t do much outside college… Felt really depressed.

Now I’m doing a lot of stuff and it feels amazing. It’s spring again – I’m working out, I’m smiling more (you have no idea how this simple thing works so well), I’m getting hooked up with new girls, I’m writing for a blog… Everything is really good.

Thinking about it, the same exact thing happened me when I was 16, I was in the bottom of the well and rose up. Our life is made of winters and springs, just like the sun rises and sets.

Guys, never give up. Don’t stop believing. Don’t let others mount on you or mock you for who you are. Analyse your weaknesses, try to find a way to turn them into streghts. Rocky, on one of his movies, said something like that: “It’s not about hitting hard, it’s about getting hit and standing up again, and again, and again.”

This is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Z5OookwOoY

Simply great!!

46 Playstead August 17, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Really good post. It’s funny, we all go through these “winters”, but never talk about them. There’s still a lot of that “old school” pride inside.

47 Bruce August 18, 2010 at 9:22 am

Every so often, we are touched by something that truly inspires us… something that speaks to us in a very clear voice. This article goes straight to the heart and soul. Thank you, sincerely, for this insightful gift. I think many of us needed it!

48 JB SPRY August 18, 2010 at 1:35 pm

So true so true!
I have been going through an extremely productive period, spiritually and physically, in which I have made dramatic changes in my thinking and my approach to life. The changes came so fast and were so exhilarating that it seemed I had found the philosopher’s stone and could work magic. But that period of rapid change is cooling off and I have had to remind myself of how far I’ve come and where I was before, and to permit myself to “lie fallow” for awhile. The process of rapid change is deeply satisfying and exciting, but the long term results while more valuable are less dramatic.
Thank you for an excellent essay which has validated my thinking in this are.

49 Kyle M. August 21, 2010 at 1:04 pm

In Chinese, the symbol for “crisis” is also the symbol for “opportunity.” Look at a crisis as a chance to do something great, for yourself if nothing else, and this will make it harder to overcome what you’re facing.

50 Chris August 22, 2010 at 12:27 am

What can I say that hasn’t been said already? Great post! It really spoke to me.

Thanks!

51 Black and Blue Man August 22, 2010 at 1:28 am

The first time I read ‘The Seasons of a Man’s Life’, it immediately became one of my favourite AOM posts – and with each return and the further comments that appear, I enjoy coming here even more.

What Brett and Kate have written is very inspiring and thought-provoking, and the advice and experiences that others have shared are very encouraging and rewarding.

During the past few years as I’ve been rebuilding my life, I’ve come to truly appreciate the virtues of patience and persistence. One of my most important credos is “one day at a time at one hour at a time”, which reminds me of several important things – don’t dwell on the past and its mistakes (because I can’t go back and change them); don’t dread the future and what mistakes may lie ahead (especially as they may never even take place); and take gradual steps each day to keep on keeping on.

Thanks, everyone. Stay well and take care :)

52 NkulieM August 22, 2010 at 5:11 am

My Word, I cant even express my feelings about this book. I have been googling for great inspirational books to read for myself. But on this day 22 Aug 2010, i decided i need to get something to read about, for my other half. Lord, this book is phenominal:))). I love it.
When i read it from a woman’s point of view, i could relate.
Thank you so much for beautiful words of encouragement,especially for Men! As human beings, we seem to lack patience, and its true, Its the real secrete to having a peacefull, happy and successful life.
Out of 5 stars- i give u******* (5 star ratings to this book)

Thank You !

53 Daniel Putman August 23, 2010 at 8:24 am

This was a very good article, and I just wanted to affirm what has been said. I’ve found that really I’ve learned the most in my life when I’ve been in winter, generally the harsher the winter the more I’ve learned. Situations when the relationship does not work out and you get dumped or rejected, the promotion is missed, you get sick or injured, or the dream just seems to be impossible, or maybe you just have no direction in life and you’re waiting for the wind to set your sails too/geting the vision for what you want to do. It seems like there when the pit seems the deepest is when the “break through” monments happen. And to me it seems like that it really a lot more about me changing then the situation. Winter is when you learn the lesson that propells you to spring.

But when I’m happy/doing well I’m reaping want I spent a lot of time sowing, I don’t learn much of anything… Sometimes I wonder if life is a lot more about getting out of the pit/failure then it is about success/making it.

54 jkay86 August 23, 2010 at 11:48 am

Although I have been a faithful reader of AoM for the past 2 years, this is the first time I’m leaving a comment.

Thank you very much for this great article, which appeared while I’m in the midst of a slump in my academic life. Having had a series of quick and stellar successes before entering medical school, I have since struggled to compete with the other people, who seem to be much more brilliant and capable than I am, be it in studies or socially. While I know it will take a lot of effort for me to try and hit a new high, this article has reminded me not to give up and to keep tending the hedge in winter so I can reap a better crop in summer.

55 phillip August 23, 2010 at 2:17 pm

One of the best blogs written on this subject I’ve read. Very encouraging and very true. I’m just now coming out of a harsh winter season and I am anticipating the new blooms to surface. This subject is a big deal, especially in the lives of men. We were made to come through and provide hope for those we lead. But if we lose our own sense of hope, we don’t have any to pass on to those who are looking to us.

This can be a very fearful experience for those who have not come to understand the cycle we all go through and how life and vitality are truly just around the corner if we stick with it.

56 Stephen August 24, 2010 at 12:48 pm

I have just discovered this site and I’m very glad I have. A brilliant, very true and very inspiring article.
I’m British and I’ll always remember one of Winston Churchill’s quotes when times are hard:
“If you’re going through hell, keep going”
I think that sums this article up nicely.

57 Aaron August 25, 2010 at 5:26 pm

“My fate cannot be mastered; it can only be collaborated with and thereby, to some extent, directed. Nor am I the captain of my soul; I am only its noisiest passenger.”

Aldous Huxley.

58 Joe August 26, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Excellent read! This helps recharge my batteries. thanks.

59 jamie matthewman August 31, 2010 at 9:40 am

Great article, I really like the emphasis placed on ‘sticking at it’, through the peaks and plateaus of success. I have made some big changes recently, which I sometimes question. It is nice to be reminded that success generally prevails with commitment. Seasons come and go but mastery, like success requires a life long dedication, complacency isn’t an option. It doesn’t always feel easy, but I am personally finding it’s certainly the most rewarding way to live. Thank you.

60 Pete August 31, 2010 at 5:45 pm

One of the best ones you’ve written yet. I’ve experienced this cycle multiple times in the last year. I had the revelation this January and have been more able then ever to get the most out of my creative springs and winters.

61 Maicon September 1, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Motivational article. I’ll think about it the rest of the day.

62 Brenan March 2, 2014 at 5:02 pm

If I’m fortunate enough to put all the knowledge I’ve gained through my years to good use and one day make it big, AoM will definitely receive a big credit for my success.

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