When I was young I decided I wanted to beat a world record – lots of us did and I blame Roy Castle (80’s UK reference!). I’d seen these titans of talent on the TV and narrowed down my potential prodigiousness to beer mat flipping, pogo stick jumping or whisking away a tablecloth to leave the plates and glasses standing defiantly and proud. There were only three problems: I kept getting in trouble for stealing beer mats, I didn’t own a pogo stick and my mum had an attack of the horrors when I headed to the dining room with cloth and glasses in-hand. In the end I settled on building a towering house of cards without any self-awareness, realistic ideas or more than a single pack of 52 cards.

There once was a woman who knew how special she could be. Her father had called her princess since birth and told her he loved he every day – she could take over the world with her beauty, he said. At school she worked hard and the teachers liked her. She’s so bright they said, she can do anything she wants in the future. She was popular with her peers as well, getting a laugh, a pat on the back, and constant reassurance from a diverse group of friends. Yet here she was as an adult, feeling she hadn’t achieved what she knew she could be capable of because every book proposal, every audition, every attempt she made to be known, ended in disappointment. She didn’t yet rule the world with her beauty, smartness and wit like she’d been told she would.

These are two of the same story.

I never achieved a record. I never got past layer two. The woman in the second story won’t either until she realises the truth. For her, every off-hand comment, every rejection letter, every failed audition, sends her cards crashing to the ground and she gives up.

To her I say you don’t need to break records – most of us never will – and once you’ve broken it, what then? The next record? Sit around and wait for the next person to come along and beat you? Where does so-called achievement like this end?

You can do something different with your cards instead and success can surely come. You can keep them all close and private – they are yours after all – or you could give them away one at a time or all together – these things can drew people to you out of curiosity or admiration. You can use them to play games with others or with yours – this pleases people enormously. You can even throw them up in the air and watch them all cascade to the floor in a beautiful ballet, seeking meaning in the chaos that others may not see – they’ll want to understand your vision. You DON’T need to build them into a rickety house that others can marvel at, that others will shower you with money and praise for, because one thing is sure, they wont marvel for long and you and your house will be forgotten.

This way, each breath of wind – each knock-back, rejection and failed audition – far from being the catastrophe that will end your enjoyment of your life and career, can be no more than mildly distracting tickle on your smiling face.

I still don’t have a world record for houses made of cards or for anything else, and that’s OK. Though now I live in my own house, maybe I’ll give that tablecloth thing another go…


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