Life is not Linear

Kate Byars | September 4, 2016

My parents were children of the Great Depression. They were both raised on farms so at least they never went hungry. When they married, my father took a job at a global corporation; a big step up for a farm boy. I remember my dad leaving for work each morning at 7AM and returning promptly every afternoon at 5PM. My father is a creature of habit and his daily schedule never changed.

My mother had a short career as a bookkeeper prior to marrying my father. Once they married, she quit her job to “keep house.” The rest of her life, my mother was a homemaker.

Shortly after my father’s 50th birthday, his company offered him an early retirement package. Since that time, my father has never worked. Instead, he enjoys various hobbies and travels. Today, at the age of eighty, my dad has spent nearly thirty years enjoying his passions. That is the American Dream. Work hard, retire, and go play.

But sometimes the American Dream is elusive.  

My mother worked hard as homemaker. She drove a used Cutlass Supreme. She bought her clothes at Sears. She never decorated her home or went out on the town with my dad. My parents lived frugally so that they could afford a home that would allow their daughters to attend the best public school available.

For twenty-five years my mother raised her girls. And just as she and my father began to enjoy retirement, she died.

In his book “The Code of the Extraordinary Mind,” Vishen Lakhiani challenges the thought that life must be a slow and steady growth toward future enjoyment.

The Code of the Extraordinary Mind Graph I

In this chart I see my father. He never enjoyed his work or even spoke of it. He simply went to work, head down, and waited for the future to enjoy his life. I also see my mother. She worked hard, head down, and waited for a future that never arrived. This breaks my heart.

Now look at this next chart. Here Lakhiani challenges us to consider a new definition of life. One that looks more like this:

The Code of the Extraordinary Mind Graph II

In this chart, I see myself. Rather than a slow and steady grind from childhood to success, I have experienced life as a series of ups and downs.

“What if life is meant to be a beautiful joyride, with ups and downs as we…try out things outside what is practical or realistic?” – Vishen Lakhiani

My childhood years were safe and happy. My teenage years were not. I moved away from home at the age of sixteen. I lived below the poverty line. I got married and divorced. I lost my mom. Then life improved once again as I graduated college. I took risk after risk in an attempt to follow my career aspirations. I landed two dream jobs. I traveled abroad. I moved to an island, got married, and had kids. I experienced fear and self-doubt much of the way. Yet, I prevailed and in doing so, became confident in my own self. I learned to trust who I am and what I am capable of. I learned that letting go of the status quo doesn’t mean failure. It means living on my own terms.

I like that.

And then life took another downturn. Nothing major; life just seemed to lose its glow. Giving birth to two boys only two years apart was challenging those first few years. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with my career. I felt blessed for my health, my family, my home, yet I also felt like I was simply existing rather than living. The lens of life had once again grown cloudy and no matter what I did, I couldn’t get back my groove.

And then I realized why.

After my boys were born I started playing it safe. I was afraid to take risks with two kids in tow. I had forgotten that I am fully capable of creating a life on my own terms, with or without children.

Yet, I have learned from my past that when I embrace risk my life blossoms. I find amazing success and a deeper connection with what is most important to me. I am energized and feel a profound sense of well-being.

In his book, Lakhiani says that the common thread he found in researching those who live extraordinary lives is this: these individuals are risk-takers, trailblazers, and pioneers. They are no smarter, nor any different than you or me. Yet, they are willing to embrace risk and in doing so, craft amazing lives.

Today I am taking risks again. I don’t want to simply exist. I don’t want to wait for retirement to live. And I certainly don’t want to bet that retirement will be there for me. It evaded my mom, what if it evades me as well?

We all want to live amazing lives. I’m going to continue to take risks in life and embrace the ups and downs. I would love it if you joined me.


I believe we all have a bit of trailblazer inside us, don’t you? I welcome you to subscribe to my Sunday morning email. Each week I share personal stories of blazing trails in business and in life.

It’s my passion to create change. I’ve always found that disrupting the status quo leads to an amazing life where nothing is impossible.

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