Blogging on The Brightside

"I think I can. I think I can. I think I can." -The Little Engine That Could

“We don’t live in our fears, we live in our hopes.”

Mike Tomlin


I like Mike Tomlin as a coach.  The guy is 41 years old and has coached in two Superbowls, including a victory.  When Tomlin is on the sideline, he’s intensely focused;  another quote attributed to him is “Be where you’re at.”  Live in your moment.

Coach Tomlin can be tough on guys who make mistakes and can flash a healthy smile when things are going his way.  But what I really like about him is that he isn’t afraid to shake things up if the Steelers’ performance is less than stellar.  Playing .500 football isn’t the Steelers’ way, and some stars were held accountable and let go after last season’s lackluster finish and replaced by some young talent.  There are a lot of teams (including one across the state) where that kind of objective first attitude wouldn’t fly.

I like the quote for this post, because Tomlin isn’t afraid to do what it takes.  He is talking about the way that life manifests itself around what it is that we focus upon.  Are you focused on what could go wrong?  What you don’t know?  A risk? A challenge?  Are are you focused on the end?  That goal? A dream?  Your hopes?  Put yourself there, and live in it.

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“Failure is nature’s plan to prepare you for great responsibilities.”

Napoleon Hill

When you read about successful people, you’ll likely read about many devastating failures leading up to and intermixed with their wild successes.  And when you meet successful people, you start to learn that the reason they were successful in the first place is because they have a lot of practice failing and have matured and learn from their failures.   If you want to learn to be successful, you’ve got to put yourself out there and take chances.  You’ve go to apply for jobs you might not ever get and audition for parts you might not fit the role for exactly.  You’ll be disappointed and frustrated and angry, but keep pushing.  Then, you will find yourself with great responsibilities, great successes, and a heaping sense of fulfillment.


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“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

— Winston Churchill

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“Rejection emails suck.”

One of my best friends sent me a text that read “Rejection emails suck.”  She had just gotten the news that, despite a wonderful interview, she was not going to get the summer internship she hoped for.  She’s right, rejection letters really suck.

“I really wish I was less of a thinking man and more of a fool not afraid of rejection” –Billy Joel

Recently, I viewed the movie Admission, starring Tina Fey who plays a Princeton Admission Officer.  This movie struck a chord with me, because when I was applying for undergraduate studies, Princeton was the only school (of 8) to send me a thin envelope.  I knew the rejection letter was coming, because like the movie, the guy who interviewed me was a jerk.  The rejection letter wasn’t a surprise, but it did ruin my day.

“I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going rather than retreat.” –Sylvester Stallone

When I applied to graduate school, I got a second rejection letter form Princeton (and several other schools).  Every time I got one of those letters it ruined my whole day.  I knew that most of the programs were a long shot, but it’s hard not to feel slighted when you know you’re a good candidate.

“You get used to rejection, and you don’t take it personally.” –Daniel Craig

I got another rejection letter today.  By now I’ve gotten a lot of them, and it still sucks.  Somehow it doesn’t ruin my whole day anymore.  I’ve learned that things tend to work out in the end.  I might not end up where I hoped to or expected to, but it’s usually for a good reason.  Plus, when I get a thick envelope, or a detailed email with an offer instead of a “click here for your admission decision” email, all of the joy and anticipation erases the rest.

“A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success.” — Bo Bennett

Our parents had the right intentions when they told us to chase our dreams.  Their biggest fault might be not pushing us to fail more often.  Learning to embrace rejection and failure as a necessary step in the pursuit of success is a hard lesson to learn and one that takes practice, but by many accounts these are the most valuable life experiences.


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“A failure determines only this, that our determination to succeed was not strong enough.”

John Christian Bovee



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“Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.”

— Helen Keller

Tomorrow is a new, promising day, but you must make it through today in order to see it.

Like our blog says… I think I can, I think I can, I think I can… Keep chugging along until you reach that new beautiful day.

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“Why do we fall, Bruce? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

Preamble: I was going to recycle an old post with the same basic message, because I wasn’t sure how this would be received. But some of these posts (including this one) we write for ourselves and share with you.  They help Carly and me to positively focus our own minds or each others minds, something I must actively practice.  We publish these posts so that you can practice along.

*spoiler alert* for those of you who have yet to see (and shame on you) the Dark Knight Rises.

Let’s go back to the beginning of the trilogy- when Bruce Wayne falls into the well on the property owned by his wealthy parents.  As his father carries him back into the mansion he asks, “Why do we fall, Bruce?  So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

Flash forward to the Dark Knight Rises.  A battered Bruce Wayne rehabilitates in an underground dungeon- a jail housed in a massive pit in the middle of some mysterious desert.  The tenured prisoners who attend to Wayne, tell him that the only person to escape the prison climbed the walls of the ancient edifice. After having his broken back set, his broken ribs healed, and  with some ghetto-style P90x under his belt, Wayne attempts the climb with a tattered rope around his waist.  Climbing several stories up the walls of the pit, Wayne is confronted with an insane horizontal jump.  He misses the ledge on the other side and falls several hundred feet until the slack in the rope tightens.

More rehabilitation and more calisthenics foreshadow Wayne’s second attempt.  In an exhibition of courage, Wayne scales the walls again.  This time, he makes the horizontal leap, and his fingers grasp the edge but slide off.  He falls, and the rope tightens around his waist, his body breaking around it.

While he is training harder than ever, a prisoner approaches Wayne to tell him that it is not his body that needs to overcome the leap.  Instead, Wayne must become the master of his fears.  Wayne implores the old prisoner to explain more, since he is not afraid to die.  That is the point.  The prisoner who escaped was a young child who did not use a rope.

Wayne tries the climb one last time, this time without a rope.  He scales the wall and attempts the leap, this time nailing it.

What’s the point?  Sometimes we fail.  Sometimes those failures are particularly painful, and we break around the rope that is holding us off the ground.  We can take the lessons we learned from that attempted climb and keep them in our mind for motivation during the next climb.  With new focus and strength from our training, we can make another valiant attempt.  But we can fall again, and if we know the rope will be there to catch us, then we are likely to rely on it, even just a little.  And it is that reliance, that expectation that things will be okay if we fail again, that stop us from achieving our goals.  Our safety net, the insurance of our well-being, becomes our hinderance.  The dual-edge to the sword is that our fear of failure, knowing that all could be lost, is sometimes the motivation we need to accomplish the seemingly impossible.  It is in knowing that failure is not an option that we are most likely to find success.

“Why do we fall, Bruce?  So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

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“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”

–Michael Jordan

Each day I wake up and go to school. I do all that I can to make sure that my students give it their all each and every single time.

I was taught when I was eight that the words “I can’t” needed to be removed from my vocabulary. One of my own teachers made us write down what we could not do. We did not hold back, we did not share with anyone else. We proceeded to bury the lists outside of school. Those words were dead to us.

Why do lessons like this only work with children? Why do we tell ourselves we can’t do something in the first place? Why don’t we just try? It’s amazing what we can accomplish with even the tiniest bit of effort.

So be a big kid and come to the front of the class. Pick up a piece of chalk and get ready to write. List everything you can’t do. Write out “I can’t….” over and over until you’ve reached the end of your list. Pick up an eraser and replace the words “I can’t” with “I will try.”Life doesn’t hand out a grade. Life doesn’t keep track. But when you looking back on your life, would you rather say, ” I couldn’t” or “I tried”?

Each day we are alive, the world asks nothing more than for us to try. It does not require perfection. So– realize that your list is a starting point and that today you can start your list and make a change for the better. This is not a guarantee of success. It’s not even the thought that you won’t fail beautifully. But without trying, you are missing out on some of your life’s best moments.

Love and Light,



“If you worried about falling off the bike, you’d never get on.”

Lance Armstrong

After his handle bars snagged on a shopping bag near the end of the 15th stage of the 2003 Tour de France, Lance Armstrong fell to the pavement. He got back on his bike and charged forward to win the stage and extend his lead over foe Jan Ullrich.


Even the greatest fall.

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“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Michael Jordan


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