The Stories We Tell Ourselves

I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done that I saw through to the end. I only regret things I left unfinished, or never started at all.

The Journey Is the Story

If I tell you that a guy named Billy Ray Valentine was a successful investor and made a killing in the commodities market, you probably won’t bat an eye.

Whatever, right? Lots of people are good at their jobs.

But if I tell you that Mr. Valentine came from the gutter and got his job on a bet, things get a little more interesting.1

Stories.

A Good Story Isn’t About the Ending

We all love a good story. But it’s too easy to mistake the ending for the whole story.

The journey is what makes a story good. It’s the details. The twists.

Because of this, stories don’t have to end well. Heroes can lose. Main characters can die.

We’ll allow any ending, as long as the story is good.

Our Lives Are a Collection of Short Stories

Even if we don’t sit around at dinner telling tales, our lives exist as a series of stories. We tell these stories to ourselves, to our friends, to potential employers.

We spin our stories and use them to create little vignettes of who we are and what we value.

Strangers use them to make us real.

Our stories become the only part of us that anyone else really touches.

Every Good Story Has a Follow-Through

But, even though the guts of a story lie in the journey, every story still needs to end.

And it needs to really end.

If the plot of Cool Runnings was the story of that time Derice Bannock was accidentally tripped by an opponent in the 1988 Summer Olympics qualifier before giving up on his Olympic dreams, the story would have felt incomplete.

Instead, Derice took his failure and pushed onward — and ultimately failed again, sort of — and it makes for a great story.

It’s Up to Us to Make Our Stories Good

We have a choice with every story we begin: “Am I going to see this through to the end, or am I going to give up and leave the story unfinished?”

When things get difficult, we can always bail and walk away. And sometimes that’s how a story needs to end.

But for every story we leave unfinished, we’re building a narrative around ourselves. Are we leaving more stories unfinished than we’re seeing through to the end?

What Do Your Stories Say About You?

When you play back your stories in your head, do you feel good about them? Or do they feel like a collection of half-finished anecdotes?

The good news is that — regardless of how your stories read so far — you’re in the middle of a few stories right now. And you’ll start new stories in the future.

Try to make them good ones.


  1. If you want to know Billy Ray’s full story, watch the documentary.

What to do next.

As adults, we’re supposed to build careers, build relationships, build futures, build happiness… It’s all pretty fucking overwhelming. It’s easy to feel stuck — like we’re on autopilot, punching a clock, and buried in tasks we don’t really care about.

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