Recently I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert on TED talks. Gilbert is the author of Eat, Pray, Love a book which gave her phenomenal success and which spawned a film of the same name. In the talk she spoke about the impact of the book on her life. She had known she had wanted to write from childhood and had lived the life of a writer for many years i.e. little income and many rejections. With each rejection she recovered by in her words ‘going home’. Going home meant getting back to her desk and starting to write all over again. In order to recover from rejection she went back to the thing which she loved best, and where she could be freed from her ego. Once writing the rejection and the hurt that came with it disappeared because she was absorbed in her life’s passion.
Conversely, when she experienced success she saw the need for the same process. Where rejection had pushed her to one end of the bell curve, success pushed her to the other. Each were equally disabling. As she saw herself being feted for one book which had caught the popular imagination, she felt as disoriented as when she only received brickbats. She needed to find herself back in the average zonal range of the bell curve, and in order to do that she needed to “go home” ie to get back to writing and away from things which fed her ego. By doing that she was freed up to deal with failure again. When her next book ‘bombed’ in her words, she was able to deal with it, because her ego was not invested in being at the high end of the curve. Her message to her audience is that regardless of success or failure, we need to know what ‘going home’ means to us, so that we ensure we can find our way there, whether things are going well or badly. Going home may mean your family, your work, your beliefs, your partner, but whatever it is, it is important to recognise that living at the extremes is so much easier if you know where you need to head back to.