Craft Minutes with Steven Barnes – 7


Human Adulthood Part 7: The Dark Night of the Soul

The unfortunate truth is that some of our best and brightest, our very highest achievers, are the first to spiral down into depression. The dark night of the soul is the moment when it seems that all our innate capacity is insufficient to reach our goals. It is the moment in STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE when Luke is shooting down the Death Star trench, and all his support has been destroyed. It is the moment in DIE HARD when John McClain, exhausted and discouraged, asks a cop to tell his wife he loved her. It is the moment in THE WIZARD OF OZ when Dorothy, locked in the tower, watches the sands run out of the hourglass.

Death. Defeat. Loss of hope. Now listen closely: if you don’t already know the following information, it will change your life: this state, this ultimate “low” is absolutely essential in the process of growth. If you’ve never fallen flat on your face, you simply haven’t ever reached for excellence. The only thing that triggers the “growth” button in your brain is failure. When you work out at the gym, the only way your muscles know to grow is when they reach their limit.

Unfortunately, the more you care, the more of yourself you invest in your efforts, the more failure stings. When you do absolutely your best, and it isn’t enough, and you care…it can feel like death. It can feel like the end of the world. The successes of the world are people who can survive such blows and bounce back, “fall off the horse” and jump back into the saddle. This may be scant comfort when you are down in the dumps, but knowing that those dumps are part of the journey can be liberating.

If you KNOW that you have to go through this to reach any kind of excellence, then get your affairs in order NOW. In other words, if you know, with no doubt, that you are going to go into a state of depression, don’t fight it, go with it and skip back OUT as rapidly as possible. How do you do that? Now, today, while depression is a long way out, make a list of things that make you happy. Give that list to a trusted friend. And have that friend check on you regularly. When she sees you down, have her use your list to lift you up:

Take you dancing. Take you to the zoo. Buy ice cream. Play Monopoly. Have sex (certainly one of MY favorites!) Borrow a puppy and walk it. Feed ducks at the park.

I don’t know what makes you happy. But you do. Make a list: now, today. Consider it a prescription for contentment. And the next time you have pushed yourself to the limit, fill that prescription.


NY Times bestselling novelist, lecturer, martial artist and success coach Steven Barnes has over three million published words, as well as writing for television’s The Outer Limits, Twilight Zone, and Stargate SG-1. He has created The Hero’s Journey, the holistic success system for the 21st Century. Also the breakthrough 101 program. Get FREE information at:

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