Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

How to fail at everything important in life (or, How to let Resistance win)

You aren’t aiming for average; you want your life to mean something. Your goals are high and your dreams are big. You want a life of significance that truly amounts to something.

However, something is preventing forwards progress, a gravity pulling you backwards. That force—lurking in the shadows and opposing you at every turn—is called Resistance.

If you want Resistance to win (and for you to fail at everything important in life) simply follow these three easy steps. 

Photo credit Evan Bench (Creative Commons)

Photo credit Evan Bench (Creative Commons)


We all doubt. It is part of our human condition. Self-doubt. Existential doubt. Ontological doubt. Relational doubt.

Doubt can be useful. Sometimes, it keeps us alive—I doubt that bridge will hold. Other times it reveals hidden insecurities.

However, unattended doubt grows stronger and consumes. Like an unwanted houseguest, it moves in and puts down roots. It eats our dreams with an insatiable hunger. It leaves us empty

Doubt is manifested fear. And fear is the enemy of action. Resistance can smell doubt from the other side of the city.

When I was younger and lived on the Adriatic, I would jump off cliffs into the sea. I never liked going first. I watched friend after friend leap, scream, flex, and enter the cool waters of the Adriatic. When my turn came, I was full of doubt. Will it hurt? Is it safe? Even though I watched countless people survive, still I doubted.

Doubt, in that way, is irrational. It is also ever-present.

We cannot suppress it. Ignoring doubt solves nothing. We can, however, choose not to listen to it. We can fire it from our board of trusted counselors and give its seat to another . . . faith.

There is a story in the Bible of a distraught father who brings his oppressed son to Jesus. He has enough faith to bring his son to the teacher expecting a miracle, but enough doubt to question whether change is possible. All he can do is cry, “I believe; help me because I don’t believe.”

Sometimes, that is all it takes—just enough faith to move to the edge of the cliff and jump.


An idea alights. Eureka! Your pulse quickens and rib cage heaves. This could change everything. Your brain flashes and spins like a disco ball. Hope rises—the world can change and you can be a part of it. You quickly inventory the time, effort, and money this idea will cost. It seems possible. This could actually work.

“Someday,” you tell yourself, “I will bring this idea to life.”

The sun peaks and sets. The fog of life descends. Darkness guides you beneath the heavy hand of sleep. You wake to another normal day.

You don’t forget your idea, but “someday” eventually becomes “maybe one day.” Time speeds on. One day becomes your last day. Time expires.

Whether because of doubts or busyness, too often we delay. I am not referring to the patient preparation of a wise man, but the wishy-washy inaction of a waffler.

What if it doesn’t work? We hesitate.
Where would I even start? We dither.
How would I market it? We dilly-dally.

And like the slow fading of a stage show, the idea exits through the back.

Inaction is a barren womb.

Better to do somethinganything—than talk about everything and do nothing. (share it on twitter)

If you don’t know where to start, just start somewhere, anywhere. Starting creates momentum and momentum can be steered. As a wise man once told me, you can’t steer a parked car.

If you want to get married, talk to the opposite sex. If you want to play in a band, call up a few friends and practice. If you want to write a book, put words to paper. Because every book starts with a sentence; every album starts with an instrument; and every marriage starts with a conversation.

And delayed dreams—as Langston Hughes so eloquently reminds us—die.

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Distract Yourself

Credit Chris Corwin (Creative Commons)

Credit Chris Corwin (Creative Commons)


If there is one word that strikes terror into the heartless cavity of Resistance it is this: Focus.

Fearless Focus.

Faith-Filled Fearless Focus.

Perhaps at no time in history has it been so difficult for a society to focus as it is today. We are over-connected, over-informed, over-stimulated, over-engaged, and over-entertained. We are constantly bombarded with invites, ideas, requests, causes, needs, and opportunities. We can float from one thing to the next until death and never exhaust them all.

Here is the simple truth: You are limited.

You cannot see every idea to completion.
You cannot champion every cause.
You cannot fulfill every request.
You cannot seize every opportunity.

When I first started working after college, I felt pulled in a hundred directions.

“I just feel like I can’t focus!”  I vented to my family over a holiday break.

My mother, ever the encourager, tried to cheer me up.  “It’s okay honey, you are just focusing on a lot of things at one time.”

As nice as her words were (thanks mom for being so encouraging!) they aren’t possible.

Try it. Look at two objects, one near to you and one far, and try to focus on both of them at the same time. How did it go? If our eyes cannot focus on two things at once, how can we focus our lives on many things.

We are limited. So we must set aside distractions and focus.

Turn off the TV. Log out of Facebook. Resign from the committee. Shut out distractions. Focus and watch Resistance flee in fear.

Fight the Resistance

There is a cause created for you. Find it.
There is an idea bubbling up inside of you. Listen to it.
There is a dream resonating with you. Believe it.
There is a path laid out for you. Start down it.

What adventure will you begin today?


About Josh