The main problem with reversing, of course, is the unanticipated hazard.
It recalls Kipling’s famous line: “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same.” Both success and failure can be unanticipated hazards… the reversals of fortune in either direction can leave you high and dry.
Know what I mean?
Here’s a few instances of the problem of reversing:
Lance Armstrong discovered in his twenties that he had testicular cancer, lost one testicle, fought through chemotherapy, faced death, and then came back to win the Tour de France seven times.
Steve Jobs got fired from his own company, Apple, at the age of thirty, then spent a lonely decade in quasi-exile before coming back to Apple and leading it to its (and his) greatest successes yet, because of what had happened to him during that decade in the wilderness.
Eleanor Roosevelt was cleaning up her husband’s stuff one day when she found bundles of love letters between him, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and her own social secretary, Lucy Mercer. Her “bottom dropped out” of her life, as she would recall, but the very same disaster also forced her to “face the world honestly for the first time” and made her arguably the most successful woman of the twentieth century.
Then there are people like Albert Einstein, who broke through intellectual barriers at the age of twenty-six, and again at thirty-seven, but then entered a strange conceptual prison for the rest of his life, as if his success had killed off the same powers of imagination that had produced it.
Tennessee Williams finally scored a smash hit with his play The Glass Menagerie and found himself living in a luxury suite of a hotel, not thrilled but panicking at what he called this “catastrophe of success”.
Meriwether Lewis became an American hero with his partner William Clark for exploring the wilderness of the Louisiana Purchase, received a huge reward from President Jefferson and became governor of the new territory, but soon drank himself into oblivion, failed in his new office and committed suicide in a sordid Tennessee tavern.
In short, impostors everywhere. Triumphs that become, indeed cause, disasters. Failures that turn into, and enable, successes. What to make of such stories? What do they mean for our own lives?
What do all these people want us to know?
(PS: Some one emailed me [most of] this snippet, so if it’s been plagiarised from your blog… apologies (and well done).