In her most recent TED Talk, Elizabeth Gilbert, a writer best known for her memoir Eat, Pray, Love, shares wisdom about creating a protective space between yourself and your work so that when you face great failure or great success, you can stay grounded and find your way home again.
Gilbert, a gifted storyteller, brings honesty, passion, and poetry to her TED Talk and counsels us through her own experience to stay focused and undeterred as we encounter enormous highs and profound lows.
Eat, Pray, Love became an international bestseller, a success beyond Gilbert’s wildest dreams. And with that success, to her dismay, Gilbert felt as anxious and as removed from herself as she had early in her career when people would say, "Aren't you afraid you're never going to have any success? Aren't you afraid the humiliation of rejection will kill you?"
Just as she experienced very real fear of failure in her early writing days, Gilbert now faced an equally terrifying proposition: what if her greatest professional success had already been realized? What then?
As a young writer, Gilbert did what so many do when following a passion and striving to live out a dream: she got a job to pay the bills and devoted herself tirelessly to her craft. Making ends meet as a diner waitress, Gilbert submitted countless stories and manuscripts to magazines and publishing houses, and for six years met only rejection letters in her mailbox. Failure after failure after failure.
Constantly questioning if she was doing the right thing and if she was on the right path, Gilbert would "find [her resolve]" and fight her way back. She would say, "I'm not going to quit. I'm going home."
Gilbert suggests that persevering and preserving sanity and emotional stability through great failure and great success requires us to create a distance between our selves and our work so that it doesn't consume us, so that it doesn't define us, and so that we might always be "safe from the random hurricanes of outcome."
Gilbert felt as undone by great success as she had by great failure, and she needed to find a mechanism, an approach, to protect herself, and her ability to return to work, from life's extremes.
According to Gilbert, the solution for “self-restoration” is the same whether you are fighting the demons of failure or swept up in the enchantment of success.
Whatever it is you do, wherever you find your home, get back there. Get back to doing what you love to do and do not stray from it.
If you enjoyed this video, you might be interested in Elizabeth Gilbert's previous TED Talk, entitled "Your Elusive Creative Genius." Additionally, you can keep up-to-date on Gilbert's work via her website.