Finding the silver lining in (almost) anything

Fear is a silver lining.

Fear is a silver lining.

The silver lining is the magical part of life. It shows you all the things you could experience if only you open your eyes in failure. We all have those things that start out with great intentions — then they blow up in our faces. Of course, when that starts happening, there’s a domino effect that seems to take out other parts of life as well. This is a challenge we all face, but those of us that design our own path face it proportionally more often.


Because we ask for challenges in the way that we ask for life to be more exciting, more vibrant, more up to our wildest dreams. We get challenges when we ask for life to be “more” of anything.

The more comes when you fail more often than when you succeed. 

This is not some new-age wisdom. This is the nature of being human. We learnt as babies what to do and what not to do by trying it and listening to the results of the actions. A pleasant coo from the parents? Excellent, and forgotten. A yelling mother? OH. We remember that one because it hurt our feelings — after all, mum raising her voice is something to heed. Some us might have been more stubborn and did it anyway, in which we would find out ourselves why the mum panicked — and those people? Those are you and I. We are the ones that needed more information as to why something “shouldn’t be done” — so we couldn’t be stopped. We can’t be stopped now.

At least until things blow up in our faces.

And, let’s be frank. Things blowing up in our faces is a daily occurrence. Technology failing. Lab experiments going wrong. Social experiments going awry. Personal lives creating snags we didn’t really plan… and when you’re a business owner things slowing down every time you pivot or change the rules.

It is in these failings that the silver lining lies. There is growth every time there is failure. Every time you fail, you should be able to focus on the opportunities that arise because of it. The silver lining is the extra time you have to go through materials when the technology isn’t working, the extra tweaks you can make to your proposals when a client is late, the personal growth you experience with every imperfect relationship in your life.

The Greater Good in Action programme developed by the University of California in Berkeley, makes finding a silver lining sound easy. But, anyone with emotions and a desire to be amazing knows that owning the failure and finding the silver lining is much more difficult than just “picturing something good that goes with it”.

Samuel Leighton-Dore said it most eloquently with this statement,

It’s hard to accept that the result of so much of your open, honest expression can lie with such flippancy in the palms of absolute strangers; strangers with lives and dreams of their own, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in an air-conditioned screening room somewhere uptown as they half-heartedly consider lunch and love and the possibility of parking tickets.

It’s hard to accept the power they hold over your immediate future, the way they could, so easily, divert your path in the direction you so crave.

But that’s how it goes. No matter how much of yourself you pour into your proposal, essay, script, song or painting; there’ll always be someone sitting there, someone you don’t know, caught up in the valid movements of their own life, of their own feelings, of their own existence. They will make a decision — just as you might decide between a coffee and a latte — and more often than not, the decision will be that you’re not good enough, that your art isn’t art enough, that the words you write don’t speak strongly enough, surely enough, loudly enough, on quite the right topic in quite the right way.

While Leighton-Dore is a writer and he’s talking about a screen play he wrote, it applies to any craft. As a scientist, you get hurt when people don’t appreciate the work you’ve put in to solve a mystery, answer life’s questions, and add a little drop of knowledge to our pool of knowledge. But that’s how it goes.

It’s in times like these that finding that elusive silver lining is harder than just picturing fluffy bunnies that you may have seen on the way to work — even if it was a hallucination from lack of coffee.

Owning your life is the key. 

Silver lining is found in the innocent, opportunistic, and optimistic places of the mind.Those of us that are optimistic find silver lining in a lot of things. It’s just part of their make up. For those of us that aren’t naturally optimistic, there are two other options: Finding the opportunity and tapping into innocence.

Realists and pessimists alike have a tendency to see all that is, but more negative rather than positive.They have feel illusions, which is good. But they are often disillusioned with the world, which can drag them down if they aren’t careful.

The trick for them is to tap into little bits of opportunity, like unexpected bits of time to accomplish something they want to do. When lines at the grocery store are long, take time to people watch and observe to influence. When a client is late, take time to review documents, direction you want to take the meeting, and practise your speech. When you’ve spilt milk, invent a way that helps more than yourself from having similar accidents.

Opportunity doesn’t have to be sleazy, nor make someone else a victim. This level of opportunists takes advantage of time to own their life again.

Of course, there are times when it’s just better to tap into your inner child, allow yourself to step back from the situation, and laugh at the audacity.