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  • Writer's pictureSarah Mason

Build in the Rubble: When Risk Leads to Ruin

Risking ruin, risking failure, for the opportunity of an incredible life was worth it. That is, it was until you found yourself sitting in the rubble.

When you released your hold on the security behind you to grasp the better life ahead, you didn’t really plan on missing, on falling in the gap between. You thought you were willing to risk ruin, but you were really hoping the courage was all it would require. You believed you would jump and land safely into a joyful, fulfilling future. Yet, somehow, you didn’t. Here you are in the wreckage. Now what?

Demolition is an act of bravery. When our life needs- nay demands- change to bring joy and fulfillment, we may need to destroy what we have. To take a sledgehammer to what is functioning because you feel called to something more is a gutsy move. But what happens in the in-between? What happens after taking the risk but before the reward? What happens in the ruin?

Some people desperately try to clamber back, back to the life they had before. And some are able to restore what they had. Some others clamber back into the replica of what they destroyed. They find a new okay life, a new mediocre job, a new adequate relationship. It’s comfortable; it’s lackluster. It’s familiar and safe. I can’t imagine it’s satisfying. To have risked change in the first place means they were tired of complacency. They have seen the light, but they return to a dim cave. You must be made of sterner stuff. Because you didn’t destroy an average life to return to an average life. That is not what you took that jump for. You did not take that audacious risk to balk at the first moment of adversity. If you want real, dazzling, purposeful change, you have to be ready to work for it.

So when you risk ruin, and then you find yourself indeed in the ruin, what do you do? In the rubble, you build. In the ruins, you create. You forge the life you desire.

I realize that many are much braver than I; they need less motivation to take a risk than I do. They have the courage necessary. For these people, they may find the greater struggle lies in the aftermath, when risk leads to ruin. It’s understandable. Finding yourself in the ruin can be overwhelming. There is a sudden urge to cling to anything familiar, even if it means going backwards. It is not courage that is lacking, but, in the middle of the ruin, a person can suddenly question her capability to be able to be the architect and builder of her life.

This is your future, your project, and you must be prepared to see it through to the end. You risked the ordinary for something extraordinary. With the ordinary in ruin, you must be willing to create that which you desired. You must. Even in the most chaotic of destruction, you must be one who builds. As you build, tap into the resources within. Equip yourself with confidence, perseverance, and ingenuity, and see the construction through to its glorious completion.


Have confidence. What you envision is possible, and, as the designer of your future, only you can do it and do it right. You are the best candidate for the job.

The sub four-minute mile was once considered an elusive, insurmountable feat. To run a mile in less than four minutes was considered impossible and deadly. Experts proclaimed that the human body was simply incapable of breaking this barrier. Then, in 1954, Roger Bannister, a 25-year-old man, made international headlines when he did the impossible, clocking in at 3:59:4. His record only lasted 46 days. Currently, on an all-time men’s best mile race list, over 4,000 men have bested Bannister’s trailblazing record.

Why was it suddenly possible to do the impossible? Because one man did it first. Bannister did it, and the mindset of men changed. Now, because one man could, they could.

If you assert that your goals are achievable, your brain will indeed begin to believe it. Your brain is an incredible information-gathering machine. Repeat your belief in your vision and your brain will sort and focus on the data that supports you. Have you ever decided that the world is beautiful, looked for its beauty, and suddenly you are amazed to find it everywhere in places you had overlooked before? Focusing on your vision works this way. Believe it is possible to make it possible.

You can do this. Don’t doubt your ability to follow your dreams simply because it is a new path untrodden. Hold your head high, gazing out on the horizon ahead. Pep-talk yourself in the mirror, leave notes around your home, set a reminder on your phone that you got this. If you can, find your own Roger Bannister to look up to, to remind you that your vision is not impossible. Whatever it takes, don’t let insecurity weaken your resolve.


You must have perseverance if you are to build the life you desire. When you struggle, when you get frustrated, carry on.

You have been building houses- craftsman, ranch, farmhouse, cottage- and they have been cozy and functional. Now, without even a blueprint, you are building something grander and stronger and lovelier than you’ve ever build before. You are constructing a cathedral, fitting for the beauty and magnitude of your joyful, purposeful life. It’s a massive venture to build a life you desire. It’s bound to be an arduous endeavor. You are likely to be faced with setbacks, struggles, and delays, but you can prevail.

At times, you will struggle; you will fail. Failure is not the conclusion, though. Stop treating it like it is. It is merely the evidence of effort. Failure is opportunity to learn. Failure is growth. Failure is part of the process. All of your missteps are learning fodder for your future, a future that is rich and meaningful. Fail, learn, do better. Then, fail, learn, and do better again. Persist until you build that marvelous life.

I happen to come from stubborn stock. I may hem and haw as I work up the gumption to take my risks, but, once I do, I am relentless. I am pig-headed. I refuse to be defeated. When what I’m building crumbles, I furrow my brow, study my mistakes, and begin anew. It becomes a battle between me and that obstacle. I refuse to submit.

We all can be stubborn about something, I’m sure. Apply your resolve to what matters most: your grail. Remain steadfast in pursuit of your goals. Be pig-headed when it matters.


Put your ingenuity to work. You are intelligent and resourceful. Use that beautiful brain of yours.

You, of course, are clever enough. Only one as clever as you could see there was opportunity out there for the taking. Only one as bright as you could dream so big. Just don’t forget that your mind is a tool, a resource. If you want to build something grand, you need to utilize it. Problem solve.

I used to teach rhetoric and persuasion. When we would discuss how to argue effectively, I would tell my students that it takes very little intelligence to destroy. Any child can knock down a tower of blocks. But to create, that demonstrates intelligence.

Those who can build and create, those who can shape their lives to be good and meaningful and functional and prosperous are people of imagination, of innovation, and of intelligence. You need no piece of paper nor a wizened scholar to validate your genius. You are equal to the challenge ahead of you. You have broken out of the box in which you lived, you are rewriting the rules for your life, and now you are able to live an intentional, fulfilling life.


When you risk ruin, you must commit to building. Note that I say “building” and not “rebuilding.” You are not restoring what you had. If what you had was a life you wanted, you made a terrible mistake risking it. So I say “building,” because you risked ruin for something more. You are building something new and splendid, something that will allow you to live a purposeful, joyful life.

It takes more vision, more patience, and more love to build than to destroy. Character is found in one who builds. Anyone can destroy their life. But a person of substance builds something grander. A person of aplomb carries on despite the naysayers. A person of tenacity remains unshaken from the course. A person of vision sees the potential in the ruin.


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