When Your Dream Hits A Dead-End

“Part of being wise in this world is learning to accept that we have only very limited access to the big picture.”  - David Gibson

“Persisting in one way is not a guarantee of victory. But persistence blended with experimentation does guarantee success.”  - David Schwartz

“Great opportunities never have 'great opportunity’ in the subject line.”  - Scott Belsky

"What looks inevitable in hindsight is often invisible with foresight."  - Steven Kotler

Inner Dialogue

It’s over.

… your life, that is. Well, at least it seems that way. It definitely feels that way. But you are still breathing. You are still consciously aware of these thoughts. Yet, somehow, it all seems surreal, almost as if real life isn’t that real, or at least not nearly as real as you once thought.

How did you get to here? How did you manage to come to this dead-end? And why? Why did you work so hard, fight for so long, and sacrifice so much only to wind up at a place you never wished to be?

Life truly is cruel. It is not a fair world we live in, and this is seen so clearly because it always seems to be against me! Fairness, justice, equity—that idealistic world seems imaginative at best.

Will I ever have another dream? Will I ever be able to believe in dreams again? Not only that, but should I? Is it foolish, naive, ignorant? How do you live an optimistic life in a pessimistic world? What is true versus what do I feel to be true? What is the truth beyond my momentary perception of truth—as I cannot trust my own inclinations from the place I currently find myself in.

Are dead-ends a place of ignorance? Or are they really a place of knowing, a place of discovery, an exploration of self, within and without?

What Are Dead-Ends?

I know of no-one who would knowingly travel towards a dead-end in hopes of rediscovering whether it was truly dead or not. And yet, I know of no-one who hasn’t traveled unknowingly towards a dead-end, only to find themselves asking: “why didn’t I know better?” when the dead-end is finally revealed.

Dead-ends are a place of disappointment and discovery—equally so… and both are a blessing.

Disappointment helps us sharpen our objective lens on the challenging reality of life itself, filled with toil, strife, hardship.

Discovery keeps us in-tune with our child-like self. It encourages learning, exploration, adaptation. It affirms courage, wonder, curiosity.

Why Are They Bad?

But why this angst? What causes this repulsion of dead-ends? What voice(s) am I listening to when I discover the disappointment?

There is the instinctive voice that appears making sure I’m aware of the "complete waste" this journey has been. But is this instinctive voice really my own? Or is it the voice of the collective, the voice of the culture demanding to be heard?

Dead-ends, while branded as an evil to avoid, can similarly be seen as a tutor to welcome. Tutors instruct us, providing information and guidance in real-time. Learning experientially is a messier journey than learning theory by intake of knowledge.

Life rarely operates in the realm of black and white. Our common experience reveals that we often reside on various places within the spectrum of grey. One particular shade of grey is dead-ends. This shade is a light-grey filled with a larger proportion of white than black. The white is the opportunity, the lessons, the experience gained, and the humility (virtue) received. The black is the voice of “the collective” reminding you of the failure, the wasted time, and the disappointment of not living up to your expectations—or worse, the expectations of others.

We need to be reminded of the power of light, the force that fully expels the darkness of the night. So often our place of residence on the grey-scale comes down to a personal choice.

Dead-Ends Aren’t Often Dead-Ends

Why aren’t they?

Dead-Ends don’t mean you have to start over.

— Usually it just means you have to backtrack a short ways before moving forward on a new path. This is much less scary than having to begin from the beginning again. 

Gained experience is not wasted time.

— We fret so much about wasting precious time, when the other side of that same coin says: time is always there. Experience cannot be quantified as cleanly as results or outcomes, but that does not eliminate it’s value.

There will always be bigger and better dreams ahead.

— Dreams are formed out of our current place in life, but our current place in life won’t be the place in life we find ourself in two months down the road, or next year, let alone five to ten years later. Dreams will only expand and enrich as we grow in knowledge, experience, awareness, and perspective.

Identity is not found in what you do, but in who you are.

— This is massive. The fear that invades at a dead-end is precisely this issue: an identity-crisis of sorts. Our identity is objectively equal: we are all human-beings, and no one can take that away from us. It is a God-given identity.

(Beyond being human, I know from the Bible that we are equal for two reasons: (1) we are each created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and (2) we are all sinners deserving of God’s wrath. These two realities make us both infinitely worth and irreconcilably fallen, deserving of everything and equally of nothing. My identity as a Christian is solely and completely found in Christ alone, my Redeemer, Savior, and friend.)

Is It Worth It?

Yes. It is.

Not everyone can pursue their dreams—it is not a universally afforded reality. Nor is it a universally desired pursuit—not everyone wants to pursue their lofty dreams, nor does everyone have dreams or goals for their future.

But if you do and you can: you should. It will be worth it.


I believe these two questions provide the answer:

  1. Did you learn?

  2. And can what you learned lead to greater benefit for others and the world?

That’s the point: personal development and societal progress. Both of those goals are facilitated uniquely by the appearance and reality of dead-ends on a personal level, and on a societal level.

Dead-ends are a form of not-knowing. And not-knowing is a better place to be than most.

The Unknown Place of Knowing

Is knowing really knowing?
Or is not knowing knowing?

And if not knowing is really knowing,
How can we not know in order to know?

To discover this discovery
We must uncover that which is:

     // eternally covered.