“It’s not over, until it’s over,” is a mantra that has motivated me; and on more than one occasion, has helped me accomplish things I didn’t truly believe I could. I have been going back to it recently in the context of my own life. So this post is meant to inspire me as much as it is meant for anyone reading it.
Eleven years ago, I took the train to and from work. I loved taking the train. Except for one thing. I usually worked late. And after a certain time in the evening, the trains left only once every hour. So, if I missed a train, I had to wait an hour for the next one.
Every day, I promised myself that I would leave the office on time so that I could walk to the station in peace and catch my train. But, for many reasons, that rarely happened. And almost invariably, I found myself running down the street—hair flying, laptop thrashing, heart racing—to catch my train.
Sometimes, while I was running, I would hear a bell start to ring at the station. My heart would sink. Because the bell was a signal that the train was about to leave. And that I didn’t have enough time left to get on it. My spirited run would turn into a defeated walk. And I would mentally prepare myself for the hour-long wait ahead as the train rumbled out of the station before my eyes.
Choosing to make it.
One evening, I was mid way through my hair-flying-laptop-thrashing-heart-racing run, when once again, I heard the bell ring. My heart sank. And I hesitated. But for some inexplicable reason, I decided to keep running.
The bell continued to ring. I ran faster. Down the rest of the street. And into the station. I heard an announcement that my train was leaving. I didn’t let it slow me down. I dodged the other commuters. And zeroed in on the doors to the tracks that were closing before me. I headed towards them, and found myself squeezing through the narrow gap between. Trashing laptop and all. On the platform, the conductor hurried me along. And I jumped up the stairs onto the train just as its doors closed behind me. The train lurched forward and rumbled out of the station as it always did. Except, I was on it.
That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks, that I could have made it all those times I had chosen not to. After that day, I never stopped running for my train. I didn’t make it every single time. But I made it many more times than I expected to. And many more times than I would have had I not tried!
A chasm in between.
That day I learned—really learned—that it’s not over until it is really, truly over. It’s not over until I have run as hard as I possibly can. Until I have run every last moment available to me. Until I have tried to get the conductor to open the platform gates for me, and he has refused. Until the train’s doors are closed, and I’m outside. Until the train has pulled out of the station, and I’m not on it.
Until then, there is not just distant hope, but the real possibility of success. Because, at those critical times, one moment made the difference between my being on the train and missing it: the last moment I could have got on, and the moment afterwards. That moment could have been the moment I chose to keep running. It could have been the moment I chose to run faster. The moment I chose a shorter path as I dodged past other commuters. Or the moment the conductor decided to let me through.
There is the real possibility of success because a setback is just a setback. Just because the bell is ringing , doesn’t mean its over. Just because the doors are almost closed, doesn’t mean its over. Just because I tripped and fell while I was running, doesn’t mean its over. There is a chasm between it being almost over, and it being really, truly, over.
Over the next decade, I thought about those evenings at the train station often. When I was so lost in a law school class that I didn’t understand its title; and I wanted to give up because I was sure I would fail. But I tried anyway, and got an A. When an interview didn’t go as well as I had hoped; and I thought I might have hurt my chances of getting the job. But I gave every other interview my best shot, and I got the job anyway. When the multiple choice section on my bar exam felt like it was written in code I wasn’t meant to understand; and I felt like taking the rest of the exam was pointless. But I chose to give every question my best, and I passed anyway.
I didn’t succeed every single time. But I succeeded more often than I would have otherwise. And I learned that there was great value in not giving up too early. But “too early” is not the same as “never.” There is also great value knowing when to “Cut Your Losses.” True wisdom, which I believes comes from trusting our hearts, lies in knowing which one to choose.