Done with gusto, life is kinda messy. One way to look at it is that you need to break some eggs to make an omelet. Another is that both the beginning and the end is messy anyway, so why not the parts in the middle?

In school, as when reading a textbook, concepts and ideas are simplified and presented to illustrate a singular point. The purpose isn’t to provide an overarching perspective, it’s to prove a point with a deliberately constructed example. With a properly constructed argument it’s possible to prove any point you want.

Rarer still are situations where the point is not at all obvious. Sometimes the point is completely arbitrary and it’s up to those involved to decide if there is a point at all.

Some decisions are life-altering: do you go to college? Is this the person I’m going to marry? Other myriad of decisions are irrelevant – do you drink coffee with milk or black? Toast or waffles?

Yet others are small but very relevant because the decisions compound: do you brush your teeth? Are you hanging out with positive people? Is your company profitable over the last 6 months?

Others are what define our character – after a fall, do you finish the run or take the shortest route back to the car? Do you take a month off, buy a new helmet and get back on the half-pipe?

If success knows failure, then what differentiates those that fail and get up over and over and eventually succeed from those that don’t get up, or can’t get up and the hell with success?

Ultimately there is only two ways that people succeed: one way is to do better, be better, than the competition. Another is to just be more tenacious and get up one time more than others also in the running.

And that second way is really the only way to succeed in the end, because the one that succeeds isn’t necessarily the best or the brightest. Often the one that we consider successful is simply someone who hasn’t decided along the way that something else is more important, or more comfortable, or more aligned with their personal values and ambitions.

And so in a history book we study, in the annual report we read, at the award ceremony years later we see “success” shining in all its glory.

What we don’t see is the mountain of messy details in the background, the thousands of i’s dotted and t’s crossed on the way to the finish line. The fields of pretty flowers that lend a rugged landscape its picturesque quality. The steep ravines with sharp, unforgiving drop-offs.

It is said that history is written by the winners. Perhaps it’s also true that only winners will ever write the history. Winners first, writers later.

Just don’t expect to read any messy details. Because winning isn’t supposed to be messy. It’s supposed to be shiny, happy, and eternally fulling. Even if the way there is not.

And that’s one big, messy little secret.