I Want it All…and Other Bad Ideas

I caught myself –not once but twice—this week declaring: I want it all!


Most recently I announced it to my brilliant co-founder when he laid out a choice with a timeline. We could have a strategic, steady tech build this spring or the cool tech features I just requested.


We prioritized the strategic, steady plan…and I figured out a workaround for my fancy features. Yet I concluded our robust discussion with one last attempt: “You know I would prefer to have it all, please.”


Growing up I assumed I could be a war correspondent or host of Good Morning America by 25 and be married by 26 and a mother by 30. It wasn’t too much to ask, right? I’d be nice about it.


I want it all—please and thank you.


When 26 hit and I wasn’t a war correspondent or a wife I had an existential crisis. This was the late ‘90s, so I was quite the early adapter of the Quarter Life Crisis. Yet there I was—so far from where I thought I’d be.


Big dreams and cheeky ideas have often served me well. They’ve taken me to such fascinating places and launched me on gorgeous projects. Yet sometimes I’ve forgotten there are trade-offs.


There are choices with timelines. There are long-term strategies and short-term sprints. And sometimes you can’t have both.


“Every yes must be defended by a thousand no’s.” Jeff Walker


I’ll concede. For many people this is a straightforward reality. An exercise in stating the obvious. You can do this OR that. A OR B?


Yet for me—and perhaps for you—these choices can produce conflict. And my version of “having it all” doesn’t include conflict.




A life without conflict takes us into my “Other Bad Ideas” section. Conflict is vital. I know this to my core when it comes to storytelling. There’s no story without conflict. And when used well it serves the hero in two powerful ways.

1) Conflict reveals how much the hero wants whatever she is chasing after. The greater the conflict the more the hero must confront desire.

2) Conflict cracks open the true character of the hero. It challenges the hero’s notions about who she really is—her ideal (false) self and her true self. I am a person who can have it all (assumption). CONFLICT. I am a person who can only do so much (truth).


So here I am. I’m confronted with my wiring to want it all and my ideal vision of myself that I can. And I’m left with I can only do so much.


“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.”
― Bruce Lee


This post isn’t theoretical or philosophical. It’s a confession.


I had hoped to do 40 days of Story for Lent…then 30 days (thinking I was right-sizing it)…all the while embarking on a big research and writing project with my startup StoryNow.


+ > –


I’ve always loved addition more than subtraction. This has played out in drink orders on planes: “I’ll take coffee and orange juice, please.” as I clutch my water bottle. And it includes holy seasons such as Lent. I’ll take up a practice rather than give something up.


So here I am in real time saying I need to give up adding things (such as 40 or 30 days of writing).


Yet there’s good news for me—and hopefully for you.


A great life demands a great deal of tradeoffs. It calls for choices and conflict. More Nos. More “I can only do so much…” declarations. And that’s ultimately a gift.


If I had it all, I would be stripped of desire. I would not be acquainted with reliance and awkwardly bump into the end of myself.


Where I find desire is where I find grace. Where I discover my need for another is where I find abundance. Where I stumble upon the end of myself is where I find greater Love and Life and the Hope that greets me Easter morning.


So…no 40 or 30 Days of Story. But I will post some really cool research I’m discovering on story and how it heals our bodies and brains.


As always I love hearing from you. I’m curious to hear your thoughts. How you’ve discovered you can’t have it all? Has that brought fear or freedom or a combination of the two? Do tell.


“ ‘No’ is a complete sentence.” Anne Lamott