Only in the Darkness Can You See the Stars

Only in the Darkness Can You See the Stars

“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Something special happened in 2015. Pixar released a new movie. For many parents, Pixar is the oasis in a vast desert of annoying children’s movies. When Pixar releases a film, it makes sure to include some emotional weight to it; it gives kids humorous anecdotes and adults a clear illustration of real-life experiences.

With Inside Out, Pixar moved into a meta world of emotions, creating characters attached to the the emotions of a pre-teen girl.

While the main character of the film is Joy (Amy Poehler), a bucket of energy doing everything in her power to bring happiness to the world, the star of the show is Sadness (Phyllis Smith).

In a profound way, Pixar suggests that sadness is a normal part of life. It’s an emotion we need to feel at certain times, and there’s nothing wrong with it. In many ways, the feeling of sadness is what brings the true exuberance we feel with joy.

The Balance

When I think about Martin Luther King’s phrase, “Only in the darkness can you see the stars,” I see the necessary balance between the dark and the light, sadness and happiness.

No matter your profession, you will face days, weeks, or months of darkness in your work. You’ll encounter difficult clients; you’ll find a plan will fall apart; you’ll lose an employee; your product/service release will fall flat.

These difficult circumstances shape and mold us, helping us to become the well-rounded business people we need to be. When failure occurs, learning starts.

Performance Through Failure

In this way, the highest experiences in your work gain meaning. A long-lasting client relationship is to be savored within the context of the sour relationships. A well-executed plan provides pure joy knowing all the ways it might have failed. Creating a partnership at work is exalted against the difficult relationships of past employees. And thankfulness about a successful product launch exists within the universe where other product attempts have failed.

So if you want to see the stars, you need to step out into the darkness. There might be a few steps backward before you can take the leap forward, but that leap forward only makes sense in the context of the difficulty to that date.

Let’s all traverse the darkness and look up at those shining lights, understanding that such a view only happens when you hold joy and sadness in balance.

The Bottom Line:
  • In what ways can you take your step forward in your work?
  • What are some of the greatest joys you’ve had in work? What difficulties did you encounter on the way that contributed to the high you experienced?
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