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Walking and Burning Bridges

“The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.”
David Russell


Get out your matches, ladies and gentlemen…. let’s burn some bridges!

[Okay, not so fast.]

How in the world can you tell which bridges are friends and which are foes? Which bridges are you using, on a daily basis, that are built on toxic relationships, bad jobs, self-deprecating thoughts? Which bridges feel evil, but are really character-building and once you survive, you’ll be glad you kept crossing?

I was thinking today about things that I quit… and things that I haven’t… and how each actually matters a BIG  hill of beans.

Here’s a few recent examples of things I did quit:

My last job.
The one I call “the Evil Job.” After taking unnecessary abuse from someone in a position of power and realizing that I hated the lies and the drudgery of civil litigation, I quit.

My job before the last job.
The one I call “the Nice Job.” After mistakenly thinking that the grass was greener and burning some bridges in a bad way, I found that I had quit the Nice Job –only to trade it in for the Evil Job.

Weighing myself.
When I realized that my scale was literally making me loco, I quit weighing myself and ruining my own day before it began.

This milkshake jumped into my hand.

Here’s a few recent example of things I didn’t quit:

When I first got in the pool in 2010, I strapped on my goggles and swimcap, feeling confident (I was on swim team… when I was seven! Here I come!!).  I made it halfway down a length of the pool before I came up sputtering and utterly defeated.

The Legal Profession.
Coincidentally, now that I am at a firm (which I call the New Job) doing something that doesn’t make me want to pummel myself  to death with Black’s Law Dictionary, I am glad I didn’t give up my day job… quite yet.

Weighing myself.
Oh? This one again??  Yep. When I got control of my scale/self-esteem obsession, I began weighing myself again.

Reconciling It All: Discomfort vs. Misery

Just as the quote says… the hardest part is to know which bridges to cross and which to burn. And I am here to tell you —- you may never know for certain. But I have learned a few things over the past few years. 


Burning a bridge because of discomfort is total garbage.  Does something feel scary? Uncomfortable? Tiring?  If yes, then you should cross that bridge and continue to cross it …until you are comfortable.

Swimming, at first, was terrible and uncomfortable and I wanted to burn that bridge to the pool.  But I kept at it, and now, it’s simply not a big deal.  And triathlon has theoretically saved my life, so… not quitting saved my life.

Another example, is the Nice Job before the Evil Job. I was uncomfortable with the workload and the commute at the Nice Job. However, instead of working out options with my more-than-kind boss at the time (who would have worked with me to make me more comfortable), I chose to burn a bridge in pursuit of “better.” 

Only it turns out that the “better” was way (way) worse.  Hence, the Evil Job. 


Freeing yourself from misery is precisely a reason to burn a bridge.

At the Evil Job, I was experiencing soul death. I am actually not being dramatic.  I mean, really, shouldn’t everyone cry 2-3 times a day in the bathroom at work? I mean, isn’t that, like, normal?  Shouldn’t you be berated constantly? Shouldn’t you break out in hives before walking into the office? Or sit in the parking lot for twenty or thirty minutes, just to make yourself get out of the car to go inside?

I think so. Isn’t that normal? Ha.

I put dynamite under that Evil bridge and blew that bridge to pieces. And I am so glad I did.  I should have burned it sooner. But interestingly, the Evil Job was only uncomfortable at first —- so I stuck it out —and by the time the Evil Job had morphed into misery, another bridge to the New Job had been built and I could blast the bridge to the Evil Job without burning myself.

So the distinction that I have drawn:

Burn the bridge when miserable.
Learn to walk the bridge when you are uncomfortable.
If the discomfort turns into misery, then reevaluate your supply of dynamite.

Be Brave

On a post last year, I mentioned an interview with Jillian Michaels in Redbook Magazine. The interviewer asked Jillian how someone knows when they are ready for a change.  I had clipped out the interview and had it in my desk at work for almost 9 months. I listened and I read it often.

Jillian said, “You feel it.  You wake up one morning and you’re miserable. Or you’re numb.  If you feel nothing, obviously you’re shutting down the parts of you that are unhappy. We’ve evolved to have emotions for a reason. They guide us.”

Jillian said that in order to makea  change, that you must trust yourself.

“The vast majority of people are ‘fear-based’ and have a ‘monkey-bar approach to life, like you can’t leave one spot until you’re holding on to the next monkey bar. By going straight to the next thing, you never get time to reflect or to create space for what’s right.’

She went on…

We all have to work for happiness. And you cannot listen to the advice of other people. You’ve got to listen – to the universe, to life, to God… because it’s going to speak to you.”

Ask Yourself

Today, I encourage you to ask : 

Are you happy?
Are you uncomfortable?
Are you miserable?
Are you numb?

Because when we really listen to ourselves, we might actually begin to understand more about ourselves… and in turn, figure out which bridges to take and which bridges to blow to pieces.


  • Danielle

    August 29, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    What a beautifully written and timely post! I literally JUST walked out of my manager’s office from telling him I was going to be leaving to go back to school. I am scared beyond belief about going back to school (VERY uncomfortable!), but I’m unhappy and unchallenged where I am right now. Reading this post reinforced that I am burning the right bridge and should be excited about getting ready to cross my new bridge!

  • MissSwiss

    August 29, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Looking back on my evil jobs/nice jobs/new jobs, I immediately realize that I stayed too long at the evil job, coulda/shoulda have stayed at the nice jobs longer and promise myself that I will be listening to my internal warning system at my new job to figure out when new job may turn either into nice job or evil job. Well written, thanks!

  • Mike

    August 29, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    Great post! I had the same experience learning to swim in my 40’s. I actually attempted to get into triathlons once before a few years earlier and gave up after a couple trips to the pool. My second attempt was a humbling lesson in repeatedly crossing the uncomfortable bridge. It took me six months to have the “breakthrough” and be able to swim more than a couple hundred yards without stopping.

    I really enjoy your inspirational posts. Thanks!

  • Sondra

    August 30, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    This kept looping through my brain last night as I ran. I kept telling myself that it was discomfort that i could push thorough so I was able to run 25% farther than I’ve ever run before. Thanks, SBM!

  • Denise

    September 1, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    I don’t want to turn this into a B*** session but I agree strongly. I had a job where I ran a Doctor’s business for years and was never paid a decent wage. She hired an evil person that came in and simply called people like me an “overachiever”. She’s not active now because she did all that stuff when she was in school. She looked down on me and thought nothing of my accomplishments of building up the business or being an Ironman distance Triathlete. I am sorry but for all the adults in life that played a sport at the age of 16 for an hour could not possibly know how it feels to want to get off the bike you have been on for 6 hours and actually look forward to the run that is about to take you yet another 5 hours. I’m just sayin. If my friends and my Tri Community, Roadies and Runners are over achievers thank you lord. I have never met so many nice, get er’done people in my life. One thing we don’t do is watch life pass us by! I will always support everybody and encourage them to be all they can be and more!


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