You Can’t Skip ACT 2

Accountability Authenticity Resilience


Key Point: Every great story, as noted by the geniuses at Pixar, has an ACT 2. This is when the protagonist is confronted with the biggest challenges,  “darkness” and usually the “lowest of lows.” The lead character usually realizes, “Holy crap, finding my way to a ‘happy ending’ is going to be tough.”

I remember working for a Fortune 50 company where I was one of seven people reporting directly to the Chairman/CEO. For a number of reasons, including timing and luck, I had a mercurial rise from director at a subsidiary to VP on the company’s top team. Then, after one celebrated success after another, I ran into a major “S#!% Storm.” I felt alone, unsure, a loss of confidence and I could feel myself losing support. The “Golden Boy” wasn’t as shiny. While I was always sure footed and believed I could navigate anything thrown my way, I found myself becoming afraid. Rather than running at my fear, I looked for a “way out” and took it.

Upon much reflection, I realized I tried to “skip Act 2.” I have given that situation a lot of thought over the years and here is the big “a-ha” that may not be so big for you but it has been to me… You can try, but one way or another you can’t really skip Act 2! Furthermore, you can’t just go to Act 3 without playing out Act 2. That middle “darkness” is always waiting for you. It’s only a matter of time and it’s never just once. Geez! If this is a truism in life, what does that mean to each of us?

The great news is that all the pain, hurt, frustration, disappointment, sense of failure (yup, it’s a full emotional buffet), is where the ultimate “magic” comes from too. This is where we need to park ourselves and really learn. There are many lessons in the darkness and when we take the time to shine a light, important lessons emerge that help us navigate Act 3 and better equip us for the next second act. Isn’t that a great thing?

Character Moves:

  1. Do not think you can skip Act 2 in life. And there is no sugar coating the experience. It usually just sucks. Like the researcher Brene Brown notes, there is no real authenticity in just bragging about “golden grit;” where you pump your chest and only describe the happy ending. Most times, Act 2 involves a fall and it feels like landing in a bucket of dung.
  1. Rising up, dusting ourselves off, being resilient and moving forward is everything. However, it also involves investing in self-awareness that requires the courage to undertake an honest self-assessment and confront the stories we make up in our heads. It’s this process that brings wisdom and the changes that allow us to live richer lives, personally leading others and ourselves in much fuller ways.

Loving Act 2 in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Upon speaking and reconnecting with friends over the holidays, I realized that many people feel like their “movie” isn’t necessarily as short as they may have expected. I don’t know if I’ve reached an Act 2 yet, but sometimes I think it’s common to feel like you’ve just paused the story, and maybe it’s more difficult to “press play” because you know an Act 2 is likely the next scene. Act 1 can’t last forever, either.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis