have you “made it”?


I cringed this morning, when I read a newsletter of events happening around the city. The information showcased a list of talks conducted by people who have “made it”. Some have been overbooked already — people flock to these talks, hoping some inspiration and luck might rub off on them.

I switched on the hater attitude and deleted these newsletters from my email inbox.

Mark Zuckerberg has made it, from college drop out to billionaire!
Women have made it to the top – read “Lean In” to figure out how to do it!
Timothy Ferris arose from obscurity to widely-read author!
Gwyneth Paltrow recovered from depression, and so did Stephen Fry!
This entrepreneur, that athlete, this corporate executive, that chef, this ambassador, that academic…

The world throws stories of success at us to inspire us that we too, can do it — work hard, prepare for when the opportunity comes, and labour through the challenging times. All well-intentioned.

However, when do we talk about those who are “making it” and are work in progress? Who goes to listen to them talk?

It is as if, for some sort of credibility and for people to give up a few minutes to listen to our stories, we must have accomplished a goal approved by the society.

This past summer, I was a co-host at a dinner at a local activity center. It was a collaboration with a chef, who created a menu inspired by my story of depression, and another lady who managed the entire event. 25 people came to the dinner, listening to me talk about going into a rut, being in it, and how to get out of it.

The theme was “Transformation” and how I transformed. But have I?

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Not to discount the struggles and the improvements I have made over the last three years, I would say I am still “work in progress” and “making it.” – whatever “it” is.

Transformation takes time.

Success is not a linear equation.

Accomplishing requires meandering, a lot of random squiggles on the map, and jumping from one place to another.

When we attend these talks, we hear others’ stories, and in our heads we imagine a straight line from disaster to rejuvenation. In reality, those who have “made it” are also struggling one way or another; we just do not see it. I was mindful of pointing out to my audience not to regard me as having made it when recounting my depressive episode during the dinner-talk.

Today I could stand before you and be engaging; tomorrow I might be a fragile lump with headaches and exhaustion.

Take encouragement from “made it” stories, but do not exaggerate the significance. You are already making it.

Be kind to yourself. The world can wait.

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20 Responses

  1. Lily Lai says:

    Big pat on the back for co-hosting the dinner!

  2. Dave says:

    very good!

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Dave

      Glad you liked it 🙂

      • Dave says:

        After reading some of these comments I can see how right they are! Somehow we tend to think we should be better than we are. I totally agree with being kind ourselves, that it’s okay to let the world wait, and to relax and do the best that you can!

        • nochnoch says:

          Hi Dave

          yeh, why is that we think we need to be better than we are? I agree we should improve ourselves, but this pressure and self-inflicted pressure of having to be over and above the best of ourselves, ugh… I’m trying to tame that perfectionist in me.
          This week I had body aches all over me, no reason why, they were just there. My husband said, it’s okay, just lie around on the sofa. There are no deadlines more important than what your body is telling you – plus, you don’t have any deadlines haha 🙂


  3. Angela says:

    Hi Noch Noch,

    I want to thank you for the blog. I actually saw your blog back in May when my depression just started. At the time I thought how absurd it is to describe the symptoms as so excruciating. But as I denied my condition and refused help, my health deteriorated until I needed urgent medication and near hospitalization. I am slowly recovering at the moment and feeling much better. But I can totally understand all of the physical pain in addition to the mental pain and feeling of helplessness. Throughout the experience I thought of your struggles and it helped me bear with my symptoms. I believe we benefit from the experience with a newly acquired perspective of what truly matters.

    Be healthy,

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Angela

      THanks for sharing and reading my blog. You are so right – it’s a newly acquired perspective of what truly matters. Sorry to hear of the pain you went through, but like you said, for the better. Let’s help each other along 🙂


  4. Nigel Chua says:

    Hey Nochie

    Again, you’re right. Society likes the “sexy” stuff – success, money, prestige, good looks etc…and it takes time and conscious effort to pull away from this standard idea, as it’s deeply entrenched in our society – it’s in our media, our culture, our everything.

    Yet, slowly but surely, a few emerges that challenges the norm, and is contented to be at peace to grow at one’s own pace, to stop and smell the flowers, to smile, to love.

    Life is an adventure, there’s no linear movement – anything can happen, at any time. Let’s just do the best we can, rest and smile when we can, and live =)

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Nigel

      Thanks for saying that, “let’s just do the best we can”…. October has been very difficult for me health wise, mood wise, energy wise. (That’s also why I hadn’t replied to your email, thought I would write a proper email instead of “hi! How are you…” but still haven’t picked up energy to do so 🙁 )
      Many things I feel stuck in my life, and so out of control. Waiting for the other party to respond. And I don’t know what to do. but I think I have done the best I can. And maybe I need to rest, and maybe this “rest” will take longer than i want or thought it would take.
      Enough of my ranting

      how are you doing? how is the business?


      • Nigel Chua says:

        Hey Nochie!

        So nice and glad to hear from you! Aiya, no need for a full email la, no need so proper – a simple one liner or two also will be nice. =)

        Hey girl, there are many things that we all get stuck with, you and I included…and it may be best to do the best we can with what we can influence. I’ve been having lots of challenges and feeling stuck for years with my businesses and relationships too =(

        I’m trying to learn this thing: just wait a tad longer.

        I realize that the more I worry or exert negative force or thoughts, the more negative and spiral it becomes. An example is handling my staff or someone I care about, and they want to do things a certain way that is not the most effective or efficient, but they are not open to my feedback or intervention…I realize that given some time and they personally experience the problem I told them in advance, then they will slowly learn…

        Just wait a tad longer.

        It’s okay one, Nochie. Take your time. There’s no real rush.

        We talk more on email ya =D


        • nochnoch says:

          Hahah, that sounds like me and Timmie. I try to tell him in advance, but realize he has to experience it to see what I mean. And my challenge is to refrain from saying “I Told you so!” hahahah

          yeh. patience is what I am learning… sigh


          • Nigel Chua says:

            Yes! Must restrain…because eventhough we experience together, yet personal development is, in the end, a “personal” one =)

            The only way to learn patience is to go through situations where we need to make decisions that strengthen our patience….

  5. Kate says:

    I was just tidying up my Bloglovin feed after not logging in for ages and read your article. All I can say is thanks so much for writing this! I’m a depression sufferer at the same time as being really ambitious and I think about this stuff all the time. My depression has got in the way of me ‘making it’ so many times, I closed down my blog because my depression got too much in fact. I’m trying to work through it now and train as a designer, and I’d like to start blogging again soon too. I also partly stopped blogging because I felt overwhelmed by all the amazing blogs out there and feeling like everyone was all happy go lucky design geniuses and I was just floundering and going nowhere fast as my negative self talk overwhelmed me. Reading honest articles like this REALLY help! Well done on pointing out a really important point, one that’s often forgotten about how life isn’t just a simple case of either being successful or unsuccessful, its a constant process of ups and downs, and its all relative anyway.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Kate

      Good we found each other. I sometimes also need to remind myself that it’s a constant process of ups and downs, and indeed, it’s all relative. I always feel I haven’t done enough, and then my husband reminds me, “Nochie, you are still struggling with your health, and you already have a blog and helping yourself, so give yourself a break!”
      I forget it sometimes, being the ambitious over achiever. But maybe now, for you and for me, we both realize this and hope we can remind each other and help each other take a break.
      I also felt the same about other blogs too beforehand. THese days I feel I’ve also reached a plateau for blogging and don’t know what to do about it

      Sorry, a little bit melancholy today, wish I could send more positive vibes. But then again, life is not all rainbows. It’s all relative. 🙂


  6. […] around the world, and I get readers’ emails supporting my writing, encouraging me in my quest for self-awareness. Most of them find solace and refuge in my experience as they are lonely in their struggles with […]

  7. Vivien says:

    Hey noch noch

    I was reading your other inspiring article this morning on fb when I stumbled upon this older piece. Thanks for sharing your personal journey with such an authentic voice. I am so glad to hear you’ve improved so much. It’s been a real struggle for me lately yet I don’t know how to let things go. I get so irritated and frustrated whenever peope ask “how are you?”. I hate myself for feeling sorry for myself because so many people are living much harder lives than I am… How can we make sure the process of self acceptance won’t be identified as self indulgence

    • nochnoch says:

      Hey Vivien

      Good to hear from you but sorry that you are having a hard time. I don’t really know, but what I do is to ignore the people who tell me I need to feel this way or that, or be grateful. My shrink used to tell me, if it’s a problem to me, then it’s a problem to me. HOw to make sure it’s not self-indulgence, well, that’s just honesty to oneself. And I think the more we work on our self awareness, trying to udnerstand from where our emotions stem, then we can tell better whether we are indulging, or we have a point…


about Noch Noch

Enoch Li, (pen name: Noch Noch) was born and raised in Hong Kong and Australia. She has also studied / worked / lived in the US, France, UK, Japan, The Netherlands, China, and has travelled to more than 40 countries. She loves travelling and her curiosity in foreign cultures and languages has led her to enjoy her life as an international executive in the banking & finance industry. However, she was forced to take time off work in 2010 due to her illnesses and after spending time in recovery, cooking, practising Chinese calligraphy, reading and writing – in short, learning to take care of herself and letting out the residual work stress, she has transitioned into a Social Entrepreneur and founded BEARAPY to help corporates make workplaces mentally healthy, and support executives to become more resilient.