broken open: how difficult times can help us grow.

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The philosopher William James wrote that there are two kinds of people in this world – the Once-Born and the Twice-Born… 

Once-Born people do not stray from the familiar territory of who they think they are and what they think is expected of them.  If fate pushes them to the edge of Dante’s famous dark woods – where the straight way is lost – they turn back.  They don’t want to learn something new from life’s darker lessons.  They stay with what seems safe, and what is acceptable to their family and society.  They stick to what they already know but don’t necessarily want.  Once-Born people may go through life and never even know what lies beyond the woods – or that there are woods at all.



A Twice-Born person pays attention when the soul pokes its head through the clouds of a half-lived life.  Whether through choice or calamity, the Twice-Born person goes into the woods, loses the straight way, makes mistakes, suffers loss, and confronts that which needs to change within himself in order to live a more genuine and radiant life.


Elizabeth does caution people to be careful with these two terms.  Saying that you are either one or the other can be misleading and make a person feel like a failure if you see yourself as a stuck-in-the-mud Once Born or inflate the ego if you see yourself as an adventurous Second-Born.

But what really matters is that the journey into the woods of change and transformation is an inner one.

I just started Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser.  It was recommended by a new friend I met a few months ago.

We met at an Influencers event (which is funny because I do not see myself as an influencer.  But I do like meeting new people and learning from them.) Azra and I ended up talking at the end of the event and I loved hearing more about her story.  We have kept in touch ever since over Instagram DM and it was her who recommended this book to me.  She’s my book nerd sister from another mother (what I call her.)

Note: The quotes in this post (italicized sections) are directly from Elizabeth’s book because her words do the terms justice.

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