The Great Grammar Lesson that will Change Your Life

Today we begin with a quick recount of two recent incidents. See if you can find a theme.

Incident #1:

A beloved client – one I’d been working with forever – had to end our partnership. The organization was changing its focus and moving to a new city. Gone was a continuous stream of support, relationship and income. I knew I’d never find another partnership so perfect. I was devastated. Crushed.

Things would never be the same. Period.

Incident #2:

A recent blog post hit an all-time high. It seemed to catch a bit of virtual fire, resulting in hundreds more reads than any blog that came before it. I knew this was a turning point. I was ecstatic. Blissful.

Things would never be the same. Period.

In the end, I was wrong about both. Within a few months of Incident #1 I found not one, but several new clients that resulted in ongoing projects and energized, supportive relationships.  Within a month of Incident #2 my blog numbers evened out, going up and down in an ever-changing pattern.

That’s when I realized that life is not about periods at all. Life is about commas.

Here’s the deal.

We all have incidents in our lives – good and bad – that feel monumental. We fall in love, get the perfect job, get divorced, lose loved ones, get promoted, have kids, move to a new home, get fired…the list goes on and on. It’s easy enough to find lots of examples.


soap opera digest


Each of these incidents feels huge to us, like a turning point that feels so final that things will forever exist in this new context. That this new thing is it. Period.


It’s not a period. It’s a comma. Because things are always changing. The good stuff will go a bit bad and the bad stuff will get better.

Life is just one big, run-on sentence filled with a bunch of commas…that is, until the real period. When we die. (and yes, many believe that even death is one more comma in a sentence that continues, but that’s for another blog)

Remember those teachers who drove us crazy?

Teacher Montage

Turns out some of them were right. Like the ones who told us about commas.

Commas are simply a time to pause, reflect, catch our breath, get some clarity, then move on. They aren’t the end.

Even our goals are commas. We meet them, then create another goal. We have no choice. We fail at them, then get up and do something else. We have no choice.

Now, let me be clear.

What I’m not saying is that we shouldn’t celebrate our successes, learn from our failures, or set goals. They are all important.


Great leaders know that no one turning point is the end of the game.  No success or failure is the new everything, the new forever. The new period. And it’s liberating for them.

Why must we remember this?

  • Because when we lose something, get disappointed or feel depressed we are certain we’ve blown it forever. But we haven’t. Because the sentence goes on after the comma.
  • Because when something great happens we fantasize that things will only be good from here on in, then we are shocked and dismayed when things take a turn. Because the sentence goes on after the comma.
  • Because we put so much pressure on ourselves all the time, thinking we’re up for the one perfect job…thinking we’ve found our only opportunity to do something big…thinking we will never bounce back from a terrible loss…thinking we will never hurt again because we’ve found true love. We must stop. Because the sentence goes on after the comma.

As a goal-driven gal, I’ve always struggled with the notion that life is a journey and not a destination.

I’ve always strived to be the best, to get the gold, to know that nothing could keep me down!

lance back

But it never works out that way.

lance done

And so it turns out that the pesky cliché is true.

Life is indeed a journey, and the journey is just a run-on sentence. The commas are all the twists, turns and stops we make along the way.

By the time we get to the actual destination – the end of our lives – we’ve already seen everything we need to see, done everything we need to do, and realized that life is for the living.

And living means remembering the commas, remembering there’s always more on the other side, that life will go on, will change after this.

Which is what I’ll try to remember from here on in, no matter how many people happen to read this blog post.

This week:

No matter how good or how bad things seem, remember the comma. Then do everything you can to make the next part of your run-on sentence as awesome as it can be. And know if it doesn’t work out great, there’s always another comma coming.


Now go do good…and do it well.


26 responses to “The Great Grammar Lesson that will Change Your Life”

  1. Susan Paul Avatar
    Susan Paul

    This blog post brings to mind the need to regularly observe strategic pauses. I consider myself a high-achiever; strategic thinker and first responder/volunteer and I enjoy consulting in different settings. Recently I was pulled aside by an informal mentor who encouraged me to assess how my current position lines up with my long term goals. At first I felt guilty because I had become comfortable. After talking and reflecting I felt enlightened and energized to take a closer look at my responsibilities and my professional network. I recognized the comma and my need to make meaningful changes in my attitude and schedule. I initiated my own professional growth opportunities and have started to with women in positions of power and leadership that I aspire to hold in future. It’s been an engaging and insightful experience thus far. Taking a strategic pause and simply actively listening to my informal mentor spurred me to take action and I am back on track and dividing my goals into more realistic and manageable parts. I still want exceed expectations because that’s how I was taught, but I know it’s okay to ask for help, reassess a situation and let someone else respond first. Live well and continued success on your journey!

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      What a great story, Susan – and another way of using the comma! I love the idea of the “strategic pause”. I often rush ahead with decisions, tasks and ideas…when I take the time to just pause for a second I always find it benefits the entire process. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Caroline Salazar Avatar

    The pause, the breath, the comma–all of this is necessary to help us stop, reflect and regroup. Thanks for the reminder to use the comma to help me stop in the middle of my path to see what is around me and am I on track.

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      Completely agree, Caroline – most of us just don’t stop for a second to reflect and regroup. This world is in such a hurry and sometimes we feel like we need to do the same, or else we’ll miss something. Yet it’s when we rush ahead that we miss the things that matter! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment…

  3. Suzanne Oehler Avatar

    Thanks, Deirdre! I needed cause for a pause today.

  4. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
    Deirdre Maloney

    My pleasure – glad it struck a chord for you!

  5. Craig Blower Avatar
    Craig Blower

    Oh how appropriate for me right now. Thank you for the very timely message.

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      Of course – funny how things come at the right time, yes? Thanks for giving it a read, Craig!

  6. Patty Costa Avatar
    Patty Costa

    Thank you Deirdre. I always need the reminder especially when I’m disappointed with someone or something. This is just another step on my journey and that I can learn something from it mostly about myself. One thing that is a given in life—CHANGE!

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      Thanks so much – and I actually think CHANGE is pretty much the only constant! 🙂

  7. Hanna Cooper Avatar

    Deirdre, love it, as always. Indeed, the interesting stuff, the good stuff, often happens after the comma anyway. The end, or perhaps not… (the elipse is a favorite of mine!)

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      Funny you say that – I actually considered making the metaphor about the elipse since it’s one of my favorites as well…but thought it might make things more complicated than needed!

  8. Katie Croskrey Avatar
    Katie Croskrey

    Deirdre, So perceptive! I live for the comma when something less than desirable is happening….dread the comma when something good is happening!

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      Thanks, Katie – and I promise, you’re not alone!

    2. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      Thanks, Katie – and I promise, you’re not alone in the love/hate comma relationship!

    3. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      Appreciate the comment, Katie – and trust me, you’re not alone in the love/hate comma relationship!

  9. Jeni Craswell Avatar

    One of my favorite quotes: “Never place a period where God has placed a comma!” Gracie Allen

    Thanks for the reminder!

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      That’s a beautiful quote, Jeni – thanks for sharing such a great line from Gracie herself!

  10. Bri Avatar

    Great post Dee! Thanks for the grounding words!

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      Thanks for giving it a read, Bri…I know you appreciate it, especially because you know how much of a destination girl I truly am! Glad it was worth a read!

  11. Denise Avatar

    I’ll never look at a run-on sentence the same way again! Great metaphor for life, Deirdre. Thank you!

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      To be honest, Denise, I won’t either…and I wrote the thing! 🙂 Thanks for giving the blog a read!

  12. Heidi Hancock Avatar

    I’m all about the run-on sentence! Now to work on the pacing of that sentence and the placement of a breath or two… 😉

  13. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
    Deirdre Maloney

    Indeed…a breath or two is the perfect way to embrace the comma! Thanks Heidi!

  14. Mary Alexander Avatar
    Mary Alexander

    I’m a first-time reader of your blog, joining you fresh back from the Non-Profit Marketing Conference. I enjoyed your “grammar lesson” which brought new meaning to a previous writing teacher’s comments who admonished us to not “comma our sentences to death.” Now I know that is indeed a good idea. Hail to thee, oh run-on sentence! Push that period as far out as possible .

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      Hail indeed, Mary! Sounds like the reminder to not “comma to death” can be used in all kinds of contexts, yes? Welcome to the blog, and thanks so much for your comment!