Home » Blogs » Mentoring and Recovery » Living Life in Three Acts

Living Life in Three Acts

Rising-StrongRecently I began reading Brene Brown’s new book, Rising Strong.

I haven’t gotten very far, though.

This is because it only took a few pages before I realized (yet again) how much she knows that I do not.

For instance, did you know there are three acts in every story?

This includes Hollywood movies, literary classics, our daily life and all the rest.

Here is a basic summary of each act:

  • Act 1 – The main character of the story is offered a chance to go on an adventure, solve a problem, learn a lesson, et al. They waffle for a bit, then accept.
  • Act 2 – The main character looks for all the easy ways to get from A to Z, discovers none of those ways are available and hits rock bottom.
  • Act 3 – The main character finally tackles the hard way and (depending on the plot line) succeeds or doesn’t.

So here is the thing.

I’ve always been aware of Act 1 – new beginnings and all that.

And Act 3 is hard to miss, seeing as how it is often full of fanfare and finality.

But Act 2….honestly, I guess I’ve always just categorized it as the “sh** happens” phase. 

Now, as I’m reading Rising Strong, I’m realizing that without Act 2, none of the rest of it carries any real weight of accomplishment at all.

This is because Act 2 is when I learn, grow, change, choose, transform, strive, reach, see what I’m made of (whether I want to or not) and (if I’m really lucky) perhaps even stretch up into my best self.

Book #2 - a labor of love that I owe entirely to what I learned in Act 2.
Book #2 – a labor of love that I owe entirely to what I learned in Act 2.

Let’s take writing and publishing my second book, for instance.

If someone asked me to summarize it in three Acts, prior to reading Rising Strong I would have probably described it like this:

  • Act 1 – I wrote the book. FUN! 🙂
  • Act 2 – What a lot of grunt work. Frustrating too.
  • Act 3 – I published the book and started selling copies. FUN! 🙂

Yet Act 2 was the 12 months of time when I was editing and refining the manuscript, designing the art, weighing the publication options and essentially charting the book’s course….and its author’s.

Act 2 was when I created the marketing strategy that I am now beginning to roll out. Act 2 was when I gathered the confidence to push through to make sure Act 3 occurred. Act 2 was when I learned enough about book publishing options to feel confident publishing any book I ever want to write going forward.

In other words, Act 2 was SO critical. Act 2 was when I made myself proud.

Yet without sitting down to really think through what I mean when I say “grunt work” – without analyzing what the sh** was that actually happened, I appreciate none of my own hard work, none of the learning and wisdom I gained from it, none of the clarity and confidence I now possess, none of the vision and empowerment I awoke within me.

Without taking a good, hard look at Act 2, I don’t feel proud of myself…and I also expect that any future challenge will look at least as easy as a three Act play where the tough Act gets downplayed and glossed over. This means I will also continue to shame myself, rail at fate, doubt my future and feel sure there is something wrong if I begin another journey and Act 2 of that journey gets difficult.

Instead, by acknowledging my own role in making it through Act 2, I am acknowledging my perseverance, my discipline, my fortitude, my courage, my creativity, my strength.

I am also honoring my willingness to endure difficult periods on my journey in order to learn, grow, evolve and achieve.

Most of all, I am reminding myself that anything truly worth having is really worth giving my all for – in other words, that looking back on a long string of Act 2’s, willingly embarked upon, is potentially a mark of greatness and a life well spent.

Today’s Takeaway: Think about a recent process or journey you have gone through. Can you summarize it in three Acts? How would you briefly describe each Act if someone asked you about it? Do you see where perhaps you are discounting or disregarding Act 2 in service to downplaying your own tremendous accomplishment?





Living Life in Three Acts

Shannon Cutts

Parrot, tortoise & box turtle mama. Writer. Author. Mentor. Champion of all people (and things) recovered and recovering.

No comments yet... View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2015). Living Life in Three Acts. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 9, 2020, from


Last updated: 1 Nov 2015
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.