There Is A Profound Life Lesson Hidden Behind This Jaw-Dropping Photobomb. Can You Find It?

Here are two things that rarely ever happen:

  1. Me spending more than five minutes per day on Twitter.
  2. Twitter providing profound and meaningful value powerful enough to change someone’s perspective of life as they know it.

But the perfect storm happened recently when I discovered this story while killing a few minutes on Twitter before a client session.

Get This…

Apparently a married couple in China was going through old photos of themselves as teenagers, and they stumbled upon similar photos where each of them was standing in front of the same monument twenty years before.

Cool coincidence, right?

Here’s where it gets interesting. The husband photobombed his wife in the background of her picture without either of them realizing it. They took the exact same picture at the EXACT SAME MOMENT in time.

Your mind still isn’t blow yet?

The husband photobombed his wife’s picture YEARS before they ever met – the same location at the same single second in time in a country with over 1 BILLION people (before digital photography no less).

Screen Shot 2018 03 28 at 10.04.25 AM

I’m not a mathematician or a quantum physicist, but I would guess the sheer probability of this has got to be around 0%. Yet it happened. And not only did it happen, but there’s documented proof.

The WHAT Isn’t As Important As the WHY

This story quickly went viral with many news organizations and websites sharing it, but as far as I can find, everyone has focused on WHAT happened and how amazing this coincidence is. I have yet to find a story about WHY this is important.

Realizing there are certain things that happen in life beyond our ability to comprehend got me thinking about the life lessons one could take from a seemingly impossible occurrence such as this.

I reached out to my readers & listeners to see how this story impacted them:

For me this is a great reminder that life will always guide us where we need to be. So why stress?! I’ve had a few instances where if I missed an opportunity that was meant to be, it appeared for me again later just like it did for them. True grace.

Julie F.

It seems like this story and the photo proves the old saying that there are no insignificant moments.

Robert G.

Amazing indeed… just what I needed cause I’m about to give up on ever finding a job. Lesson to be taken? Don’t ever give up!

Christine S.

No matter your religious or spiritual beliefs, it’s hard to question that these photos affirm something we cannot quite comprehend is most likely guiding us in some way, shape, or form.

And I too agree that there is no such thing as “insignificant moments,” only moments we choose to ignore.

Plus thanks largely in part to Christopher Rush, “never give up” is a mantra I live by every single day.

But I think there’s another lesson in this story that anyone can apply to their own lives that will lead to success, no matter the goal they are pursuing.

What this couple didn’t realize until twenty years later is that at this very moment they were writing ‘Day One’ of their origin story.

The Power of Perspective

While there’s no way to know what was actually going through the minds of these two young adults while taking these pictures, let’s speculate for a second and make up our own story.

Let’s assume the young man in the photo was frustrated and depressed because he’s still single no matter how hard he looks for his soulmate. He’s miserable that he’s making no progress and can’t see the finish line, especially given he was sure he would have found someone by now. Even worse, he doesn’t believe there’s a path he can follow, and he has no feeling of control. Therefore he’s chosen to give up on finding true love – it just doesn’t exist.

The young man is focused on the destination, and because he hasn’t reached it yet, he has labeled himself a failure.

Let’s assume the young woman in the photo was also single and looking for her soulmate, but her perspective is different. She truly believes that her soulmate is out there and the time will come when they meet, so she continues to live her life with joy and purpose and embrace the struggle knowing the day will come when she finds her soulmate. She continues to put herself out there even when the people she meets along the way aren’t the right fit.

The young woman is focused on the process and is willing to embrace the struggle along the way, confident her actions are leading her closer to the finish line.

Same picture, yet two very different perspectives.

So…what the heck does a twenty-year old photobomb in China have to do with you?

There is a good chance you are approaching the most meaningful goals in your life the same way the young man in the photo was.

Three feet from gold

Do you identify more with guy #1 or guy #2?

Having spoken one-on-one with hundreds of people in creative professions similar to mine, the overarching theme is the frustration that there is no single path to follow that will lead to success. Not knowing whether or not your actions are leading you forwards causes stress, anxiety, and ultimately causes many people to simply give up because they are seemingly “getting nowhere.”

While taking nothing away from the difficult accomplishment that is becoming a doctor or lawyer, they have a very clear path to follow with benchmarks along the way. But in creative professions it’s conceivable that you can spend $100,000+ on your education and also spend years doing additional training and working unpaid internships only to end up fetching a director’s coffee and dry cleaning for the next ten years.

I spent the first decade of my film editing career jumping between random indie trailers, featurettes, short documentaries, as well as editing several low budget indie films (that I’d prefer to not have on my IMDB page). If I had to choose a single word to describe the first ten years of my career it would be “scattershot.”

Had I set the goal, “I will be a successful A-list editor working in scripted dramatic television by age 29,” I would’ve woken up on my 29th birthday as a massive failure.

My only choice that morning would have been to turn around with my shoulders shrugged, my tail tucked between my legs, and become an accountant because that would be the “reliable choice.”

Yet less than a year later I landed my dream job editing the television show Burn Notice because I focused on the process and had clarity about the destination I was working towards, I took action consistently, and I embraced the struggle along the way, confident my consistent actions would lead me to the right opportunity…eventually.

Change Your Vocabulary, Change Your Life

You will no doubt call me a liar, but I affirm the following statement to be 100% true: I don’t have any problems in my life.

Not one single solitary problem.

How in the world is this possible?

My life is FAR from perfect and I struggle every single day to balance a demanding job as a television editor, documentary director, blogger & podcaster, father of 2 highly energetic and creative kids, being present for my wife, as well as building multiple online education programs both for my own business as well as LinkedIn Learning.

The reason I don’t have problems in my life is because the word “problem” isn’t a part of my vocabulary. My life is instead full of challenges and obstacles.

When I’m faced with challenges and obstacles in my life, I know there are only two possible outcomes.

  1. I will overcome my challenges and obstacles and succeed.
  2. I will fail, learn from the experience by understanding WHY I failed, and then continue forging ahead.

No matter the challenge or obstacle I’m facing at the time, and no matter how many times I fail, I’m always thinking one thing: “When I succeed, this is going to make a great story.”

Be willing to embrace the many challenges and obstacles in your life as learning opportunities. The more you fail, the faster you’re learning. And the faster you learn, the closer you are to success.

Moreover, it’s okay if your roadmap to success is fuzzy right now – just make sure your picture of the destination is crystal clear.

Most importantly, be okay with the uncertainty of not knowing exactly what the path to success looks like because the next important action you are about to take is just another chapter of your “origin story.”

Who knows, maybe twenty years from now you’ll be working with the next Steven Spielberg (or you’ll even BE the next Steven Spielberg), and you’ll realize that you photobombed Spielberg himself while you were getting coffee for his assistant’s assistant.


Interested in learning how to design your own unique roadmap to success? I’d love to work with you in the first round of my ‘Design Yourself’ program.


Learn more about setting goals and achieving them:

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, and the creator of the Optimize Yourself program. Zack helps ambitious creative professionals and entrepreneurs overcome procrastination, depression, and creative burnout so they can get sh*t done and achieve the most meaningful goals in their lives...without sacrificing their sanity in the process. If you’re interested in learning how to better manage your time, your energy, and develop ninja-like focus, download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”