Action is the key. I have a friend that climbs mountains. He’s always on some adventure, but last year he was given the chance—as a Christmas gift from his wife—to climb Mount Rainier in Washington. It was his first major peak and one that would cost a lot of time and money to climb.
He trained like a fiend, for months. He carried a heavy pack up and down the only thing that passes as mountain in New Jersey, often logging six or seven laps of our state’s highest peaks. He ate super clean. He ran and lifted weights, he read everything he could about the mountain.
One day last Spring, he and his wife set off for their trip. The hiked to the base of the mountain and took a mountaineering class before making a push to base camp. On summit day, the weather blew them off the mountain. There was no way to safely ascend the peak, so they were forced to turn around. He boarded a plan the next morning, defeated.
When they landed in New Jersey, there was a voicemail message waiting for him. There was another expedition, leaving in two days. The weather looked promising. They wanted to know if he could get back to Washington in time for a second chance. He looked at his wife, who knew that she couldn’t get out of work, and without question, she told him to go. He drove back to the airport, boarded another plane and headed back to Washington.
Exhausted, he made his way to base camp and the very next morning, he got a second chance at a summit bid. This time, the weather cooperated and a few minutes after sunrise, he opened his pack and pulled out his signature summit food, a pop-tart. There is a picture of him smiling ear to ear, on top of the mountain, with drums in his beard and the reflection of an endless sky in his sunglasses on top of Mount Reiner.
This time, he returned triumphant. He had conquered the mountain that he set out to conquer, but the chance almost passed him. It would have been so easy to give up, to say, “Maybe Next Year.” He could have given in to his exhaustion. He could have missed his opportunity in any number of ways. But he didn’t. He never gave up.
Small Defeats Made Big
In life, there are so many setbacks. Sickness, death, and empty bank accounts can all claim our dreams if we let them. There are so many opportunities for us to turn back and say, “Maybe next year.” But the most successful people never give up and you can’t beat someone that never gives up.
We hear a lot about perseverance in the self-help world. But to really see it in action is inspiring. The best things in life happen to those that keep pushing. People who refuse to give up on their dreams, no matter what setback occur, are the rarest people in the world. We read books about them and watch movies about them. They are real people who we make heroes. When we hear their stories, we awe at their fortitude and perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, but the reality is that they did nothing more than we could have done. But…they did it and we did not. Why is that?
Human beings are adept at walking away from small defeats and making them much bigger than they really are. It’s evolutionary. Our minds are doing what they have evolved to do, protect our bodies from danger. Small defeats are signals to our mind that the chance was not worth taking; that we shouldn’t have tried in the first place. We being to hear our inner voices telling us that what we attempted was foolish and that we are lucky to have lost. We listen too closely to these voices. Greatness lies beyond fear.
What We really Fear
”Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us most.” -Marianne Williamson
Our minds know what we are capable of. They also know the trouble that we can get ourselves into when we go all out. Human beings are, “…powerful beyond measure.” But that power often comes at a cost that out minds aren’t willing to pay for without a fight. To harness that power puts us at risk, and our minds are evolutionarily predispositioned (is that a word?) to avoid risk.
The Wisdom Of Risk
”There is no intensity of love or feeling that does not involve the risk of crippling hurt. It is a duty to take this risk, to love and feel without defense or reserve.” -William S. Burroughs
Risk is a prerequisite for success. How have we let ourselves be convinced otherwise? Please note that we are talking about risks that will hurt us financially or emotionally, not physically, although those certainly have a place in certain types of success. Those who risk the most win.
”Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.” -Helen Keller
If you don’t want a life of daring adventure, stop reading here. If you do—and I would expect nothing less of you—let’s get into this. Just a disclaimer: the next part gets a little NSFW.
”Above all, try something.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt
The trick to risk is trying something, anything, to get you where you want to go. Stop living with analysis paralysis. Stop trying to figure out how and just fucking do something already!
Action Expresses Priorities
”Action expresses priorities.” -Gandhi
Action is the key to a life of success. If you don’t know how to do something. Good. Go figure it out. Read a book, sure, but read it on a plane to the Congo, if that’s what you really want to do. If you want to start a business, ask for a sale and then figure out how to deliver. If you want to write a book, start typing, stop asking how and get off your fucking ass already!
Thinking about it, reading about it, talking about it mean absolutely NOTHING! You have to take action. “Action expresses priorities.” The universe has plenty of people to read about greatness, she needs some people who are willing to go be great. Trust me, she’ll give you a hand, but it might not alway look like you hope it will.
The Trouble with Trouble
”Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life, and when it comes, hold your head high, look it squarely in the eye and say, ‘I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me.’” -Ann Landers
The trouble with trouble is that we look at it like a stop sign. The universe puts trouble in our path to build our greatness. Only the great can, “…look it squarely in the eye and say, ‘I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me.’”
When trouble comes, and it will, your mind will tell you to stop. You have to build your heart big enough to keep going anyway. We think with our mind, we live with our heart, but it is so easy to confuse the two sometimes.
The Problem of Pain
”Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.” – Lance Armstrong
Trouble often brings pain, in the form of emotional distress. But, “Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.” Let’s play a thinking game:
Would you be willing to receive a non-lethal electric shock to pay off your car or credit card bill? Maybe. Would you be willing to receive the same shock if you knew that afterward you would receive something so amazing that you would forget that shock? Or, perhaps even remember it fondly? For instance, would you be willing to take it if you knew that you would never have to work in a job you aren’t passionate about again? I would. How about you?
The thing about pain is, that it only really occurs in the past. How we remember pain is the painful part. Childbirth is a great example. My wife, at the birth of our first child, screamed and told me, “I can’t do this.” A month later, she had completely forgotten the pain and was looking forward to another child. Why didn’t she remember the pain of those moments? Perhaps she did, but that pain paired in comparison to the joy of motherhood.
We have a choice regarding pain. We can look back on it with horror or smile and laugh at it, because it got us where we wanted to be.
The thing about pain is, that it is both temporary and fleeting. It fades away when it is over, unless we allow it to continue hurting us.
Action Beyond Trouble and Pain
When we take action and overcome trouble and look at pain differently, we can change the world. We can Put a Ding in the Universe. So what needs to be done? What dream of yours is big enough to risk trouble and pain in order to accomplish it? There must be something burning in your heart right now. You can sniff it out, by listening to all the voices in your head telling you not to do it. Ignore them. You are greater than that. You can have the whole universe behind you if you are trying to accomplish something that will make this world a better place and if you are willing to take risks, overcome trouble, and power through a little pain.
On the other side of it all, lies greatness.