Have you ever felt like a quitter? Do you ever feel stuck in your current situation and not quite know how to get out of it? Do you sometimes feel, deep down, like you’re destined for more?
“Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” Marianne Williamson
Those words have always resonated with the softly strumming chords of my soul. It is so much easier for me to be not quite good enough and to remain wrapped in the snug cloak of angst. My life was littered with the wreckage of self-imposed roadblocks. But I didn’t want to be that man anymore, and I could see my light shining up ahead, just waiting for me to step into it. I realized that I had just arrived at the moment this trip was designed to create.
Last year I ran the John Muir Trail, 223 miles from Yosemite Valley to the top of 14,505’ Mt. Whitney, through some of the most treacherous and beautiful terrain in the world. The journey was so epic, and I traveled so far (literally and figuratively) that I decided to write a book about it – which not surprisingly, also happened to be a fantastic learning experience. Something about the audacious nature of both goals seems to speak to some primordial part of people that urges them to dream bigger and stretch farther, and because of this I field questions all day long. What motivated me to run that far? How did I deal with being alone for that long? Didn’t it hurt? And perhaps my favorite question (because it really makes me step back and evaluate all the other questions) – What was my favorite part?
I had many favorites. Making a life-long friend on the trail, standing on top of Glen Pass watching the sunrise twinkle on Rae Lakes below, blowing past a group of CrossFitters who weren’t trained like me, hugging my Dad at the end and seeing the pride and respect in his eyes. But if I’m truly honest, my super-special favorites were the challenges that forced me to step out of my comfort zone and grow.
The very first night a bear climbed 15 feet up a tree, sliced the bottom of my hanging food bag, and ate all my food. I heard the bear in my camp and tried to scare him off, but to no avail. Frustrated and dejected, I had to hike out, return home, and find a way back to the trail. But that hardened my resolve and allowed me to overcome a fear that had taken root on a backpacking trip years ago (when I laid cold and afraid, listening to a bear eat all our food).
Later in the trip I misjudged a step and thought I had broken my leg. This threw me into a severe negativity spiral that I couldn’t shake all day. I slowed down, pouted, and obsessed about all the reasons I could never complete the journey. But some steely part of me that had been forged since the last time I attempted the trail was able to stay mindful and recognize my pity party for what it was, and I eventually shifted to a more positive frame of mind and continued marching toward Mt. Whitney. (Interestingly, once my positive thinking began to flow the pain in my leg disappeared. The body-mind connection is an amazing thing!)
The experiences I had on the John Muir Trail were incredible, and I am truly grateful for the depth and richness they added to my life. I’m a better man, a better speaker, a better husband because of what I had to find within myself to finally take those last steps up Whitney. But I tell you now in all honesty, the most incredible part of this entire adventure has come in the weeks since my book launched.
I was humbled and somewhat awestruck when In the Footsteps of Greatness became an Amazon bestseller after only four days. It’s scary and unnerving to present oneself nakedly to the world, and the positive response has been wonderfully overwhelming. My purpose here on this planet is to serve and to help people step into the strongest, truest versions of themselves; so the barrage of feedback that I’m getting from readers who have been touched by the book and its lessons is immensely rewarding. Multiple people have told me they are now inspired to exercise more, to connect with nature, and to do something extraordinary with their own lives. One woman even told me it has helped her marriage! (Which gave me insta-goosebumps) That my friends is what life is all about.
We all have demons. We all struggle with fear and self-doubt. But – and this is some high level, secret sauce stuff that I have only recently begun to understand – we all have access to the magic of the human spirit if we simply have the courage to open ourselves to it and hold on for the ride.
Life is better when lived.
If you are interested in my new book, In the Footsteps of Greatness, it is available at Amazon in both (Hardcopy and Kindle)