Fear and Aspiration
I recently celebrated my birthday, and during it I received a very special email from a friend Milosz Pierwola:
Our world is populated with nearly 8 billion people, most of whom know simply how to finish their today so that they can repeat it again tomorrow. It is an existence subject to the whims of the flock, short sighted and easily panicked.
However, there are those who raise their heads to see further than the grass in front of their faces and curiously examine the horizon. Among those then are the few who step out of their place in line, out of order in the group, and make their way to the imaginary boundary that tethers us all together. It is against the fear hard wired into us by evolution that we make this journey, seemingly against everything that brought us so far.
But, the only reason we are alive as we are today is because of those champions who stepped out of line and explored what lies beyond. We stand on the shoulders of men and women that did not have access to the resources we have today, yet accomplished so much more. So, there is no excuse we can give now but the excuse of lack of want, to reach the most ambitious goals we set for ourselves.
You are undoubtedly one of those few who reach beyond what you were given, and I am honored to have crossed paths on our incredible journeys.
Happy birthday, may your thirst for more never be quenched.
It’s crazy where we get our inspiration sometimes. And oftentimes, it is reciprocal—the same words could’ve come out of my mouth, if I were as well-spoken, to describe the person who wrote them of me.
The internet connects us to so many others, people from different disciplines and circumstances in life that use it to publish their stories. People like Jermaine Middleton, who is on a quest to be the first US-born African American to summit Mount Everest and use the endeavor to benefit his local community. Or Dana Richardson, a woman who paddled around Lake Lanier over the course of a paddling season in an effort to raise money for research to cure a disease she had beaten four times already despite it taking the life of her friend during the paddle. Or Milosz Pierwola—the author of the aforementioned letter—who is presently on a mission to establish the first public mountaineering and climbing program in Iraq, working with other likeminded people to face uncountable challenges in the process.
When there are so many awesome people out there doing incredible things, it’s really easy to see myself as immeasurably small.
It can be intimidating. It can be downright scary, in fact. When there are so many awesome people out there doing incredible things, it’s really easy to see myself as immeasurably small. Easier still to look at my goals as downright trivial. It’s like flying in an airplane for the first time, and the incredibly humbling feeling washing over me that everything important in my life is beneath—an insignificant speck. But I have to remind myself that first impression from the airplane is ignoring the most important thing: I AM FLYING. I am not on the ground. In that moment, I am not insignificant nor should my life feel like a speck. After all, it is the life I chose that led me to that inspiring point to begin with. Aspiration, much like that flight, can be double-edged; it has the potential for feelings of dejection and nihilism or for divine guidance.
The struggle is real. Even for those of us who aspire to do incredible things, there are constant fights within. We fight with a comparison trap—seeing those that are further along in their progress than us and feeling like we are less-than for not having arrived at our own goals yet. We fight with our former selves—telling ourselves that we will always be the same and aspiring to change for the better will just result in eventual backsliding. We fight with our notion of perfection—feeling we do not deserve to achieve our goals because of the shortcuts we took in the past with planning or training or preparation or motivation. Big goals—the life changing ones—are a fight from the moment of inception.
The same people that know us best also have the hardest time accepting changes that we aspire to make within ourselves.
We fight ourselves, and to make matters worse, we fight those closest to us. The same people that know us best also have the hardest time accepting changes that we aspire to make within ourselves. Family, friends, and our significant others are first to reject that we want to reinvent ourselves into something they may not recognize…something they may not love. They are often times the first to be the naysayers; the first to remind us of our limits, past failures, and moments of inspiration that resulted in less-than-inspirational results. The fight, then, is not just with ourselves—it is with those that fear for us as well.
Fear and Aspiration
The Titans of Goal Setting
Fear, instinctual and undeniable in all of us, surrounds the unknown. And a sure-fire way to summon the unknown and all the fear that comes with it into existence is to aspire to bring about change in our own lives. Make no mistake—aspiration is itself a rebellious provocation of fear; it is neither for the dutiful nor the cowardly. I’ve not met a single person that drastically bettered their lives that didn’t have to face down fears of their own. To choose it requires a form of intractable courage. In the words of Mark Twain, “Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it.”
Make no mistake—aspiration is itself a rebellious provocation of fear; it is neither for the dutiful nor the cowardly.
So it was not without fear when I aspired to complete The Lanier Lap, knowing full well that it would require paddling ten times longer than I have ever travelled by kayak. In fact, I call myself into question regularly for committing myself to the project. My parent’s critical words “You are always overdoing things” echo for better or worse in my head. And it’s not too hard to find paddlers who have set themselves to more grandiose goals, the comparison trap circling in ever-dangerous waters.
I knew that when I clicked submit on that registration form, I simultaneously accepted all of the fights that would inevitably come with such an aspiration...
And when I heard that the Eco Challenge would be produced again and reached out to others to join me in what will unquestionably be the hardest challenge I have ever faced, it also wasn’t without fear that I submitted an application. I knew it was going to be the second of two major endeavors in the same year. I knew that when I clicked submit on that application form, I simultaneously accepted all of the fights that would inevitably come with such an aspiration, and piled them onto those I would face with The Lanier Lap.
But I did it anyway. Dream big, friends. Dream big.