“Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become the next moment. By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant.” — Viktor Frankl
What’s truly harder: quitting and turning back, or committing and driving forward?
Striding boldly into the forest that separates you from your dream at the top of the mountain, you are emboldened by your own bravery, and a not insignificant dose of adrenaline.
Step after step, you’ve launched into your journey. You’re in it, now: you’re carving your own path up the mountain.
Your progress is steady. It feels good. You’re proud. You feel strong. You’ve got a backpack full of tools, and you know how to use them…at least you hope so.
Progress feels good.
Then you start to get sore. Then tired. Then sweaty, itchy, almost hyper-sensitive. Hunger and exhaustion set in.
Night is coming.
It’s going to be long and low.
This isn’t so fun anymore. It isn’t so easy. The biggest challenge is no longer just making the decision to climb the mountain – now, it’s work. Honest work, but the kind of effort you’re not used to in your ‘normal’ life. You don’t feel able. In fact, you feel pretty clumsy, well outside your comfort zone.
“Nothing worth doing is easy,” you repeat to yourself. You’re right, but it doesn’t help much.
Every time the path gets muddy and the way forward is too dark and hazy to see, quitting seems so easy.
Still, you feel your progress, and there’s enough newness and scariness and excitement that quitting doesn’t seem so… Necessary.
Give it time… Very soon, quitting will feel very, very necessary.
The first time you trip and twist your ankle…
The first time you stumble over some venomous or teeth-laden forest creature…
The first time you do something truly foolish, slap your forehead and say, “How the hell could I be so stupid!”
The Resistance is hunting you, haunting you, here in the forest. This is his playground, not yours. You are not home here. You are not welcome here.
As night falls and the sounds of nocturnal creatures rise, you settle in for camp. You wrap up, warm up, eat, enjoy a cup of campfire coffee. You tend your wounds; minor, this early in the journey. Your body’s ready to sleep, but sleep doesn’t come quickly as your mind processes all of your wins and challenges so far in the journey.
“Man, I’ve already got some great stories to tell.”
With this, you relax, and sleep.
Oooh…shouldn’t have done that. Waking up was a bad idea.
Sore. Sweaty. Itchy. Who knows how many things took a bite during the night.
There’s so much inertia to overcome after stopping.
But this mountain isn’t going to climb itself.
You stretch, scratch, pack up, and peer up the mountain.
At least, you think you’re looking the right way.
Wait a minute…
As you look this way and that, you realize you’re not sure which direction you came from…how far you’ve made it…worst, how much further to the top of the mountain, and which direction is the right one to get there.
Which path is the right one? Which is the fastest way to the top? Is the fastest way the easiest way, or the hardest? A fearsome thought: which way is the wrong way?
You’re in The Dip. You don’t even know what The Dip is, or how in it you are, or what it takes to get out of it.
But you’re there. You can feel it.
As with so many times to this point, you’re presented with the ultimate conflict:
Or go deeper?
Enter The Resistance…
Hey, you gave it your best, and just like everyone else knew, you’re not good enough to do this. I tried to tell you. You’re so deep in the forest now, and so stupid for getting yourself into this situation. How much easier would it have been to turn back at the mountain’s edge? I tried to tell you. How much smarter to have stayed home and kept your dream what it should have been – just a dream. A fantasy. You’re an adult; you should know better. I tried to tell you… I tried to tell you this was stupid; that you’re stupid. Now the best thing you can do is cut your losses and quit this stupid game before you really screw up and embarrass yourself. Go home, sit down, shut up, and be normal.
Whoops. The Resistance went too far again.
The word – all it means, to you, about you – manifests in your psyche, a sick whisper from deep inside.
The friction between your dream and your fear lights a spark. It catches in the tinder of your dormant spirit, and emotions blaze: anger, fear, disgust chief among them.
You can’t abide normal anymore.
That’s why you’re here. That’s why you’re sweaty, smelly, confused, a little scared, and a lot of sore, here in the thickest of the forest. The summit is out there, up there, somewhere. And you know the only thought more painful than striving on against all obstacles is that of turning tail, turning back, and living a normal, defeated life.
You know success is in your hands. You know failure is, too.
True failure. Not the kind where you pivot, change direction, and quit one path to pursue a greater good.
True failure is where dreams go to die. Where dreams lay in a grave and wither, all of their power and energy and inspiration left to rot. But never vanish. If dreams just vanished when ignored, we’d not feel the soul-sucking emptiness of their unrealized potential. You may take your eyes off your dream, but even through hollowed eye sockets and sunken scowl, your dreams never take their eyes off of you.
No. You can’t abide normal anymore. The mountain is where you make your stand.
This dream deserves to live, breathe, and thrive.
Sun’s up. It’s time to go.
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” – Marcus Aurelius
The obstacle is the way
Staying the course after the shiny newness wears off and the easy gains are made is what separates the dreamer from the doer – the regretful from the truly great. When you feel stuck, confused, lost, and incapable – that’s when you need to lean in, press on, and double down in your fight against The Resistance…
In the third part of this series, The Resistance will stop at nothing to keep you from summiting the mountain. You’re hurt. You’re lost. You’re questioning every decision. There’s no end in sight. You’ve lost hope…which is exactly where The Resistance wants you.
- Reinforcements: If you’re in The Dip, steel yourself: this is the long haul. Read The Dip by Seth Godin, to understand the landscape and nature of The Dip. Read The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday, to flip the script and see the opportunities within challenges. Listen to The Practicing Mind by Thomas Sterner, to learn the tools for making The Dip easiest to navigate. And if you haven’t yet, read the indispensable The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield, to know the face of your greatest enemy.
- Brainstorm Session: Get out your pen and paper. Describe your perfect day, five years in the future, after having summited the mountain of success. What are you working for in life by becoming a part time professional photographer? In what ways does success better your life? File this away in your Brainstorms folder.
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- Do This Now: What’s the biggest struggle holding you back right now? E-mail me your answer (yes, right now!), and let’s make a breakthrough today.
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