You only have one life to live and you better make the most of it. If you are like most people, then you probably didn’t get too many breaks in life and weren’t born with a silver spoon in your mouth.
Most people will however continue on living their own hum drum lives, never rising above their own reality. You don’t have to.
The good news is that most heroes were born ordinary as well. Joseph Campbell noticed that most hero journeys start off in the ordinary world, where the future hero is living an ordinary life. Then one day things change and they begin creating their own legend.
If you want to get on a path to a better life, you need to heed the call of adventure and take the first step on that journey.
Whether it’s your entire life’s journey or a small chapter in your life, you need to realize that it’s all up to you. You have the power to create your own monomyth.
I don’t want to waste my time on this planet. I don’t want to live an ordinary life. For years I have been refusing the call to adventure. One of my biggest drawbacks was a quitter mentality.
I am sure you are the same way. You want your life to have meaning, a purpose, to stand for something. You want to experience life to the fullest and achieve great things.
The Choice: Quit or Push Through
I have already described how I was a top sprinter in high school and how one of my final runs turned from victory to a defeat. Yet the defeat wasn’t due to someone beating me, it was due to the fact that I quit. I felt the pain of running and I slowed down. I was leading and let the guy behind me overtake. He mustered his last reserve of strength and collapsed at the finish line. I didn’t. He won, I came in second.
That is something that keeps haunting me. The scary thing is that this wasn’t a one-off thing, but was representative of my inner mindset at the time. I was willing to work hard and try to be the best, but at critical junctures, I would quit. I was a quitter. When the going got too tough, I gave up.
Years later, I decided to change all that. I realized that life was passing me by and I was running out of the one thing that is the most precious commodity for all of us: time.
What set me on the path to adventure was the fact that I signed up for a trip to Africa to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Climbing mountains is something that I have never done and it’s hard. Going up in altitude is not easy and it gets harder the higher up you get. You cannot be a quitter if you want to get to the top of a mountain.
That was my call to adventure. I began to train for it. One part of the training was hiking in the mountains.
This was something that I never enjoyed doing and plus it was really hard. You are not walking on straight terrain, but going up. That makes it hard. Your body aches with every step.
What makes it harder is that with every step in you take in the mountains, the pressure and the amount of oxygen get lower. This makes it harder to do any type of activity.
I got hit with reality the first weekend of hiking in the Alps. The first day we kept walking up and up. It was excrutiating, I was tired and my body was starting to give up on me. I was just hoping for the finish line. I knew we were near.
Then we got to a steep side of the mountain that we needed to hike up. I wrote an article on that. Impossible. My body was too tired. I will never be able to overcome that. In my old mindset, I would have quit right there.
Yet I knew that I can’t quit now. I need to overcome this. So I clenched my teeth and went up. It was painful, but I got up. I celebrated getting to the finish line a bit, but the real celebration was in my head. I managed to break my quitter mentality.
The journey wasn’t over. In fact, it was just beginning, but I managed to break through one of my mental obstacles. I had been faced with these types of challenges before and each time I refused the call. I would quit. Finally, that day I didn’t refuse the call, but instead crossed the threshold.
The scene was now set for more adventures. Crossing the threshold is jut the beginning of the journey. Many more challenges lie ahead.
Another segment of my preparation for Kilimanjaro involved going up a mountain in the Alps that is over 4 000 meters high. Furthermore, this ascent was done on snow in the middle of summer.
Luckily there are lifts going high up the mountain, but they only get you a part way up. We still spent the entire day going up to the top and then back down. This time I got a huge headache close to the top and was struggling with every step.
We were all roped in and so the entire team had to slow down and go step by step. I had to push through the pain.
Sometimes you do have to turn back, since if you are too gung-ho and ignore all dangers, you will harm yourself. You need to know when to turn back, when the risk is too great. These are the times you don’t quit, you turn back in order to fight another day.
This was however not one of those times. I continued to push on and was a rewarded with a great view from the top. The peak was just a small ridge and on each side there were huge drop-offs into the abyss, so standing there was not for the faint of heart. However the sense of accomplishment was tremendous.
Once again I pushed through when I had the urge to quit. Once again I conquered my inner deamons and succeeded.
Aha-Moments, Realizations and Life Lessons
Sometimes you encounter realizations and aha-moments that change your entire perspective on life. One of these came when reading the book “The Art of Learning” by Josh Waitzkin. One passage on how you should get your ego out of the way when learning really hit home.
I realized what I had been doing wrong. Instead of really learning, I took short-cuts when it started hurting, I watched the clock, and most importantly I was always convinced that I “knew better”. That type of an attitude prevents you from reaching the expert level.
Climbing a Mountain
The culmination of this was my trip to Africa to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. On that mountain I pushed myself, and achieved what I had thought previously was impossible. Standing on top of that mountain awakened a new spirit in me. Going through an external journey sometimes helps you go on an internal journey.
Finally I had corrected some of my biggest mental stumbling blocks and achieved drive.
It’s not about finding yourself, but making yourself. That’s why the goal-orientation of this blog.
You need to focus on self-improvement. There ain’t no one life’s purpose that you need to find. Don’t believe that mumbo jumbo. Instead you create your own life’s purpose.
Achieving one impossible dream opens up other even more impossible dreams. Suddenly these don’t seem so out of reach.
After descending from the mountain, I thought that was it. No more mountaneering for me. I had peaked and achieved my summit.
However more than half a year later, I was watching the “Everest” movie, a depiction of the 1996 disaster on Mt. Everest, when a sudden urge to learn about the subject awoke in me.
Reading and learning more about climbing the highest mountain in the world showed me how it could be done. A new call for adventure arose in me.
Mt. Everest is a synonym for the impossible for most people. It is the highest mountain in the world and most people think it’s impossible that they will stand on top one day. Yet it’s not impossible. It is very possible, if you stick to a plan and work hard.
I used to think Kilimanjaro was impossible. Now I know it’s possible and I have achieved it.
With a proper plan and preparation even climbing Mt. Everest is possible. You just need to set it up and execute. It will be hard work, but with hard work come rewards. At the moment I don’t have the skills or stamina to climb it. First I need to get experience on smaller mountains, then I can go for higher. Everest in 10 to 15 years? See ya on the summit 🙂
Hero’s Journey: The Quest To Become A Legend