Outside Actuality

I saw a bumper sticker on the back of a truckMoss covered rocks today which read, “I’d rather be lost in the woods, than found in the city.” There were many other cars on the crowded road with no trees in sight. Earlier in the day, I woke up in Allegheny National Forest, under a tarp which prevented the rain from soaking my blanket and rock pillow. My traveling companions and I were lost for about an hour at one point. Creeks flowed from all directions down into a thick ravine. We hiked along the running water passing moss covered rocks and green foliage growth. We must have followed the wrong creek on the return, but were able to find a gravel road back to the campground before it became dark. Sitting around the fire, we were able to see that the temporary lost feeling was the most authentic of the journey.

Being lost is often a personal introspection into what is working and what is not. Forced to carry everything regardless of what feels right, the advancement toward finding what you are looking for is not easy. People are less likely to judge each other when they are lost. Most thoughts are self-directed and as Larry Smith said, “If only I had.” Smith’s talk is titled, Why you will fail to have a great career. Although not specific to being lost in the woods, the sentiment is the same concerning the journey toward self-actualization. Critical thoughts may lead to the unfair challenge which results in the encroachment of fear. Smith believes many people fail to find and pursue their passion due to fear of looking ridiculous so they come up with excuses. “You’re afraid to try. You’re afraid you may fail.”

Afraid to try. That is quite the accusation. When we fail to act in a life full of freedom, we demonstrate how little we appreciate the gift. And it is all a gift. There is not a single individual who achieved their own life. However, the individual can indeed achieve in life. What is this achievement though? Is it the idea of leaving this world better than the way we found it for our children? Such a noble mission statement, but it may inadvertently lead to a cycle of excuses, as Smith mentions in his talk. I hear people talk of why they cannot do something because of school, because of jobs, because of money, because of family and all the budding relationships in their midst. Of course we should take care of our commitments, but what happens when your child asks for your advice on taking risks to achieve their dreams? If there is going to be growth and progression, we must do more than persist for the sake of “the children.” They will be better off trying to emulate our example rather than being coddled incessantly. Again, there is a balance to it all. A child without parenting and a child with too much parenting is for the most part in some serious trouble.

Railroad through the woodsThere are many trails to this life. Some trails are straight edged and it may feel as if you are locked in with a future not entirely certain, but secure enough to believe in the predictability of it all. Like a railroad, you let it take you rather than take it. On the other end of the spectrum are the trails through the thicket of the woods. The part of the woods where the thorn covered branches bloody up your arms and legs. Surprises are commonplace such as when a tree used for support is actually decomposing which causes a fall into a hoard of ticks. Even in this day in age, most people do not know what they are talking about. Too much information is also recipe for deception. Burning off a tick is not the advised technique due to what they tick does with its mouth when it feels the sensation.

Advice, suggestions, tips, and a few other teachings are not meant to define our moves. Their definitions are limited to a slight nudge, a guide of sorts to assist in the understanding of our place in the world. Take it all with a grain of salt. The literal meaning is very often unrealistic, especially when applied to dreams. A self-analysis will always find imperfections and it often seems there are many other people who are doing it better. The “it” does not matter though if we do not know what “it” is that we believe is important. Some people prefer to be on the rails their entire lives. Many feel it necessary, if only for a time, to be on the tracks in order to figure something specific out. The ability to go off trail from time to time is the true test. Can you easily get back on track? Or will you wander through the world forever? Is that track really going somewhere certain? Who is to judge what is the better way? Knowing where you want to go is helpful. Regardless of all that, because nothing makes sense all at once, keep on going because it is the only way you will get there.

positive change to growth

“The best way to live life is to do your best and be cool to people and be nice and get through this as easy as you can…virtually anybody can put themselves on a positive path.” – Joe Rogan

Anyone can come up with a complex way of living. It is for the most part much better to think of a simple way of life, simple rules, and simple values. Some of us are the same; most of us are entirely different from one another. Dreams, aspirations, plans, all differ ever so slightly. Our ability to identify with another person on a conversational level is a great skill toward creating strong relationships. It becomes problematic when we take personal what someone else says which we many not entirely agree with. When we close up and assume the worst in each other, the course will likely result in negativity and loss. Nothing good comes from negativity and very little comes from being over-realistic.

Train through the woods

For some the path through the woods is clear regardless of fear. Others may spend too much energy complaining about the mud or the camouflage effect of the trees. By listening too closely to the complaint and trying to figure out why the other person is so negative, we become negative ourselves and are less considerate of a favorable outcome. This is not such a big deal when hiking through a small park within city limits. However, if the circumstances were within an unknown environment or translated from metaphor to life in general, then such distractions can become fatal. There is not enough time in this life to be negative.

Do not be hard on yourself if you realize that negativity. Simply make a decision to change and it will happen. Positivity is much easier anyway. It also helps to accept yourself in all ways and to be open to constructive criticism. Being authentic is a great technique to understanding real passion and dedication to some sort of goal. People tend to notice this and respond accordingly by sharing ideas which may then spur great action. These habits of positive action have a profound effect on everyone you contact. They benefit and grow until eventually you find yourself surrounded by dozens of strong individuals who possess the capacity to change the world.

Balanced Adventure

“The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong, that’s when adventure starts.” -Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia outdoor apparel

Adventure is a personal journey into something entirely new. We often are better off learning and growing as a result of an experience. When that is taken as the measure, an adventure can simply be a walk around the block for someone who has never left their house. It is exponential from there as people continue to experience more of what this world has to offer.

With greater experience comes wisdom. And those with this quality prove to be great teachers on the ways of life. They design maps, write instructions, and explain consequences of doing things the wrong way. Some take the responsibility so serious that they convey to others warnings of what not to do and emphasize the less is more lifestyle.

Regardless of what people are taught, they sometimes need to pee on the electric fence to understand. Scholars fail to grasp this concept when the same mistakes are made throughout history. “Why can’t we learn from the past?” they’ll ask. We do learn, but it does not mean we understand. An optimistic view upon history shows that we have improved ourselves in a progress over perfection kind of way. We will not figure everything out at once. Some may, other’s won’t. The individual must at the very least know where he or she is going. And then take another step forward.

Sign of the way

The motivation for pursuing adventure is far more interesting than the details of a plan. It should not be so difficult for it to materialize. Near the end of the documentary 180° South, Chouinard continues a conversation with Doug Tompkins, a co-founder of The North Face.

Yvon Chouinard:  The hardest thing in the world is to simplify your life. It’s so easy to make it complex. What’s important is leading an examined life because most of the damage caused by humans is caused unintentionally I think.

Doug Tompkins:  In response to people saying “you can’t go back,” I say well what happens if you get to the cliff and you take one step forward or you do a 180º turn and take one step forward? Which way are you going? Which is progress?

Yvon ChouinardThe solution may be for a lot of the world’s problems is to turn around and take a forward step. You can’t just keep trying to make a flawed system work.