When I got on that motorcycle on July 9, 2004, I had no idea how my life would be changed, what I would learn, and how far I would go in the ensuing years. It’s an incredible story…and it happens to be true. The years and time may have clouded a memory or two, but the Internet doesn’t forget. It was easier than I thought to dig up old blog entries, find old pictures or newspaper articles to document the journey.
This book is about my story. I believe, however, that it’s your story as well. When I first started thinking about putting this down in a book, I thought it would be hard for people to identify with the story, or any similarities with my struggle.
What I found, however, was that everybody has struggles and challenges in their life. While our individual challenges may differ, we all have places that we want to go. We all have obstacles thrown in our way, and we all find ourselves frustrated with what life puts in front of us.
When I first started speaking in Toastmasters contests, I told stories that I thought were funny or entertaining, and I moved up in the contests as I got better. After not placing in my third District contest, a friend came up and said, “I love your stories….but you’ve got to stop talking about you.”
I was confused for a time, but I eventually got what he said. When I thought about it at length, what I think he meant was, I had to stop making me the focus of the story. I may be the main character, but if I focus on the accomplishment, people find it hard to identify with a ‘hero’ who doesn’t make mistakes.
Instead, I’ve focused on the struggle and the mistakes. The victories are sweet, but without the struggle, pain and challenge, they don’t mean much. Life doesn’t give participation trophies. Every achievement brings with it bumps, bruises and scars that may fade with time, but stick with us as reminders of what it cost to get this far.
I have a 10-inch scar, two titanium rods and four screws that are a lifetime reminder of what it cost to get to where I am today. If I don’t pay attention to taking care of myself, and staying ahead of any symptoms, I’ll be even more aware of the cost, because while it takes a lot of effort to keep moving forward, staying in place costs even more.
My journey has been a long one – over the past 15 years, I’ve gone places that I’ve never thought I’d go – but, it doesn’t end here. I’m continuing on my journey. It’s not always in a straight line, but it is mine.
As I said above, this story documents my journey, but I believe that while our paths may not be identical, they have a lot of parallels. We all struggle with setbacks and self-doubt. My challenge to you is:
What about you?
What do you want to do?
Where do you want to go?
You don’t have to be great, spectacular, or even average. I think most of us start out as just ordinary. If we stay static and don’t try, that’s all we’ll ever be. If we try and fail, it might be embarrassing. It might hurt. But then again, you might just learn something. If you learn something, anything from the attempt, it’s a win. That’s how you move from ordinary….to extraordinary.
I don’t think there’s any point in life where you can sit down and say, “I’m done. I’ve achieved everything I wanted to achieve.” That’s why I think most lottery winners end up bankrupt and miserable. They mistake money for satisfaction. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had money, and I’ve needed money, and having it helps you do things that money can buy.
What I’ve found, however, is the value of what money can’t buy. It won’t give you any more time or friendship. It may make the struggle easier, but the true happiness comes from the struggle – knowing that you’ve accomplished something yourself can make all the struggle worthwhile.
Which brings me back to how this book started. My journey may be unique to me, but I believe that our stories are very similar. We all want to go places that we’ve never been. We all want to achieve things when others may doubt our ability or commitment. We all run into obstacles or setbacks that make us wonder if the goal is worth it.
As I said in the start of this book – the path to your goals is rarely a straight line. It’s full of obstacles, nay-sayers, left turns and self-doubt. It’s hard to stay focused on the ‘big’ goal when every day life keeps throwing little things at you that try and knock you off-balance. No matter how consistent you are about writing down goals, throwing yourself into your work, executing perfectly or leveraging others’ experience, some times, life has other plans that will get in your way.
There is only one thing that I’ve found that will make a difference in whether you make progress or stay in place. It’s not a secret, but most people avoid it like the plague, waiting for the ideal formula, perfect timing or obvious opportunity. Those things don’t exist in real life. There’s no magic potion, knight in shining armor or cavalry riding over the hill to save the day. Success is rarely thrust upon you, and never happens without a decision to act or first step into the unknown.
If there are any lessons to be learned in all this, I’ve tried to write this as openly and frankly as possible, and maybe, just maybe – this story may speak to you and help you overcome that obstacle that’s been standing in your way, or start moving towards that goal you’ve alway wanted.
As I close out this book, remember:
Life Happens to all of us.
- Life has no guarantees.
- Your life can change in an instant
- We need other people
- We all have obstacles to overcome.
There may be events that are beyond our control, but there is a way forward.
The Longest Journey begins with a single step.
- You don’t have to know the end of the journey to start.
- You may not be strong, but you can get stronger.
- Direction is more important than location.
- As long as you take the first step, you can get there.
You can go to some amazing and incredible places, but you’ve got to get started.
What will it take to get you to take action today?
- You don’t have to hit rock bottom to turn things around.
- You don’t have to fix everything.
- Do one thing. Then do the next thing.
- Start where you are and go from there.
If you just get started today, and do SOMETHING, it can lead to all sorts of wonderful and amazing changes. When I started running again, I ‘ran’ all of 60 feet. That set me on a journey that has collected a lot of trophies and medals, but the internal rewards have been much greater. It’s a cliche to say that the journey is more important than the destination, but without the journey, the struggle and the changes you go through along the way, the destination has no meaning or value.
There is one thing you can to do make your life better tomorrow than it is today. There is one thing you can do consistently to achieve your goals and go where you want to go. All you have to do is…
Get out the door. After that, everything else is easy.