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Book give away: Ten Lessons from the Road – chapter 4

4- WE WALK ALONE

Do you blame other people for your life not being where you want it to be?
Are you willing to take the responsibility for your outrageous goal?

We all enjoy sitting back in a comfy armchair, pausing for a moment in complete contentment. These are times when we can look back on what we have done, and look forward to all we would like to do. Times to think idealistically and set down the laws and standards by which we wish to live. To feel satisfied by things done well and seen through to their ends. To feel disappointed by the occasions we listened to our own excuses and took a decision that was easy and appealing at the time, but which rings hollow now. We can think forward to events that lie ahead and hope we will undertake them the right way, not the easy way. It is not easy to act with dignity and humility, to exercise grace under pressure. Far too often it is simpler to be lazy or selfish or complacent. It is comforting, if futile, to pin the blame on others. It is important to assess coldly that many of our failures are down to ourselves, and to come to terms with the fact that, if we are going to succeed at something, then we have to take action ourselves.

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
– John Eldridge


Throughout my journey ran the constant thread of the self-imposed rules I set myself, the standards by which my quest had to stand up to my own harsh self-scrutiny. In some ways my whole journey was strangely contrived and artificial, yet its difficulty sometimes felt even larger by being arbitrary and self-chosen. There were no prizes, awards, trophies or records at stake.
My route and journey would be as hard or as easy, as long or as short as I chose to make it. I was competing only with myself. I had to set myself problems and then solve them. It is hard to motivate yourself to build a high brick wall when you know that you have then to climb over it. It is a strange person too, who bangs his head ever harder against that brick wall because he knows that the harder he bangs, the sweeter the stopping will feel.

The ride was important to me, to my future, to my self-confidence, to all the hard work I had gone through to get to this point. And yet, I was always wryly aware that it was only a bike ride. It didn’t really matter.

Do you blame other people for your life not being where you want it to be?
This is such an easy trap to fall into, and I am too often guilty of it. When I was planning my expedition a large part of me wanted to find somebody to join me on the road. However, a smaller part of me argued that I really should make the journey alone. That way things were far clearer; if I succeeded, it was because of myself, or if I failed, then I could have no excuses save those explanations that centred on me. I would fall, or I would walk, by myself.

Are you willing to take the responsibility for your outrageous goal?
I dreamed up my outrageous goal. There were very few people who had experience that could help me. From an early stage in my preparations, it was clear that no companies were going to sponsor me. Perhaps all this helped me take responsibility for my project. If I did not take steps to make something happen, it did not happen.

There is a powerful prayer, resonant for anyone unable to be satisfied with comfortable satisfaction. The prayer asks God for
“What one cannot demand from oneself… I don’t ask You for rest, or quiet, whether of soul or body… I don’t ask for wealth, nor for success, nor even health perhaps. That sort of thing You get asked for so much that You can’t have any of it left. Give me, Lord, what you have left over. Give me what no-one wants from You. I want insecurity, strife, and I want You to give me these once and for all so that I can be sure of having them always, since I shall not always have the courage to ask You for them.”
It reminds me not to settle for the easy option.

In the end one experienceth nothing but one’s self.
– Nietzsche

Bugle calls to quit a job you hate are not always realistic. Drum-beating shouts to do this and that are not for everybody. A more subtle change of tack may be more appropriate. Soften it, mould it to your own circumstances.
But hold this one thing clear, whatever your situation: this is your life and you have the right to live it well. With rights come responsibilities, but you cannot do full justice to your commitments; to your family, your business, bank manager or parole officer, if you are not content.
If you feel that you are not able, or not bold enough, to take giant leaps, take a small step. If you feel anxious about the consequences of changing the equilibrium, if you feel lost or beyond changing, take a tiny step and test the waters. We walk with small steps at first.

In 1995 Poppa Neutrino sailed a homemade raft from North America to Europe, becoming the second person to sail a raft across the Atlantic Ocean, and the first to do so on a junk raft. Nobody thought that it could be done. But he believed in himself, and he succeeded.

Set yourself a tiny goal, but make sure that you achieve it. Read a book instead of watching reality TV tonight. Eat an apple instead of a chocolate bar. Walk up the steps when you get off the Tube instead of taking the escalator. Realise that you accomplished it all alone, assess if it makes you feel a little better, then set yourself another little task. The days will pass and your confidence will grow and your ambitions will increase. You will do more with your days and your horizons will spread wider.
Nobody else will care if you take the easy option or not. It’s up to you.

Sometimes I think we’re alone. Sometimes I think we’re not. In either case, the thought is staggering.
– R. Buckminster Fuller

If you enjoyed this chapter you can read the others here.

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