When I desire to accomplish, be, do, or have something, I’ve found it important to remember that wherever I am right now is where I am. It’s the only place from which you can begin. If you haven’t written a page, played a chord, felt fit and healthy, then that is where you are. I know that I’ve been caught up at different times about where other people are in relation to my goals. How much farther away am I, how much harder does it seem, could I ever be as fit/skilled/effective/talented?
But unless I’m being mentored by these people, their position is of no concern. If you want to write a book, you must fill the pages. If you want to cultivate your body a certain way, you have to eat the food and do the pushups (or run the miles, make downward the dog, etc.)
As goes the old proverb: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
It seems like a cliche, I know. But in contemplation it becomes incredibly profound.
At the turn of 2012, I paddled up snow covered river banks with two friends, to camp at the base of Burke mountain. The tattered remains of the salmon run littered the stream. Scales were scraped on the shallow creek bed as the last few spent their final breaths trying desperately to follow the once flowing path. Their tails slapped the rocky shore.
One morning, we geared up and began the hike up through the falls. Much of the trail was covered with snow. Every other step would be a stumble or backslide, at times incredibly frustrating. When you set out to accomplish something or reach a destination, and you invest a considerable amount of effort in doing so, the achievement is all the more sweet. When we finally reached a main bridge over the pinnacle of the falls, I was taken with a sense of power and gratitude. We looked on in silence and absorbed each ray, pebble and splash of the scene. No pictures needed be.
In one section of the trail on the way down, while paying close attention to my footing, that old cliche came across my thoughts. I reflected on how that destination, the experience of that scene, could not have happened without each and every step that occurred before it. The paddles up the shore, the trudges through snowy trail. Each step that I took on the path implied the destination. Each single step that I took up the trail, as mundane and unimportant as it seemed, was absolutely necessary.
And it was no short hike. We started after breakfast and returned in darkness. If I had looked at how many steps I had to take on the whole journey, it’s quite possible I would have never even started. Sometimes we look at our desires and only see the distance between them and where we are right now, which can appear to be an infinite chasm. Defeated, we surrender any attempts to climb. If the acorn knew how long it would be to become the oak tree, it would say “fuck this!” Instead, it grows, one step at a time. And the oak tree would not be if it were not once an acorn. Each implies the other.
How often is anything worth achieving obtained in a single leap? Instead we move toward it one step at a time. As Pacino said in Any Given Sunday, life is a game of inches.
I share this because I know we each have desires in life. We want to get somewhere, build something, become someone. If any of that is to become a reality, we need only to focus on the next single step, and know that in it is the journey itself.
When the business you want to run, the trip you want to take, that thing that you really want for yourself, seems impossible, just think of the acorn.