When you first start playing a new game you get this sort of high from the experience. You level up 4 times in one binge session and it’s easy (and addictive) to jump from level to level quickly and fastidiously. But as you advance, each level takes longer and longer to conquer. Before, it took you one hour to race through the first 4 levels. But now, with one hour, you’re struggling to level up even one stage.
I liken this to climbing up a mountain. Initially, you’re full of energy and the prospect of climbing this mountain is exciting. It’s a new challenge, you’ve got a buzz in your veins and determination in your heart.
But with each step you take, the slope increases and each step feels further away from the finish.
Before you know it, it’s not just your legs that find it difficult to catch up: the altitude makes you physically sick. You can’t breathe and your chest hurts. It’s too late to give up. But the end is no where in your reach.
The top of the mountain may look deceptively close. But our eyes can betray us. After all, what is only a few metres away can be massively far away when you factor in the exertion it takes to carry you there.
Understand that there’s only one way to get to the top.
And that is to keep going. It’s not easy.
But it is simple:
It doesn’t matter how many times you need to take a break to breathe. It doesn’t matter how many times you trip or how many obstacles you need to manoeuvre around.
It’s important to know that struggle is part of the process and that mistakes are inevitable.
There will always be a better way: more favourable conditions, prior experience or a nicer pair of climbing shoes.
But progress trumps perfection and if you had waited for everything to line up, you wouldn’t be where you are right now. Whether that’s a quarter of the way up, halfway there or close to the very top.
And when you do get to the top of your mountain and you finally drink in the view. You’ll notice that there are mountains all around you. Some are higher, some are steeper and some might be hills compared to where you are right now. But they are all yours to climb. If you want. Even though you’ve reached the top, it never really stops because your personal challenges are infinite.
You’ll be okay
Last week I made countless mistakes. It was a combination of trying to rush to the finish line and not slowing down to really evaluate what I was doing. In the end, I don’t have anyone else to blame except for myself.
Over the past year I’ve been cultivating the concept that nothing in life is perfect. I won’t ever have all elements in my life perfectly lined up.
And that’s ok.
Mistakes are ok. (Because at least you tried)
Not being ready is ok. (Because when you’re ready, it’ll be too late)
It’s by putting yourself in these situations where you struggle and where you know you will make mistakes, that you will learn new lessons.
And guess what? You’ll be fine.
A woman once asked Picasso how long it took him to complete one of his paintings. He told her, “30 years”.
Behind every beautiful piece of work and every project you’ve worked towards is a culmination of the years you spent building those foundations to reach that single outcome. And behind those years are thousands of mistakes, failures and struggles that nobody else can see.
What to do when you struggle
Sometimes, the path you chose can be really, really hard to navigate. I used to try to find a solution to every single problem. In essence, I wanted to remove all the stressors and the problems from my life completely. But actually, I was much better off accepting the problem, obstacle or struggle and ride that wave until I reach calmer waters.
Sometimes it’s totally okay if all you did today was breathe. It’s a reminder that you’re human. See, breathing is something that you will never stop for as long as you live. It doesn’t matter if things are good or bad. You keep on breathing.
You don’t need to say yes to everything that comes your way. Get rid of objects and possessions in your life that don’t have any value anymore. Take your focus off the projects getting in the way of progress. Clean your home and work space. By eliminating the unnecessary in your life, you can finally refocus on what matters.
A teacher, with a bottle of water in one hand, once asked her class how heavy they thought the bottle was. The answers ranged, but in the end the absolute weight doesn’t matter. The weight was determined by how long she held onto it for. She said “one minute? That’s alright. One hour? That’s when my arms begin to ache. And one day? My entire body will be in agony, unable to do anything else except hold onto this bottle of water”.
You can be holding on to so many small burdens in your life that can begin to consume you. And if you just let go, stop carrying them onto the next day and put your glass down, you’ll feel okay again.
Malcom Gladwell says in The Tipping Point that you only need to make small actions to create a big impact. There’s always that one magic moment or idea, that when set into motion, tips and spreads like wildfire.
This year, one of my goals was to wake up earlier. One of the best pieces of advice I was given was to set one goal and make it happen. Everything else will follow.
So every morning, as long as I wake up and put my feet on the ground, that’s a win. After that my day is set into motion. Eventually I find my way to my desk, I sit down and I work on my business. After everything is said and done, everything I’ve achieved can be traced back to this simple action of getting up and starting.
So if you’re struggling, start moving. It doesn’t have to be much. Go for a run, write one task on your to-do list and finish it. Just find your motion and move with it.
There’s something so therapeutic about creating:
Art is a very human way of making life more bearable.
Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow.
Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem.
You will have created something. – Kurt Vonnegut
When you make, you can find purpose again. You can then use this purpose and channel it back into climbing up that mountain again.
So keep climbing your mountain. Keep going. You’ll be okay.
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