When I was a kid, I used to play on frozen ponds. It's one of those things that I'm now amazed I was allowed to do, which causes me to worry that I'll be an overbearing parent. The small ponds weren't really scary, because they'd freeze all the way through quickly. The big ponds were frozen pretty well along the sides, but usually the middle would be questionable. Maybe it could support my weight, maybe it couldn't. I'd shuffle as far as I dared, and usually go back.
In the hallucinatory delirium that precedes sleep, I found myself last night thinking about my goals as frozen ponds.
Small goals, like small ponds, are easy. The whole thing is frozen solid, so you just slide across. It's good, but not great. You always know, too, that even if the ice breaks, the pond is so small that it's not a huge deal.
Big goals are like big ponds, and they're more complicated. For most of my life I would set big goals, start bravely towards them, and then shuffle back. It feels good to march towards the middle of a frozen pond, and it feels good to start on a big goal. Not only does no one blame when you inevitably turn around, they're a lot more comfortable if you'd do so. Turning around is easy.
SETT is the first big goal I've really stuck to. I'm in the middle of the pond, and I can't see the place I came from or the place I'm aiming for. I just assume that if I keep going, I'll probably get to the other side before the ice breaks. I can look down at the ice and think about how sturdy it seems, but the truth is that you never know. I doubt most people who fall into ponds think, "This ice looks really thin and weak... but let's just find out."
It's scary being in the middle of the pond. At the edges you can see other people shuffling around, so you know it's safe and comfortable. As you get to the middle there are fewer and fewer people. Even those who are also crossing the pond are taking some other route.
Big leaps towards a goal feel like, well, big leaps on ice. I remember the night I switched my blog to SETT. It was like jumping on the ice and hoping I wouldn't fall through. Same with getting the first few bloggers on it and same with charging people money.
When you're a kid and you first play on the safe ice in the small ponds or around the edges of big ponds, it's a lot of fun. As you grow, though, something draws you to the bigger ponds. You start wondering how far you can make it, and you're compelled to put your feet on the ice and find out. So if the ponds you're crossing these days aren't that exciting to you, or if you find yourself turning back, maybe it's time to take a shot and start walking across.
Photo is a giant snowman my cousins and I made last winter. Passersby said it couldn't be done.
I really like this metaphor. What happens though on the occasions you fall through?
Haha, good question. Never happened to me in a real pond before...
I'd say that for one, probably it's not as bad as you think. It's painful, it's unpleasant, but you scramble your way out and you're probably okay.
Also, I think that in general, ponds or not, people overestimate danger because it becomes an emotional decision rather than a rational one. When you're out on the pond you make decisions about which patches to go around and which to try out, and it tends to work out.
Phenomenal. I already know that this analogy is going to stick with me till I die, and is gonna be the metric I use to judge my life
It's a valid fear. In my 12 year college teaching career, I was dismayed and depressed by the inability of the overwhelming majority of our students' fear of taking chances. A huge number of kids came into school carrying the baggage of their psychological "handicaps" and their helicoptering parents. My wife and I had two daughters when we were young, 23 & 21. We spent our lives on the edge of society and a good bit of it in extreme poverty (by US standards, anyway). We took chances, let our kids explore, expected them to get hurt and heal, and did some really dumb stuff in retrospect. Both daughters are brave, independent, and inspirational adults; far better people than their parents.
For a year or two, I'm probably going to continue teaching motorcycle safety classes. I'm amazed at the number of people who take these classes with the delusion that owning a motorcycle will make them into a more interesting person. Barry Strang is so typical I'm almost convinced I have met him (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/wyoming-man-dies-crash-hours-purchasing-dream-motorcycle-article-1.1402957). When I was a kid, a few years earlier than when Barry was a kid, we jump on motorcycles and crashed them repeatedly until we learned how to ride them. Today, our industry-driven "motorcycle safety" training program has a carefully scripted, step-by-step procedure to get terrified adults on to motorcycles and out into the dealerships with open billfolds (Whoops! Sorry, our goal is to make them "safe riders.") If you don't have enough courage to be a good bicyclist, you have no hope of being a good motorcyclist. If you don't have enough motivation to investigate motorcycling on your own, you will be a poor motorcycle student. Sometimes, you have to make some leaps on your own. It's not something our culture encourages, though.
this is right up there with the 'Upwards Jagged Line'- your post I have told many people about; in the hope they see a plateau stage as just that; merely a time to consolidate before the next 'peak'.
I agree with Izzy; Phenomenal.
Those with passion and perseverance find that way to cross the pond. There are possibly many ways to cross the big ponds; however what is more scary - the first tentative step on the thin centre? or never taking that step.
The possible discomfort (if the ice breaks) pales in significance for a bigger reward of much motivation (and comfort!), once the other side is reached, so to speak. You give others this same motivation.
I feel so very privileged to see the evolution of your goal in SETT. And to take on bigger ponds.
A+ Tynan. I too found this to be a really excellent analogy, and I have never even SEEN a frozen pond, let alone been on one :D
Glad to be apart of this journey Tynan. It took a bit of faith on my part too. I felt like I was on the ice too but one thing I've learned in life is this in order to achieve anything in life you have to take risks.
Bravo on you for sticking to this I KNOW big things lie ahead.
Thanks! Very glad you're on board, too. I have so much gratitude for all of the people who signed on early. Only as time passes and I can look back at where SETT was do I realize just how much of a leap of faith that was. My own judgement is clouded by my vision of what SETT will be, so it's hard for me to evaluate it in the moment.
There's so much I can write about my trip to Japan that just attempting to start this post has been too daunting to make its way into my schedule since I left. Now that I've been out of the country for a week, though, I realize that putting it off any longer might mean that it gets lost in the shuffle. Can't let that happen, can I?
For the fourth or fifth time now, Elliot has let me stay in his awesome apartment in Shibuya. At this point I've actually lived in his apartment for over two months in 2011 alone. Despite doing what I can to be a good guest, I know it's a bit of an imposition to have someone stay with you for such a long time, so a huge thank you is due to Elliot. I'm incredibly fortunate to have somewhere to stay in Tokyo, but far more fortunate that it's at the home of a friend whose company I enjoy, even after so many weeks.
Happy spring everyone! Do you ever have those moments where you wish you had started something long ago so you'd be further along than where you are today?
Today I'm going to share some goals I'd like to accomplish in the next quarter. There is never a best time to start something new so how about now?
April 1st is 90 days into 2013 and although we are still 10 days out, it seems like the time from January 1-now has simultaneously flown and crept along. 90 days seems like just long enough to make real progress without being too far off in the future to forget about. 90 days seems like something I can stick to. No need to wait until April 1st, I'm starting today.
For the next 90 days I am committing two 4 goals in different areas of my life that I would like to see improvement in. Below the goal is my motivation behind wanting the goal and beneath that are two small actions I can take towards the goals. The list will serve as my reminder for why I want to make these changes.
1) Restart my yoga practice