Ya Just Gotta Start

Sometimes when we think about a goal, an objective, a new project, we hesitate to begin. We think: conditions aren’t right; we’re not fully prepared; we don’t have all the information; we haven’t raised enough money; we don’t have all the resources we need; there’s not enough time.

But here’s the scoop. It’s never exactly the right time to begin. Conditions are never exactly right.

What you need to do is to start out and see what happens.

I’ve discovered this lesson in the mountains more times than I can count. A day that starts out looking like a storm day so often turns into something grand and glorious.

Other projects too: a run that starts out gruesomely begins to flow; a photo project that seems to be going nowhere turns into a gallery show; a chapter that lacks any form or substance suddenly takes shape; a work project that seems flat and dull unexpectedly transforms a life.

How it looks in the beginning is not how it will be.

Starting creates the magic. Starting creates the momentum. Staring tells the Universe that you’re ready.

Start now.

Start out and see what happens.


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Dream Catcher

This post first appeared on July 15, 2010. What are your hopes and dreams and aspirations for the New Year? Get busy!

And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.

– Joel 2:28


The  word has a bad rep.  It connotes laziness. Distraction. Fuzziness.  Idealism.

To dream suggests that we are not fully present, that we are somehow disconnected from reality.

“Get real,” we tell dreamers.

And some dreams can be pretty damn weird.

But many are visions, hopes, and aspirations that reside in the recesses of our minds. They may represent things we want to do, to achieve, to have, to be. They can form a mosaic of our lives made whole.

Our dreams are our own silent visitors from an unconscious world that inspire us to create; that urge us up in the morning; that drive us forward.  They are the engines of our heart.

Climbing Denali was a dream for me. Ever since I was a boy, I wanted to climb The High One: the one that rose up out of the plains with the highest uplift in the world, the one with the coldest temperatures and the highest winds, the epic storied one that has always challenged mountaineers from around the globe. Inspired by a book my father gave me, I dreamed of being an explorer, of walking on Denali’s glaciers, climbing through Denali Pass, traversing beneath the Archdeacon’s Tower and standing on its summit. And I did.

It was a somewhat curious dream. Not terribly practical. Some would say downright inconvenient (my wife), especially as a contemplated a third attempt in eighteen years.

But dreams aren’t always logical.  Many don’t make sense to other people.

But they don’t have to.  Our dreams belong to us.

Dreams are sometimes vivid, sometimes not, sometimes odd, always elusive.

But many whisper to us.  Of  joy, of hope, of possibility. Of life fulfilled.

I love the symbol of the dreamcatcher.  Woven in webs with sinew, The Chippewas believed that by sleeping beneath these hoops, they could sift out the “bad” dreams and capture the good.

Too few of us capture and pursue our dreams. And time is not our friend. “Nobody grasped you by the shoulder while there was still time, ” wrote Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  ”Now the clay of which you were shaped has dried and hardened, and naught in you will ever awaken the sleeping musician, the poet, the astronomer that possibly inhabited you in the beginning.”

Time will rob us if we let it. The clock will run out.

Tony Robbins says:  ”We’re so caught up in all we have to do – be sure to take the time to stop, be silent.  Listen to the whispers of Destiny… guidance is waiting.”

The Carmelite mystic William McNamara admonishes us: take long, loving leisurely looks at the real.

We must take the time to touch our dreams, to cradle them, to nurture them, to bring them to life. (No one else will.)

Reclaim Your Dreams is the title of Jonathan Mead’s excellent e-book.

I hear so many of my contemporaries talk of being “too busy,” “too out of shape,” “too old” to do what they otherwise might do. That the time for fulfilling the dreams they once had has passed.

That’s bullshit.

“The best is yet to come,” Sinatra crooned.

“Your car goes where your eye goes,” writes Garth Stein in his beautifully crafted bestseller The Art of Racing in the Rain.

Your heart goes if you will but follow.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined,” wrote Thoreau.

Denali was my dream.  (There are more, of course!)

What are yours?


Keep The Bucket Full

This post first appeared on May 10, 2010. I share it again as we begin the New Year:

What do you do after you stand on the top of the world?

It’s the question Ann and I have been asking after Jordan Romero summited Mt. Everest last week. At age 13, he’s the youngest climber in the world to accomplish this feat.

After you’ve achieved your dream, what’s next?

There’s a wonderful article in this month’s Success magazine about Buzz Aldrin. Aldrin walked on the moon in 1969. But when he returned to earth, his life unravelled. He churned through jobs he didn’t want. He drank. He became depressed. His marriage failed.

Aldrin was a graduate of MIT and a career military man. His entire life centered on service to his country. The lunar program was the pinnacle of his career. He believed that he could rest on this achievement. But when it was over, he was lost.

Aldrin’s failures, according to Mike Zimmerman who wrote the Success article, “forced him to recognize that a man can’t walk on the moon forever. And shouldn’t try. At some point, you have to dream beyond what you dreamed before. So [Aldrin] set out to fix things.”

Now in his 80s, Aldrin went on to reinvent himself many times over becoming an author, motivational speaker and advocate for space exploration. He even competed this past season on Dancing With the Stars!

“I’ve had great results in turning myself into a far more productive, more enlightened, more contributing person than I think I ever was before going to West Point,” Aldrin says. ”If anything, there’ll be a motto on my tombstone: He kept trying.”

The key for Aldrin, according to Zimmerman, is this question: ”Do we dream big enough? And when we achieve those dreams, do we dream beyond them to discover not greater greatness, per se, but deeper greatness? The kind that enriches us, that would drive an already great man to fight past his self-destructive tendencies and build on a legend?”

Do we dream? And do we keep on dreaming?

“What’s on your bucket list?” Ann asked. It’s one of her favorite questions.

There was an uncomfortable silence. And then the response: “I guess there’s nothing left really.”

I felt sad. He’s just 75. And he’s my dad.

Contemporaries of his just returned from a six week open ocean sail across the Drake Passage. They’re planning their next adventure. A friend of ours graduated from George Washington University as a Physician’s Assistant (and valedictorian) at age 60. For the last dozen years, she has cared for the poor and the oppressed in some of the world’s most remote corners. John Keston, recently featured in The New York Times, began running when he was 55. He’s completed 800 races including 53 marathons. He holds the world record for his age category. He’s 85.

Our coach had us list 101 life goals. Try it. It’s hard. But exhilerating too. There’s the ride through Yellowstone on the Honda Goldwing. The river raft of the Snake River. Biking along the Great Wall. The climb of Everest. The islands of Greece. The nascent projects. The unmade photographs. Books waiting to be written. Stories yet to unfold.

Our buckets give shape and meaning to our lives. We wither without our buckets.

Perhaps we grow weary. But I read about Buzz and I have hope.

Who knows what young Jordan Romero will do. There are so many possiblities that lie before him. May he keep his bucket full.

May you as well.

The Greatest Risk You’ll Ever Take

This is a Guest Post by JT DeBolt, speaker, coach and author of Flight Plan to Success.

There are few endeavors we as humans have achieved in our evolution more awesome, more liberating than that of flight. I love flying airplanes. Aside from the obvious freedom and excitement of flying, piloting an airplane can be a high risk and dangerous activity.

But despite the risks, people fly every day. They fly into the night, into foul weather … even into combat. And they do so not because they’re crazy or brash, but because they’re dedicated, courageous—and they’re prepared. They also understand that the reward of flying has an associated risk.

Life is very much the same. We dream big, and imagine the possibilities. We know there is risk involved, and yet, as achievers, we throw caution to the wind and dare to dream anyway.

As a species, we’ve slowly evolved from beings who were hard-wired to take risks–mostly out of necessity to survive–into fear-abiding creatures who will rationalize mediocrity with facts and figures about failure and the pain it causes. And we consume the fear-based bullshit that is rammed down our throats through the media and the banter around the water cooler more easily than the inner calling that was programmed in our DNA from birth; the calling to risk.

It is so much easier to say “I told you so” than to encourage someone to step outside of themselves–and perhaps away from us and our sometimes-narrow view of the world–and move closer to their greatest dreams, their true selves. So it is no wonder that taking risks has garnered a reputation of irresponsibility and foolhardiness.

Hear me when I say, I’m NOT talking about foolhardy, whimsical dabbling; I’m talking about following one’s true calling, even in the face of the potentially dire consequences often associated with stepping outside the status quo and living a live that matters.

While success requires the courage first to dream, it also requires thoughtfully planning out the mission, then executing on that plan.  There is risk associated with endeavoring toward anything great: risk of failure, and the risk of losing money, position, friends and even one’s life. And while the risks involved in achieving are part of the journey, champions of life who endeavor to do great things accept and take calculated risks because they understand that those risks are a necessary part of the journey.

But perhaps the biggest risk we take is to not risk at all. When we hesitate, flounder, hold ourselves back and concede our dreams to the ‘practicality’ of life, we risk never really living the life we were meant to live.

I know this, because it nearly happened to me.

As a young kid, my eyes were constantly drawn skyward to the dreams of flying as a pilot in the United Stated Navy. It was my burning passion. And even though it was something to which I felt intrinsically drawn, several people of influence in my life thought I was not cut out for it; that I lacked the mental focus or the academic skill sets to achieve such a lofty dream.

When you are a kid, hearing from teachers, coaches, friends and family that you are ‘not good enough’ for your dream, you begin to believe it after a while. And I almost didn’t answer the call. I almost bought in to what other people wanted for me.

But instead, I decided to risk.

I joined the Navy right out of high school. I was equipped with the “I’ll show you” gene that many teenage boys have, and mine was particularly strong when it came to wanting to fly.

However, the US Navy—the very institution from whom I wanted to fly—told me I wasn’t cut out for flying. Wasn’t pilot or officer material. Wasn’t good enough. And despite applying six different times for the navy’s various programs, I was denied every time.

What do you do when the entire world tells you ‘NO’?

You risk again.

This time I left the job security and steady paychecks of the military and went to work doing menial jobs. I saved some money, took my G.I. Bill, and went back to college.

I risked everything I had left. Would I get accepted into flight school or would I get rejected this time—this final time?

I rolled the dice. The same dice you have. The same dice we all have. The dice of our dreams. The ones carved from our passions, our calling, our true purpose in life.

It is damned scary tossing those dice onto the craps table of life; watching them tumble randomly from our palm. Watching them roll to a stop. And then, with a pause that seems to last an eternity, fate enters the room. A fate we dictate–not through hopes and wishes–but through hard work and persistence.

It comes from risking, and throwing that goddamned dice until it lands where we want it.

For me, it took almost 20 years before my dice landed in Corpus Christi, Texas on a warm Friday afternoon in September of 2001, just days before the most fateful morning in our nation’s recent history. And my dice came up reading “Mission Accomplished”. For I stood on a stage in a large auditorium, one of a few dozen men and women who had survived almost two years of arduous training where nearly eighty percent of our classmates would see their dreams of flight fall short forever.

That risk—that long list of risks—finally paid off. My childhood dream of becoming a US Naval Aviator came true. My fate sealed. All because I dreamed. And planned. And schemed. And executed. And failed. And persisted.

I risked.

You have everything you need right now to accomplish anything you want. It really comes down to a simple decision. And that decision most certainly will open up a series of other decision, much like the “choose-your-own-adventure” books we read as kids. And after all, isn’t that what life is: an adventure?

The greatest risk you’ll ever take is to not risk at all. You risk never achieving the dreams you hold dear, and perhaps the calling and the purpose you were placed on this planet to achieve.

Risk. Risk often. Risk now. You deserve the rewards.

Visit JT’s Website. Get Flight Plan to Success. Click HERE!