Dumb Quotes

 
Today I’m starting a new series on the blog called Dumb Quotes. I have plenty of quotes, mostly pulled from my book, What Next, and some might just be dumb. Someone will read a quote of mine and think it’s brilliant (I hope) and someone else will think it’s ridiculous. Of course I’ll be using other people’s quotes in this series because I’m confident that mine are just fine the way they are.

This series will point out quotes I think are ridiculous. The sentiment might be worthy but the quote itself is just plain silly. Today I’m starting with one that you would probably think I like a lot because it references a topic I’m fond of, hiking. I talk a lot about paths and obstacles, about the importance of creating your own path and understanding that obstacles are not to be feared but are a natural part of every path.

BlockedPathMy dumb quote of the day (or week, or month, depending on how often I write these) is “If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere” by Frank A. Clark. First of all I have no idea who Frank A. Clark is and I have nothing against him personally but I have seen this quote a few times on Twitter so why not start here?

What’s wrong with this quote? Well if it’s a path then by definition it leads somewhere. I’ve hiked many a trail without any obstacles and I’ve gotten somewhere.

I get it though, I do. If the journey isn’t difficult the destination probably wasn’t really worth it. Struggle is a part of life and we need to recognize that those struggles make the goal so much sweeter. The other thing about this quote is that obstacles aren’t the only thing that build character. The trail itself could be wide, flat, and straight – in other words easy, or it can be narrow, steep, and full of switchbacks – a real struggle. There might not be any obstacles whatsoever but it can be the most difficult path you’ve ever been on.

Do you have some dumb quotes that you find more annoying than helpful? Post comments below to add yours or tweet me @askwhatnext and use hashtag #dumbquotes.

 

 


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Recapping 2012 Part 2 of ???

 
Looking BackThe second installment of my look back at my 2012 blog posts features a common theme for me, hiking. Hiking is a great metaphor for life as the journey is often more important than the destination. Another category this post deals with is leadership. We all vary from follower to leader and back again depending on the situation.

This post also features Adam (@ajm5338 on twitter), the person I mention in the post below, who has indeed taken the steps necessary to reach the goal we spoke about at the event I attended early in 2012. I hope that Adam has a moment to stop by and fill us in on his progress.

Be The Trail Guide

Whether you are beginning your working life or are looking for a change, you have more choices than you realize. Choice is not an either-or proposition, however. You can decide to go to work for an established company, a big corporation, or you could set your own path, be your own boss. You could also do both if you want to.

Not too long ago I went to an event at a bar in NY organized by Andrew Warner of Mixergy.com. The event was a mixer (of course) where entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs got a chance to talk and share ideas. I met a guy who just recently (six months ago) joined the workforce after graduating college. The thing that was interesting, though, is that he was already anxious for more. He was looking for his what next. The experience he was getting was valuable but he wanted to create something. There is no reason he can’t do both, continue getting great experience while creating something new.

Being at the event was a step in the right direction but to be an entrepreneur, he also needs to be a leader. He needs to be able to get others to follow him, to believe in his mission as much or more than he does himself.

Entering a palm oasis

Leading the way.

He is like a hiker setting off on a trail others have been down before. Anyone can be a hiker but a leader is a trail guide who knows their way. In this case, only the entrepreneur with the idea, the sense of direction, can lead their team of hikers.

Is it enough to simply declare yourself a leader, the trail guide? No. You have to demonstrate why you should lead, you have to give as much as you get. The authority is not yours to claim but is earned as your enthusiasm and belief in the project lights the fire of those you want to lead to success.

Now get out there and explore the trail so you can be an effective guide.

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Momentum Requires Endurance

Asking What Next is being aware – of opportunities, of your surroundings, yourself, of lessons in every day activities. I often talk about hiking and believe it’s a great metaphor for life and so is cycling. When I need to de-stress, a bike ride almost always does the trick. I call it mobile meditation. I’m not alone in that concept either as Tara points out in a recent tweetchat called #spiritchat (Sundays 9am ET hosted by Kumud Ajmani @AjmaniK).

WindWhen I’m on the bike I enjoy riding hills, the up and down is similar to our struggles through life with easy days and hard days. My least favorite aspect of a bike ride is when it’s windy. A headwind is like a perpetual hill but worse – your mind is telling you that it should be easy because the road is flat but it’s as hard as a steep hill.

There is no such thing as perpetual motion, you have to take action to keep rolling forward otherwise friction, from wind, the tires on the road, or hills, will slow you down and eventually stop your progress. This requires endurance.

Quite by accident, I kept Tara’s tweet about meditation in my favorites, but it’s a funny coincidence because she hosts a TweetChat of her own called #UBUsensations Tuesdays at 7pm ET and the most recent topic was endurance. Endurance fit so nicely with the ideas in this post I decided to include some  tweets from that chat.

Shelley defines endurance by tweeting:

Endurance Defined

When I’m on the bike riding into a head wind I appreciate the idea of endurance as I push through the difficulty and continue pumping my legs, knowing that this will eventually end or maybe turn into a tail wind. It’s what we all do with so many things in life, a job we’re unhappy with, a relationship that’s on the rocks, a new business we’ve started. Greg had an interesting take on endurance saying:

Endurance 2

Another coincidence is when Tara asked, “What similarities do you see between Entrepreneur/Leaders and Endurance Athletes?” This fit so nicely with my cycling analogy and Jennifer had a great response:

Endurance 3

Whether on a bike or in life you must keep moving to maintain momentum – there is no perpetual momentum without work. Do you have the endurance necessary? Of course you do, but you have believe it and carry on despite adversity. With a bit of patience and some stubbornness you can keep your eye on the prize and do whatever is necessary. Believe it – do it!

 


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Don’t Look Down

 

Fear is a bad thing right? We tell children not to be afraid of the various things we know won’t hurt them, the dark or monsters under their beds. As adults we try to rid ourselves of fear like the fear of public speaking or the fear of failure. Some of us are afraid of spiders and other creepy crawlers, while others are afraid of heights, which is a fear of mine. You probably can’t tell from this picture however.

Climbing higherFear has its place as an important emotion, a reaction that can save us from a bad situation or from doing something stupid. Being confronted by a robber, fear is a natural response which heightens our senses so we can react fast enough to avoid a tragedy. The term healthy fear indicates that, in moderation, fear is good for us.

I often feel limited by my fear of heights as my wife Julie is able to walk to the edge of a cliff and see what I can’t because I’m standing twenty feet behind her, my knees weak. With enough time and a gradual increase in comfort, I’m able to get past the fear and do things like you see in the picture to the left. Believe it or not, however that is relatively simple compared to what I faced in the picture to the right.

I enjoy hiking and climbing, I don’t believe in obstacles and want to be able to go through or over them to discover new things, see new sights. I want to remove limits, especially self imposed limits. That’s why I’m up there climbing that sheer cliff, to face my fear (for any climbers out there that was only a 5.2 climb – for non-climbers that simple, relatively speaking).

Our climbing instructor, Robert, was great and understood the role fear plays as we challenged ourselves to push past the anxiety. “You can’t overcome fear,” said Robert, “you can only manage it.” And that’s when it struck me, the word manage is so crucial to everything we do. There is very little we can control but we can manage quite a bit.

As I climbed higher and higher, with only the slightest of footholds, the fear was there. I wanted to quit, to be lowered down by my belay partner, and wife, Julie, who had my life in her hands, but I pressed on. It reminds me of a story my father told me about the first time he ever water-skied, “I was too afraid to fall, so I didn’t” he said. I can completely relate to that now.

I was successful on that climb at managing my fear. On the second climb however I was not as good a manager and psyched myself out, opting to quit half way up. One step forward, one back. Next time, and that’s part of managing your fear, next time, I took two steps forward.

What fear are you willing to face so that you can learn to manage it?


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The Last Hike

 
DANGER

As we pulled into the parking area for the last hike of our vacation, most cars were leaving. It was 75 degrees at 8am and the day would only get hotter – Julie and I love the heat but it can be dangerous hiking in the desert in midday. We’re experienced and carry enough water or at least we think so. When we get back to the car with the last drops in the the last bottle it makes us think we cut it a little close.

There is a difference between risk and foolishness. Foolishness would be attempting a hike like this without the proper preparation, without knowing and respecting our own abilities. I see so many examples of bad preparation in daily life that it makes me wonder why people don’t approach such difficult and dangerous feats such as retirement planning with as much care as they would a hike in the desert.

COMFORT

The temperature was expected to reach 90 degrees but we’ve hiked on hotter days. The trail would be in direct sunlight the entire way there and back. The first mile would only get us as far as a picnic area used by people walking their dogs or looking for a spectacular lunch spot without much hiking effort. Once past the picnic area we head down into a wash – a dry, sandy riverbed that, during rains, can fill with water running off the mountains. After a mile or so in the wash we reach the beginning of the trail that will take us up and up and up and over until we reach an oasis.

This early part of the hike seems quite easy and can lull an inexperienced hiker into a false sense of confidence that may lead to disaster later if they push beyond their ability. People have needed to be rescued from this area because they ran out of water, misjudged the difficulty, overestimated their ability or all of the above. Life seems easy sometimes too and similarly lulls many people into feeling they can afford more than they really can or that they have more time than they actually have.

STRUGGLE

As the trail heads up we are at 117 feet above sea level and will climb to 2,331 feet in about 2.5 miles, a steep climb. The steepest parts are at the beginning with lots of switchbacks, winding sections of trail meant to alleviate the need to climb straight up. We stop often to admire the scenery, catch our breath, and drink water or Gatorade. When we begin moving again the familiar crunch, crunch, crunch of sand and rock beneath our feet is one of the only sounds we hear.

As we begin our adult lives, our careers, it sometimes seems like a slow climb to nowhere, twisting and turning from one job, one responsibility to another. It’s not a race but some of us linger a bit too long in one place as the sun sucks us dry. We can feel alone sometimes, the sound of our effort the only sound we hear.

DETERMINATION

On our entire hike we only see five people, four of which were going in the opposite direction back to their cars to get out of the heat, we continue on.

Persistence and perseverance may be good traits to have as we fight heat and fatigue, challenging ourselves, but we may be setting ourselves up for disaster. Knowing the difference between persistence and foolishness can mean the difference between life and death. In life, persistence and perseverance are also useful traits but maybe they keep you in a bad situation longer than you need to be, or blind you to a better option. Sometimes it’s not only acceptable but smart to stop, turn around and even quit.

PERCEPTION

Looking up, the landscape seems quite stark and barren but there is a surprising amount of greenery interspersed in the brown rocks. Cacti are blooming and the bright purple and yellow pops out at you, the red tips of the blooming ocotillo are another sign of survival in this harsh environment. Yellow flowers on the creosote bush brighten the brown tones of dirt and dust. The aroma as you pass the creosote bush is delightful invoking memories of camp fires and BBQ.

The desert is full of life as plants and animals uniquely suited to the extremes of heat and dryness not only survive but thrive. What one person views as an impossible situation, a mountain of debt they can’t emerge from, a marriage they can’t stay in, a job they can’t stand, others see or search for opportunity. Willing to give up enough lifestyle some among us will get out from under the debt, with enough confidence in themselves some will leave the bad marriage, with determination and drive some will find a new job or new career. In the desert that their life has become they find a way to survive and then they can thrive.

THE DESTINATION IS NOT THE END

Finally our destination emerges in the distance as we round one last peak and see the palm trees in the oasis. Though we can see it, there is still more hiking to be done. The reward will be shade from the sun and a cool place to eat our lunch. The goal however is not the end of the journey as we have to turn around and make our way back to our car. The time we spend in the oasis is a pleasure but there is still work to be done. We have managed our resources accordingly and didn’t drink more than half of our water supply and conserved enough energy for the return trip.

Too many people think of a goal as an end when it’s really only the middle. The goal of a new job or promotion is followed by more work, the goal of getting out of debt is of no use if you simply fall back into the old habits that got you into the debt to begin with. Once a goal is reached a new one is set – that’s called progress. I learn something new about progress on each hike, that the journey itself is rewarding, that there’s always something beautiful, colorful, and inspiring if you just look for it, that a reprieve is usually temporary and that struggle is a part of the trip, and that goals are simply steps along the route to success.


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Proof: Curiosity Necessary for Success

 
A central theme in What Next is that curiosity plays a large role in success but what did I base that on, what made me so sure? My own curiosity has led me to explore various hobbies and businesses and the people I look up to as examples of success all followed multiple paths as well.

I look for validation and confirmation of my ideas and yesterday I read an article by Christopher Bergland on PsychologyToday.com that did just that. Mr. Bergland, a world class endurance athlete, writes “Recent psychological studies have confirmed that staying curious is not only the key to maintaining a sense of wonder and appreciation for life – it is the key to your success.” I concur!

In his article, Mr. Bergland points out that conscientiousness also plays a big role in determining a person’s likelihood of success. “The combined personality traits of being curious and conscientious were found to be more important than intelligence in predicting success,” writes Bergland.

Sophie von Stumm an author of a recent study on the subject of curiosity and conscientiousness says “”Curiosity is basically a hunger for exploration.” This is very similar to the hiking analogy I use throughout What Next. The curiosity that leads you to venture off the main trail can often lead to new discoveries, discoveries that would have remained hidden if you weren’t curious enough to explore. Of course sometimes those detours take you nowhere but nothing ventured nothing gained as they say.

Exploring the desert

Exploring what’s ahead


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The Present Makes the Future Possible

Flying back home from Los Angeles to New Jersey I flew over my rental property in La Quinta, CA and looked wistfully at what will be. Below me was a future that the present is making possible. My present job, my present saving, my present investing is all designed to get me there sooner rather than later.

La Quinta, CA“There” is more than a place, La Quinta, it is a lifestyle, an active lifestyle of hiking and biking, of exploration and discovery. “There” is a place to meet new people and sit around a fireplace talking and sharing. “There” is a place to be awed by nature, to wake up each morning with scenery out of the most beautiful art you can find.

The first leg of the flight, right after takeoff, took us over the ocean, another place I look forward to spending lots of time. The ocean reminds me of the concept I write about in What Next, the concept of the lack of barriers.

Barriers make us feel hemmed in like a car on a road. On the ocean a boat has complete freedom to move in any direction the captain wishes. That kind of freedom is what many people search for all their lives, what I am working toward right now.

I’m on my way home to continue the work of creating a future I dream of while living a life I love.

What is your ideal future, and what are you doing now to make it a reality?


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Dead end

I say in the book that “discovery comes when you look in places not easily seen” and my justification for that is all the cool things I discover hiking. When I go “off trail” I usually find interesting things such as views I would not have found on the main trail or a waterfall not mentioned in the guide books.

I do most of my hiking on vacation and yesterday Julie and I were on a hike that started in a wash (as many hikes do). Washes are sandy areas that can have running water during heavy rains. When they are dry they are difficult to walk in because your every step sinks into the sand. Sometimes we’ll try to stay to the edge of the wash where the sand is, well, less sandy. On today’s hike we stayed so far off the wash that we ended up going off course. We figured as much but continued on expecting to find a shortcut or maybe something better.

In one sense you can say we did find something better. What we found was the kind of hiking we really enjoy, rock scrambling. Rock scrambling is when you have to climb over rocks rather than just walk on a trail. The farther we went the larger the obstacles became and the higher we climbed. Convinced we were heading in the right direction we pushed on.

At some point we started to doubt if we would end up where we wanted to but still we continued, the promise of something wonderful propelling us forward. Finally the decision had to be made that going further was futile. We turned around and made our way back.

Here we are (thanks to my less than stellar photoshop skills) having lunch in the shade, the much needed shade, after deciding that this particular side trip wasn’t leading anywhere.

That’s what being curious is about sometimes. It was nice to explore and we did have fun but it really didn’t lead anywhere. That doesn’t mean that it won’t the next time. Not every side trip leads to something amazing but never trying always leads nowhere.


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Curiosity Leads to Cool Places

 
Be curious. That’s my advice for success. Maybe you won’t be rich or famous but if you’re curious at least you’ll never be bored.

Curiosity has led to great things. Everyone is talking about Steve Jobs, posting quotes and videos and my contribution to that was a quote from his famous Stanford University Commencement Speech: “Much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.”

Curiosity led me to write a book. I don’t know how many people will buy it or read it but it’s something I had to do. I use hiking as a metaphor for life in the book. When hiking you can follow the trail markings and stay on the main trail all the time and still have fun and see some amazing things. But when you’re curious, you venture off the main trail and discover things most people won’t see.

Julie and I read about these caves in a hiking book and set out to find them. Along the way we found a shortcut that involved a little climbing but the challenge made it even more fun. For those of you will only a little time, the caves starts at 3:25 into the video.

What cool places has curiosity taken you? Share your story by leaving a comment below.


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Life is like…

 
Make your own pathI haven’t been hiking in a while and I miss it. My favorite place to hike is the desert. The landscape and scenery is surprisingly diverse. One hike in particular took me from a low elevation scorched by the sun and heat to cooler, higher elevations among evergreen trees and snow. It was an amazing lesson in change and adaptation. Not only did the vegetation change the higher I climbed but so did the wildlife. I also had to change as the clothing I wore at the beginning of the climb, in the heat, would not be sufficient as I continued to a much cooler, even cold climate.

In order to be prepared for the various conditions the hiker must plan ahead bringing the proper clothing, enough food and water to name a few things. Another aspect of preparation is the conditioning that is necessary for longer, more strenuous hikes. Without planning for the change in climate or the difficulty of the hike you are at risk of failure, and failure at such an endeavor can prove fatal.

The hiker must also be honest with themselves and respect their limitations. Each hike builds upon the strength gained in previous excursions as you push a little farther each time. The distances I could go when I began hiking were significantly less than the distances I now travel. The equipment I carried early in my hiking was an indication of my lack of experience and over confidence. The equipment I now carry shows growth in my level of expertise as well as my respect for the endeavor. None of the following were in my pack on early hikes but are now: flashlight, heat blanket, nine volt battery, steel wool, and much more.

All these points have equivalents in life. The landscape of life is diverse indeed with incredibly hot times and very cold times and each of us has to be prepared for that change. People come and go from our lives as we continue on our path but each of them affects the direction we take. In order to be prepared for the different climates, and the difficulty of the journey of life, we have to plan ahead (but most don’t). The more we experience in life the more we can handle, just as a hiker who travels one mile can go two miles on their next trip. In life we need balance. We must be honest with ourselves, willing to admit when we need help but confident enough to test those limits. The packs we carry throughout life become heavier as we add new tools to aid us, but we should scarcely notice as our strength increases as well.

Life is like hiking, not exactly the same, but there are enough similarities that I use the hiking analogy throughout the book. Where will your hike take you?


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