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 6 of ??

CyclistLike every year 2012 had times of joy, sadness, pain, euphoria and everything in between. Some would say it was a roller coaster and mean that in a bad way while others would mean that in a good way. I look at it like a bike ride with flat sections, hills, twists, turns, and wind all of which have their benefits and their costs. If there’s one thing I was certain about, I didn’t coast much in 2012 and that’s exactly how I like it.

Up Vs. Down

Up is good. Down is bad. I’d rather be on my way up than on my way down. It’s better when stock prices rise than fall. It’s better when things are looking up.

Being out on a bike ride yesterday in a hilly area, I’m not so sure up is good. Up is a struggle, up takes a lot out of you. When the road would level off, or better yet, point down, I could rest and even pick up speed without any effort. That’s called coasting and I think I’ve made my feelings about coasting clear, both in my book and in this blog post.

I’m not going to talk about coasting today, I’m going to talk about hills, working hard, struggling, and ultimately conquering the challenge.

Where I live, the roads are fairly flat so when I get an opportunity to bring my bike back to the area I grew up, with all the hilly terrain, I take it. That’s right, I actively seek out a difficult ride because I want the challenge, I want to test myself, my fitness, my determination. That is the difference between a successful person and one who coasts.

As I began the ride the first hill I encountered was a steady gradual climb, not too steep. I was surprised as I found myself downshifting much sooner than I thought, loosing speed quickly, my breathing becoming labored. If this was a sign of things to come I was in trouble.

Fortunately I was here before and I knew that this first hill was the adjustment hill, my body gearing up for the challenge ahead, the rest of my ride would be at a higher level of conditioning. A lot of people would become discouraged or maybe even quit at this point, but those who push on find the strength to continue.

I was gaining elevation on the entire ride out. Sure, there were some periods where I could rest, but the down hills were shorter in this direction. When I got to the 10 mile mark and turned around I had two things going for me. First, I had a tailwind instead of a headwind. Second, since the uphill sections were longer going, the downhill sections would be longer returning, giving me more time to rest and recover. That’s what I believed anyway.

With a headwind you feel it, you struggle against it as if climbing a hill. I call headwinds perpetual hills. When you turn around and the wind is now at your back, you don’t notice it, it doesn’t seem to aid you as much as the headwind hindered you. Doesn’t life seem like that sometimes, the struggles are so much harder, and longer than the good times?  I think that is because many people don’t consider the value in the struggle, don’t take the time to relish the accomplishment before moving on to the next challenge.

The same goes for those long hills up that are now just as long but much easier on the way down. The problem is that you’re going much faster downhill and they seem so much shorter than when you were going up. The anticipated rest is over before you know it and once again you’ve got to struggle up. By pedaling downhill you aren’t working as hard but you’re increasing your speed giving yourself a little more momentum as the next hill begins or as the road levels off. In life I find too many people stop pedaling downhill and don’t set themselves up for success.

Up is good but it’s also hard. The harder you work the more satisfied the victory. Are you willing to push yourself? Are you willing to seek out a hill?

 


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On a Plateau

 
Take OffThe imagery of success is up, climbing, reaching new heights, blasting off like a rocket. None of that can be sustained forever and we often hit a plateau in our lives, careers, our ascents to greatness. It is these moments when we can rest, regain our strength for the next struggle, the climb to the next level.

Why then does a plateau feel more like I’m stuck, like I’m not getting anywhere, maybe even falling backward? For someone like me I need constant stimulation, a What Next to work toward.

I saw a parallel to this over the weekend while on a bike ride in the area where I grew up. What makes this my favorite area are the hills. Where I normally ride there are no hills just flat roads like a perpetual plateau and for me that’s terrible.

I ride 13 miles through several towns ascending most of the way until I reach my highest point which also happens to be Bike Closeupadjacent to a mental institution (some say I’m crazy for liking the hills). At this point I turn around and cover what took me several minutes going up in just a minute or so going down, gaining momentum. Then I hit the flats, a plateau.

Another rider came along side me at a traffic light and we talked a bit and when the light changed we pedaled away. Typical of how things go on flat roads I was not able to keep up with him and watched as he got smaller and smaller as he rode farther in front of me.

The other rider reached the bottom of the next hill before me. When I got to the bottom I noticed I was gaining on him and as the road became steeper I was gaining more. I’ve always been strong on hills and I enjoy the struggle. It turns out that I like that in life too.

Do you view a plateau as boring? Do you like a challenge? When are you the most productive? Please share your thoughts with us.


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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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Up Vs. Down

Up is good. Down is bad. I’d rather be on my way up than on my way down. It’s better when stock prices rise than fall. It’s better when things are looking up.

Being out on a bike ride yesterday in a hilly area, I’m not so sure up is good. Up is a struggle, up takes a lot out of you. When the road would level off, or better yet, point down, I could rest and even pick up speed without any effort. That’s called coasting and I think I’ve made my feelings about coasting clear, both in my book, What Next, and in this blog post.

I’m not going to talk about coasting today, I’m going to talk about hills, working hard, struggling, and ultimately conquering the challenge.

Where I live, the roads are fairly flat so when I get an opportunity to bring my bike back to the area I grew up, with all the hilly terrain, I take it. That’s right, I actively seek out a difficult ride because I want the challenge, I want to test myself, my fitness, my determination. That is the difference between a successful person and one who coasts.

As I began the ride, the first hill I encountered was a steady gradual climb, not too steep. I was surprised as I found myself downshifting much sooner than I thought, loosing speed quickly, my breathing becoming labored. If this was a sign of things to come I was in trouble.

Fortunately I was here before and I knew that this first hill was the adjustment hill, my body gearing up for the challenge ahead, the rest of my ride would be at a higher level of conditioning. A lot of people would become discouraged or maybe even quit at this point, but those who push on find the strength to continue.

I was gaining elevation on the entire ride out. Sure, there were some periods where I could rest, but the down hills were shorter in this direction. When I got to the 10 mile mark and turned around I had two things going for me. First, I had a tailwind instead of a headwind. Second, since the uphill sections were longer going, the downhill sections would be longer returning, giving me more time to rest and recover. That’s what I believed anyway.

With a headwind you feel it, you struggle against it as if climbing a hill. I call headwinds perpetual hills. When you turn around and the wind is now at your back, you don’t notice it, it doesn’t seem to aid you as much as the headwind hindered you. Doesn’t life seem like that sometimes, the struggles are so much harder, and longer than the good times?  I think that is because many people don’t consider the value in the struggle, don’t take the time to relish the accomplishment before moving on to the next challenge.

The same goes for those long hills up that are now just as long but much easier on the way down. The problem is that you’re going much faster downhill and they seem so much shorter than when you were going up. The anticipated rest is over before you know it and once again you’ve got to struggle up. By pedaling downhill you aren’t working as hard but you are increasing your speed, giving yourself a little more momentum as the next hill begins or as the road levels off. In life I find too many people stop pedaling downhill and don’t set themselves up for success.

Up is good but it’s also hard. The harder you work the more satisfied the victory. Are you willing to push yourself? Are you willing to seek out a hill?

 


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