There are a few quotes that have always resonated with me. Thoreau had a good one about us only hitting at what we aim at. Therefore, he said, we should aim at something high even though we might fail immediately. Mix his words with Les Brown’s quote about shooting for the moon. If we do not make it to the moon, he said, at least we might land among the stars. I spend a good amount of time considering my aim in life. I also spend an equal amount of time considering the consequences of missing that mark.
Can you really lose if your aim is in the right direction? I don’t think so, and well, it reminds me of something Bruce Lee said: “A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.” These are some very encouraging words from Thoreau, Brown, and Lee. And though I do take a small amount of comfort in remembering them, missing the mark is still missing the mark.
There are a few things in this life that I feel called to do. Failure to do them, I believe, would haunt me into my next existence. And these are things that I do not do for the gold or the glory. Yet by achieving them, I believe I would find more wealth than on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
I remember my land navigation classes from the Army. You plot out your destination on the map and figure out how you are going to get there. You pull out your compass and find the direction you need to go. Sometimes obstacles get in the way, and you find yourself deviating off the path. Once you realize this, you adjust your aim and correct your course. The journey might seem never-ending. At times, it might seem impossible, but we have no choice to keep going. Keep aiming and adjusting because the rewards are too great. In fact, it is the only fortune worth finding.
Who doesn’t want to reach their goals? I know I do. And when it comes to goals, it seems like I have one for almost every area of my life. You name it, I probably have a goal for it: personal, professional, fitness, writing, financial, and spiritual. Yep, this list could go on. And though I want to conquer all of them, sometimes it is just not achievable. If I was a perfectionist, this would drive me crazy. Thank God I am not and no longer pretend to be. Instead of perfection, I am more interested in progression. Like the Taoist proverb says, “The journey is the reward.”
One of my main fitness goals these days has to do with rowing. I want to see how fast I can go and how high I can move up in the rankings for my age and weight. To reach my targets, I am rowing nearly every day. My mind is almost completely consumed with this and many of my decisions in other areas of my life depend on whether or not it will make me a better rower. Will I eat this or drink that? I don’t’ know, will it slow me down. Should I go to bed or can I stay up a little longer? Hmm, will I feel rested enough and be able to get up before 4 in the morning?
How likely is it that I can reach all my rowing goals? Probably not very, but I do know it won’t be from a lack of trying. And what happens if I don’t? My ego might take a blow, but everything else (fitness, discipline, nutrition, etc.) will be at a higher level. To progress in those areas without reaching my goal would still be worth it.
A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at. -Bruce Lee
I would invite you today to prepare your mind and ready your soul by choosing a difficult goal. Set your aim on it and make it all consuming. And then fire. Fire toward that goal with all you got. Fire with discipline, courage, and an unrelenting resolve. Keep firing. Keep hammering with all the physical and mental force you can muster. There are no cheat codes or short-cuts here, well except for maybe one.
I am a huge fan of fitness analogies! The process of getting your body into its optimal condition is the same process as getting your mind and your soul into their optimal conditions. In order to get better, you have to train. You have to give it the right nutrients. You don’t get stronger unless you work. To be a complete package and not a lop-sided three-legged stool, then you have to work your body, soul, and mind equally. These are the three pillars that must stay in balance.
Everybody is unique. The best fitness programs cater to our individuality. We look at the areas we want to do better in. We try to identify our weaknesses and make them stronger. We adhere to programs that will help us achieve our goals. Those who are constantly working on their bodies, are in a constant state of learning. They learn what works and what doesn’t.
In the same way we should be training our minds and our souls. We strengthen them through practice and repetition. We discover areas that need improvement and work to develop them. A person lacking courage can slowly immerse himself into controlled situations to overcome his fear.
What can you do today to become better tomorrow? Hone your strengths. Sharpen them and use them to your advantage. Identify your weaknesses and work at them until they are no longer holding you back from achieving the results you desire. We should be in a constant state of refinement. Like the chemist, we should be mixing and matching until we have created within us the perfect formula for our version of success.
Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own. –Bruce Lee
What have I learned from being on an assembly line? I have learned to be efficient. If not then I will struggle. Because if you are going to do a process over and over, 35-40 times in an hour, you want it to be as easy as possible. How do you become efficient? How do you minimize the struggle? You learn. You identify what techniques work, how to hold things, and which way to walk. Can you eliminate steps? Is there something that is difficult that can be simplified? Can you be an expert?
What should you do if you can’t figure it out, after all potential solutions have resulted in failure? The best thing you can do is watch and learn from someone else. There will always be someone who can do it better. I recently learned a technique from a 20 year vet that blew my mind, because I never thought of doing the process his way. He left me with some powerful words, “Why struggle if you don’t have to.” There has also been times when I have seen brand new associates do what seems natural to them and achieve success after only a few minutes when others have struggled for years to do the same process. What success can you achieve by looking at problems from different viewpoints and emulating others that are successful?
Growing up I didn’t know the power of having a mentor. It never occurred to me that true growth could be ascertained in this fashion. My development was often achieved through trial and mostly error. This approach wastes one of your most valuable resources: time. Take the wrong path, and you can spend years, even decades, trying to get back on track. The value of having a mentor guide you in the right direction is enormous. I wish I took advantage of this when I was younger. It is definitely something I will share with my son as he gets older.
So what am I doing with the things I have learned? Am I holding this knowledge for myself or am I sharing it with others? Leonard Nimoy said, “The miracle is this: the more we share the more we have.” How am I sharing? What am I doing to make a positive impact on the lives of others? Over the years, I have been sharing what I have learned in unplanned short conversations with colleagues. This in turn has led to a new venture where mentoring, through fitness and lifestyle choices, is the primary focus. This project is in its infancy and happened almost by accident. When my partner and I were brainstorming this concept with several other colleagues, we found that we had no shortages of volunteers who wanted to take part in our program. We let them know they would essentially be guinea pigs in our experiment, but they did not care. They wanted to change their lives for the better, and they wanted us to help them get on the path. Well, here’s to new endeavors. My hope is that our participants achieve the results they desire. My hope is that I can grow along the way.
My son, and any who chooses to listen:
The lips of the wise spread knowledge, but the heart of fools is not steadfast. –Proverbs 15:7