I currently have a job where I manage people. In case you didn’t know, that means my work-life is filled with instability, wildly swinging emotions, and tons of drama. And, I’ll admit, I haven’t always been enjoying this roller-coaster of feelings over the past few months.
But here’s the thing: I actually do love roller-coasters. My wife and I always go out of our way to make it to amusement parks. And we’re in our 30s! I would not say that’s a common past time for people our age.
More broadly, I love adventure. I love the excitement, the ups and downs, and the unexpected turns of the path from here to there.
As an example, this is one of my favorite pictures:
My wife and I are hiking in a rainstorm on the Olomana Peaks in this photo. This trail connects three summits formed by a narrow fin of rock that rises a thousand feet above the surrounding valleys on the windward side of Oahu. The picture doesn’t show it, but the drop is several hundred feet on each side. Near the top, you have to scale a vertical section that’s about 15′ high, either by free-climbing or using a weathered rope that’s been there for years. It’s a pretty exciting path! Since we ended up hiking it on this day in the rain, we really weren’t sure how the hike would go. And we had so much fun!
So why don’t I always enjoy the adventure of work in the same way?
I think the difference is with physical adventures, I know it will all work out: that everything will be okay. I know I’ll make it to the destination. When it comes to a hike, I trust myself. I know I can always keep walking, and I know if I keep going I’ll eventually get where I’m trying to go. Or, if not, it probably wasn’t a good place for me to be. When it comes to the outdoors, I’ve been in difficult situations before, and I’ve always found my perseverance and ability to be enough. When I’ve turned back, I wasn’t unhappy with the decision.
Because of this, any excitement or difficulty along the way just makes for a more vivid memory and a better story. Knowing my adventure will work out in the end gives me more enjoyment, both of the excitement of the present moment and the unexpected turns along the way.
When it comes to the emotions around work, I don’t have as much confidence. I worry, deep down, that I will not be sufficient to the tasks I’m trying to do. That my effort will not be enough. Or that I’m heading to the wrong destination, working hard but going to the wrong place.
So I’m reflecting today on the silliness of this story I’ve been carrying.
The belief that my ability and effort may or may not be enough, and that I might not ever be happy in my work, is a choice. But it isn’t one that serves me well.
Imagine hearing the same thing about a hike:
- “What if we don’t make it to the top? What if we don’t have enough energy or equipment or skill to finish?”
- It’s alright: we can always try another day–perhaps when we’ve trained a bit more or the weather is better.
- “What if we’re heading up the wrong summit? We get to the top and it’s not what we expect?”
- It’s alright: we can tackle the next adventure another day–and we’re sure to enjoy the journey!
I would smile with my friend and tell him not to worry. We have time. Great adventures are built on strong, humble foundations. Our hike today will make us better whether or not we make it to the top, and–if we let ourselves–we’ll have a great time along the way.
Then we’d keep walking, and we’d probably find ourselves somewhere incredible sooner than we expected.