Life is full of paradoxes. One of them is that only when we don't have something do we truly appreciate its value.
A few examples:
When we’re sick, just being healthy is a cause for joy.
Only when we lose someone do we fully understand how much they meant to us.
If we sleep on the ground for a week, returning to bed is like floating on a cloud.
The absence of something reveals its value. And the opposite is also true: having something causes us to lose sight of its value. Following this train of thought, if we have everything all the time, then we can appreciate nothing. And contrarily, if we have nothing, then we can appreciate everything.
This is my second annual review, a sort of yearly glance at the map to better understand where I've been and where I'm going. Looking back at last year's review, it seems I hit seven of the eleven goals I set for 2016, which I'm quite happy about. If I'd fulfilled all of them, I think that would mean the bar was set too low.
This post is a bit more of a plot summary of my life, rather than lessons or ideas taken from it that I usually share. However, I tend to enjoy a bit of background information on who writes the things I read. If you do too, read on.
I met Steve “Boomer” Santistevan because, like him, my life was saved by the staff of Phoenix Children's Hospital. I had an infection of the fluid surrounding my brain and spine, causing a brain-damaging stroke. Boomer had a brain tumor that was supposed to be the end of him. Yet, there we were—still breathing and more alive than ever before. We were the embodiment of the best possible outcomes of our afflictions. I woke up from a coma and made a full recovery. Boomer defied death, miraculously navigating the narrowest path of survival through dozens of brain surgeries.
Hanging onto the fringes of life and peering over the edge changed us. For us both, life was no longer a struggle, but a gift. We knew there was no such thing as the "daily grind." Every day was a miracle. And anyone who might disagree just didn't understand.
We also found purpose in giving back to the non-profit children's hospital that saved our lives. I chose to ride a bicycle across the United States as a fundraiser. Boomer ran marathons, walked, and participated yearly in the Ignite Hope Candlelight Walk at the hospital, a moving experience I regret not sharing with him.
We all have goals, ambitions, and dreams we'd like to reach in life. We think about them often. We imagine ourselves as masters of this or creators of that. But how often are we just dreaming instead of doing?
I was paddling around in a kayak the other day and realized kayaking is the perfect metaphor for our ambitions in life. In a kayak, paddling is everything. If you want to go somewhere, you have to paddle to get there. Without consistent strokes of the paddle in the direction you want to go, you're merely drifting at the mercy of your environment. You'll never get to where you intend to.
In a kayak, wishful thoughts of your destination might keep you going, but will not get you any closer. The stroke of the paddle is all that counts. Life works the same way. If you know you want to go in a certain direction, master a skill, or pursue anything, it takes consistent, deliberate action.
We began in the middle of the story. Though our beginning may seem like the beginning, it wasn't. We tend to think with storyboards that span the length of our lives—birth to death, beginning to end. Such a storyboard is a bit small, though. Much happened before we arrived and much will happen after our departure.
In regarding the start of our lives as the beginning of all that composes them, we overlook what has come before us and tend to forget that what came before is—get this—almost entirely responsible for our reality today.
It's not just inventions and material advancements of the past that built the physical reality we were born into. It's all the ideas conceived in the past, from democracy to evolution to economics. Logic itself was birthed by the Greeks and handed down through time to us. The language we were taught and the words contained within it allow us to express ourselves but also limit our self-expression to the words those of the past made available to us. Human behavior, expectations, our interpretation of reality... almost everything we know and do stems from those who came before us.
I'm jet-lagged and have to run to catch a bus across the south island of New Zealand soon, but I want to pin down a beautiful thought that's been bouncing around my head the past couple days.
In the history of humanity, traveling has never been so damn easy. Think about it: you could be almost anywhere on the face of the earth in a matter of a day or two. This weekend, you could snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, walk the Great Wall of China, or drink a Guinness in Ireland.
This might seem normal to us, as we were born with this privilege, but looking from a larger perspective, it couldn't be further from usual. For hundreds of thousands of years, we humans could only travel as fast as we could walk. Eventually, we figured out how to tame and ride animals that were faster than us, which sped things up a bit. We built ships, and bold explorers crossed uncharted oceans with wind power. However, nothing comes remotely close to the ability to travel we have today.
This is not an article, it's an experiment. It takes about ten minutes. It will make you think about how narrow-minded we all normally are and will leave you with a profound, overwhelming sense of possibility.
Interested? Grab headphones, a pen, and a blank piece of paper. Not grabbing said ingredients? Don't bother reading on.
Nobody can hand you your pot of gold. There is no magic pill, no trump card we can play in life that wins every time.
Every once in a while, I pick up on a certain dissatisfaction in readers, readers of this site and other sites that I read. They're dissatisfied because they want the answer, not a way to go about finding it. In their search, they encounter ideas, strategies, and guidance, but all they want is the end product. The solution to their predicament without the work. No matter where they search, nobody seems to be offering it.
On such a quest we may look to carbon copy others' successes, only to find that what worked for someone else doesn't work for us. Unlike Steve Jobs, it's no longer the 1970's, and we're not friends with a Steve Wozniak who's building an electronic device that could revolutionize the world. Unlike Tim Ferriss, we don't have a bestselling author like Jack Canfield to advise us in writing and promoting our first book. I've been told that I'm lucky to have almost died at sixteen years old because it gave me such a powerful story for my cross-country bicycling fundraiser.