What is behind our educational presentations at schools throughout New England? We are told many times and in various ways that the most important part may be that inspired students and staff are often more motivated to believe in themselves, set goals, manage obstacles, face adversity, utilize problem solving, enhance perseverance, and many more positive methods of managing life as a result of our time together. This is no doubt part of why so many schools invite us to return regularly to speak with students year after year. It is also why we are inspired to give our best effort to connect with more students and schools.
But in order to accomplish this, we need your help.
We rely on those who are familiar with our presentations to share the opportunity with teachers, administrators, PTA organizations, or simply anyone connected with the process by which a school might consider bringing us to visit. We are launching a new website very soon but the links will remain constant and the basic process is well defined such that simply sharing the link with a word of encouragement might be all it takes to provide the opportunity. We suggest our For Educators page.
Sharing our site accomplishes a significant part of the need in helping more people become aware of the opportunity we provide. A second and equally important need involves the many volunteers who help Autumn and me arrive at our destination for these presentations.
We keep a private Facebook page for 2020 Vision Quest Volunteers in which I post each opportunity and allow the approved drivers to choose if they are available. I would welcome as many of you as are able to consider joining the group to enhance the possibility of those rides being available to make the school visits possible.
There are many people who have kindly put themselves on the list, but with so many visits throughout the year, we are often in need of more volunteers to manage the diverse timing and locations of these opportunities. I also keep a (presently short) list of email contacts in the event the one post to our Facebook list fails. It is worth mentioning my friend Rick Pereira has chosen to be a fail-safe plan and thus has accompanied me to more school presentations than anyone else through the years. Without his invaluable service, our ability to deliver our presentations would be significantly more challenged.
There are several people who have been tremendously supportive in this fashion and if you are unable to join the Facebook group but would be willing to join my list for emergency outreach, please drop me an email and let me know how I might reach out to you in such a situation.
Ultimately, we are confident in the benefit of our presentations and will continue to strive to ensure we provide a positive enhancement to the students and schools as we have done since our inception. As we work towards our peak potential in helping more, we always celebrate the value of team–Together Everyone Achieves More. With your help, we can powerfully realize that and work towards an excellent year ahead. I hope you’ll join us in some fashion, including helping us boost the signal by sharing this post as widely as possible.
Braveheart was the last movie I ever watched with sight remaining in my eyes. The landscapes capture my memory still even if the historically divergent Hollywood script was not the source of my early love of the land. The imaginations of my youth fed the adventurous spirit of my later years and I’ve long wanted to hike the highlands, feel the castle stones, hear bagpipes echo off the munros, taste the sea spray of Fingal’s Cave, smell the peat of Loch Ness and so much more from this ancient land. Tracy and I attempted to make as much of those dreams reality in our whirlwind tour of the country.
We landed in Edinburgh airport and walked out into a courtyard of shops with an energy belying the overnight flight without sleep. It was a quick walk to an easy rail which smoothly and efficiently cut through city blocks towards our hotel in Haymarket Square. Tracy noted all the personal gardens and shared garden spaces throughout the city as well as an abundance of green space. Temperatures were cool and comfortable, a tremendous relief from the oppressive heat and humidity of London and our home in New Hampshire. The lyrical language around us was a delight to my ears and it was with considerable discipline I did not continuously try to emulate the accents.
We had two days to appreciate Edinburgh Castle, including a marvelous walking tour. The “crag and tail” of castle rock provides iconic placement atop the city and “Game of Thrones” fans would find little difficulty in the likely origins of the Lannister homeland of Castlerly Rock. The “Fringe Festival” was in full swing with music, theater, and comedy throughout the city in celebration, ensuring Autumn’s work along the Royal Mile was all the more impressive for the crowds gathered. We did not get to hike to Arthur’s Seat to experience some of the oldest signs of humanity in the city but Facebook informed me which of my friends had been there recently!
Off to Sterling Castle, we encountered one of our few disappointments as the all too popular tourist destination had absolutely no parking and we experienced it only from a distance. Deanston Distillery salved our spirits with a tremendous lunch and tasting and we did ultimately replace Sterling with the Eilean Donan Castle later which was one of our more tremendous castle experiences.
First though, we had to travel through the Cairn Gorm. This mountain range is similar to the White Mountains in height and wintry ferocity with a bit more remoteness preserved. Though the weather was overcast, the contrast of these open field mountains to our own wooded summits was noteworthy and common throughout Scotland. Arriving to Inverness atop the Great Glen we crossed the river Ness and found our hotel on the shores of Loch Ness.
Scotland’s mountains were carved impressively by the glaciers during the ice age and the resulting dramatic landscapes are truly remarkable. The Great Glen runs through to the west side with the Caledonian Canal using the route for travel. I was impressed by the deep smell of peat and Tracy’s reports on the darkness of the lake which combined tremendous depth and peat to hold a haunting sense of the unknown. It is small wonder the legend of the Loch Ness Monster lasted so long. The ruins of a castle destroyed in the Jacobite rebellions provided a haunting ruin over the entire scene even as the immensity of the lake stretched well beyond sight.
This stop was our gateway to the Highlands and we set forth the the Isle of Skye through incredible Highland hills. The heather was in full bloom and we constantly used the lay-by traffic stops to capture photos or take a short walk in the beauty and splendor which surrounded us. Sheep grazed everywhere with enormous stretches of road without sign of habitation. We just marveled at the rugged beauty of this land as the mountains plunged deeply and rose sharply with waterfalls and twisting streams in full view due to the open landscape so rare in our New England hills. Rounding one bend and dropping steeply, the ocean of the west side of Scotland emerged pressed tight to the mountains we were within. It was here we found the castle of Eilean Donan, popularized in the United States for its use in the “Highlander” film. With more than 2,000 castles in Scotland, few are so well maintained as this gem and we toured through it with the staff encouraging me to take advantage of the tactile offerings of many artifacts on site.
Our half-way point brought us to the Isle of Skye, an absolutely enormous gift in the Highlands. We spent a few nights here nestled in an inlet of Sleat at Eilean Iarmain. Surrounded by the ocean on three sides with the peaks of the Cuillin Munros visible around us. There was a lighthouse adjacent to mark our way although we spent much of our time travelling the immense island.
First we traveled west to the edge of the Black Cuillins and a hike to the legendary Fairy Pools. The water crossings had some challenge but the climb was worth the spectacular views our camera could not capture on this cloudy and eventually rainy day. The series of waterfalls and cascades were remarkable and Autumn delighted in her most technical of the generally easy hiking work. At the end of our climb we found ourselves within a few miles of Talisker’s remote distillery and availed ourselves of their spirits before travelling to Portree. A tour to the northernmost point on the Isle of Skye included a stop at the infamous Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls. Of course a bagpiper played in the background as we stood at the windy point and marvelled at the scene. Later we found the ruins of a Clan MacDonald Castle which marked the wind-driven point atop the island. It was here Tracy commented on the absolute vastness of the entire island. The sky seemed limitless here, the mountains immense and unending, the ocean again vast beyond measure. With gusting winds making it hard to stand, let alone walk, it was easy to feel humbled by the land upon which we stood for so brief a time.
All too soon our time took us away from Skye. We traveled to Glen Coe and what many feel is one of the most beautiful valleys in all of Scotland. While more renowned to some for the massacre of 1692, it is the beauty of a valley surrounded by mountains from the three sisters on the southern end to the technical ridges of her northern end. We feasted at a hiker’s lodge adjacent to where Hagrid’s hut was located in the filming of Harry Potter. Appropriate since I was in a magical fantasy trip of my own.
Our effective final stop was Oban Bay, a beautiful port south of Skye and suddenly the best weather of our trip. It is worth noting we did not find Scotland precisely rainy as many might suggest. It did rain at times but mostly it was a quick spritz of rain in one place or another while half a mile further was sunny and beautiful. Occasionally it was full sun for a rain shower. In New England we say if you don’t like the weather wait a few minutes and it will change. In Scotland they say all the seasons in a single day and that showed to be true, though we never saw snow while we were there. Oban was a beautiful sheltered Bay and it was our launch point for a three island tour of Mull, Staffa, and Iona.
Mull, like Skye was immense and we took a bus tour across it to see the many glens, munros, and forests which comprise a seemingly separate world. On the far side we could see the pink granite quarry briefly before boarding a smaller vessel to sail us to Staffa. Autumn’s work in these transitions was solid and the crew and passengers always marveled at her work. Her true work came on the tiny island of Staffa where the walk to Fingal’s Cave was the most difficult of our trip. A guide wire lent stability for me to make it safe but her patient warnings kept me striding where many thought it unlikely for a blind person and guide dog team.
Last winter the final section of ledge leading into the cave mouth collapsed and while we were able to view fantastically the incredible basalt column cave of historic fame, the sounds which inspired so many were lost to our ears as the crashing of the waves into the cave did not return the echo of legend to our more distant point. Tracy’s awe was more than uplifting enough to make the trek worthy and as we scaled the perilous stairway to the heights of the island again as a testament to Autumn’s prowess we crossed the island to unrivaled views. The puffins had left just two days prior and Tracy was sad for the miss, but invigorated by the freedom of our stroll across the grassy top of Staffa island. Here is where I will most remember the taste of the ocean and the scent of Scotland as my girl guided me in the sunlight high above the Hebridean entrance to this land.
Staffa is the Norse name for the island, meaning stick or staff. I did not use a blind cane on this trip, as Autumn was my link to a freedom of travel beyond what I find with that stick. Scotland was a symbolic freedom of travel as well. In the film Braveheart, William Wallace’s father says “Your heart is free, have the courage to follow it.” Reflecting on yet another excellent adventure, I am so appreciative to have such wonderful dreams and the courage and patient determination to follow them.
“Many miles away there’s a shadow on the door of a cottage on the Shore of a dark Scottish lake.
– Walter Scott
Autumn, Tracy and I will soon tread upon the highland hills of Scotland! This trip has been a lifelong dream for me. One of the many lessons Tracy helps me realize is that a goal without a plan is only a wish. Riding to a presentation several months ago, she surprised me with a text message enticing “Want to go to Scotland?” She knew the answer which was a resounding yes and I’d guessed airfares alerted her it was within our comfort range, and so the planning commenced!
Thanks to the knowledge of our veterinary team at Mercy Animal Hospital in Merrimack, the complex coordination required to bring a Dog Guide into the United Kingdom has been managed. Taking this trip with Autumn will be remarkable in ways many of our prior adventures didn’t allow. While her faithful devotion is without question, we will begin in Edinburgh for a couple of days where high on my list of places to tour is the home of Greyfriars Bobby. This unprecedented story of dog dedication will be a heartwarming start to our trip. We’ll explore castles and culture for all too brief a time in appreciation of auld lang syne.
After a few days, we’ll travel north towards Inverness and a stay on the shores of Loch Ness. Several short hikes from our base there entice me, including a couple which tribute some of the splendors so aptly described by the Bard of Scotland, Robert Burns. I hope to stand overlooking the waterfall and feel the inspiration which inspired him to write Lines on the Falls of Fyers. Too short a time to hike in the highlands, we’ll take solace in our travels to the Isle of Skye and the magic of the Fairy Pools, Cuillin Mountains and ocean serenity for several more days of relaxation.
Finally, the port of Oban promises scallops the size of tennis balls as a partial prize for the culmination of our trip. We will take a tour of three islands into the Hebrides and particularly to the Isle of Staffa and Fingal’s Cave. This acoustic gem has been on my list to hear, smell, and even taste. I’m sure Autumn and Tracy may have their eyes and ears tuned to the puffins who inhabit the island, but for me voices older than my time took inspiration from the thin ledge upon which I’ll stand to hear the siren song of this cave and to let my own song echo into its depths even for the briefest of moments.
All too soon we’ll be boarding planes to return to New Hampshire and our home. We’ll have more tales to tell although the greatest story is the one we’ll share in our experiences together there in that far off land.
I love synergy: the working together of two things to produce an effect greater than the sum of their individual effects. On August 26 at 10:00 a.m., I will participate for the Future In Sight Knights as we take on the NH Fishercats in a competitive game of Beep Baseball at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium! Our game will be a warm-up for the Fishercats who will later host the Binghamton Rumble Ponies at 1:30, but you can join us for our game, lunch, and their game as part of a fantastic Sunday Summer extravaganza!
What is Beep Baseball and how will our blind/visually impaired team possibly have a chance against this professional baseball team? No, we won’t be using our Guide dogs as secret weapons–though Autumn did love her meeting with Fungo, the mascot for the Fishercats who have partnered up with Future in Sight to help us accomplish several worthy goals in support of each other.
My teammates and I all derived significant skills and support from Future In Sight, including an emphasis on “Ability Awareness.” The notion we can achieve with a little creative problem solving is at the heart of the training and services provided by Future In Sight as they help ensure people experiencing low or no vision can participate in the life enriching activities we all deserve–and this Beep Baseball game is a great opportunity to showcase it at a very high level as we take on professional athletes in this grand event!
I first played Beep Baseball for the “Lowell Lightning” back in 2002 and 2003. It’s baseball, or more closely softball, with a few different twists. The ball has an electronic beeper within it so it makes a noise that a batter or fielder can hear and use to react accordingly. All participants will be wearing full blindfolds so that everyone will be on the same sight level as me, no light perception, total blindness. The one exception to this is the pitcher is sighted and is on the same team as the batting team, trying to make the pitches easier to hit rather than more difficult.
When the ball is hit, there are only two base options, effectively first and third base. As soon as the hit is made one of the two bases will being beeping and the batter must hear which one and run towards that base. The object is to reach that base before the defensive team in the field is able to get control of the ball. If the runner reaches the base first then it is a run. If the fielder gets control of the ball in their hand first, the runner is out. This prevents blind runners in the field of play with blind fielders, a recipe for collisions!
There are typically sighted coaches in the field who are allowed to make simple number calls to help the fielders decide who will field or back-up an incoming hit but otherwise it is solely managed by the sound. Based on the speed of the ball, a fielder will typically get themselves in front of it and lay across the path to halt it and wrap around it as quickly as possible. Knowing whether to charge towards a slower ball, back up for a quicker ball just get down in the right place is the largest challenge to fielding.
There are many tips and tricks I hope to keep for my teammates as we face this professional team, but what is our edge over these talented athletes? Most of us are familiar with very low or no sight and should make some of the sound based adjustments fairly well. For the Fishercats it will be an untypical experience for them to switch to an entirely audible world. Do they have the advantage? I expect their swings to be smooth and strong, their pitching precise and their coordination excellent. This makes us the obvious and easy underdogs, but Autumn knows we like to achieve the unexpected.
I hope you’ll come out and watch a historic game, a fun game, and get a whole new perspective on baseball, ability awareness and the benefits of organizations coming together to make a difference: synergy!
As we wrap up a busy weekend I found myself happily reflecting on our day yesterday, sharing a simple hike with lovely lake views with many members of our Peru team (Randy, me, Greg, Jenn, Michelle, Robbie, Brent, George and Loren) and a member of our Kili team, Maureen, who was unable to join us last year.
What I was reminded of as we hiked through beautiful woods and rock slabs overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee was how each person we traveled with seems to fill a different void whether it is Randy as story teller and connector, Greg as instigator encouraging us all to reach for some amazing new experience, or any number of others offering words of support, humor, fun and love along the trail. This is what it is like to bond with people over shared challenges
and this is why our group means so much to me. Certainly those who were unable to join us were sorely missed and we look forward to planning our next adventure.
It seems unfathomable to me that it has not even been a year since most of us shared the challenge, beauty, and thrills of our Peru adventure and so I’d like to reshare a post that was put up a few weeks after our return. Please enjoy this great blog of our Peruvian adventures!
On Friday, June 29, 2018 I rather enthusiastically rapelled down the 24 stories of the Brady-Sullivan Tower in Manchester, NH as part of the United Way Live United Over the Edge 2018 event. It was absolutely exhilarating from start to finish. We had a send-off ceremony on Thursday in which several of us had the opportunity to say a few words to the message and meaning of coming together in unity as this event promotes. So many charities, often competing for support in challenging times, provide essential training or support despite facing tremendous adversity. The real adversity is most commonly faced by the people who benefit from the mission of these 22 charities who united with a host of volunteers, donors and others determined to help us boost the signal of positivity, need and opportunity.
Following Governor Sununu’s speech, my own words highlighted how fortunate I felt in having received training and support when I was in in need. I often speak about reaching for our Peak Potential and the endurance we need to reach our goals in the context of my many mountain summits or marathon work. The reality is that at times we all may find ourselves plunging unexpectedly downward and we sure want to know a safety line is there to help get our feet back on solid ground again. This is why most of us are willing if not even eager to go over the edge to help those in need and welcome the help and support of all those in a place in their own lives to lend a little support in various ways to that effort. It is why I will always be proud to do the things which I can to help our world come together a little better.
Our 2020 Vision Quest work, thanks in large part to an incredible team and a very caring community, has come together quite well this past year. As school has ended for the summer session we can appreciatively share our school presentations have now reached over 71,000 students in schools throughout our region! This year alone we proudly donated more than $98,000 to the charities we support that provide essential visual impairment training and services to thousands of people experiencing sight loss. As this independence day celebration denotes our eighth year since the inaugural hike of Mt. Washington and many have encouraged me to capture the story of my life’s journey in writing. On June 26, I handed the final draft chapter of this book in for edit work to fully commence with a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. This of course leads many to ask when it will be ready and while we do not know for certain at this point, the intent at this point is to reward attendees of our 9th Annual Peak Potential Dinner and Auction to the first release of the book! Have you got your ticket yet?!?
Amidst all this hard work, is there any time for relaxation or celebration of the achievements? You bet! Autumn has been completing her work for international travel so that she can take Tracy and I on a trip I’ve been dreaming about for most of my life. This August we’ll be heading for a 10 day tour of Scotland! While this will most certainly include a little hiking in the highlands, it’s a mostly relaxation oriented trip which will allow me to visit Greyfriar’s Bobbie, Fingle’s Cave, the Faerie Pools, Loch Ness and many other wonders of a country which has longed called me to visit! You see, part of going over the edge is to ensure we give support to ourselves and find the recharge needed to keep our efforts strong for many years to come.
“Mankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking and its greatest failures by not talking. It doesn’t have to be like this.”
— Stephen Hawking
In honor and celebration of the incredible life achievements of Stephen Hawking, I chose the above quote to lead this week’s discussion. Communication is a double-edged sword for certain. Like so many tools, it is in the manner of use by which its effect for positive or destructive influence is most commonly achieved.
I prefer to advocate for healthy communication with an equal intent for open minded listening and sharing. To that end, I heard an inordinate amount of praise for his work stated in the rough form of “he was incredible despite his disability.” I suspect the intent there for most was to denote that without question his disability provided additional challenges which he also seemed to manage with seeming grace, dignity, and success.
The praise I mentioned did not suggest he was a brilliant mind for someone in a wheelchair, which would have a much stronger negative resonance, but it does have a hint of that suggestion, which is why I adjusted the semantics to showcase it. Stephen Hawking was a brilliant person with an incredible legacy. His resolve and perseverance through adversity were similarly admirable and commendable. They are separate statements.
I share this because I often hear two diametrically opposed reactions to various accomplishments in my own life. The first is the often well intentioned but rather limiting expression of: “great achievement for a blind person.” This suggests that as a blind person, I should perhaps be judged by some lesser standard. If the accomplishment is noteworthy and deserving of the commendation, it is received far better without the qualifier.
I obviously understand my blindness does enhance the challenge of many things and there is at times a desire to express that as part of the statement which I’ve heard done effectively many times. It’s a matter of the approach to the words and expression which, to be fair, are likely unique to each situation. I simply suggest that thoughtful choice is valuable in these times.
The second counterpoint is a similarly well intentioned incredulity at the most simple of accomplishments. Frequently, because of a challenge, there may be a desire to set extremely low expectations. As I shared at a recent presentation at LL Bean, after hearing of my hiking experience, marathon running and Tough Mudder undertakings, it is difficult to hear someone express appreciation and awe that I am able to tie my own shoes!
As someone who strives to reach for my peak potential and to encourage similar in others, I want to set expectations higher and reach for them without the mindset of settling as a consideration. Whether by lack of exposure or education to what is a reasonable possibility, those who make such hyperbole of the most modest achievement can leave me feeling insulted even knowing it was likely not their intent. I want to ease my frustration and enhance the communication to address such things through this blog and my direct interaction at the time.
With that spirit in mind I also want to suggest this attitude for all of us facing any challenge and do so with another final quote from the mind who inspired today’s discussion:
“My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically.”
– Stephen Hawkins
“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” —Thomas Jefferson
“Nothing will work unless you do.” —Maya Angelou
I loved the feeling of running a healthy and happy Boston Marathon in 2015 and have had several excellent marathons, mountains, and moments. I’ve also had some setbacks recently including the November 10th dislocation of my right ankle which has me a little behind the ideal training for April 16th and my fourth consecutive Boston Marathon. I want the successful and enjoyable experience I know is out there and I am willing to work for it in all the right ways, but I need a little guidance to help ensure it happens.
Turn your wish into a plan if you want to turn it into reality. I’ve had quality run coaching from many sources such as the Gate City Striders and my personal friend and coach Greg Hallerman. While run training was required to be on hold by my doctor for full healing of the ankle, I turned to a highly recommended local physical trainer to help me strengthen my core without risking my ankle. Chris Brown of “Endurafit | Online & In Home Personal Training” worked to customize all the workouts to my goals, around my injury and with respectful consideration of my sight, balance, and neuropathy challenges. I put a fair bit of extra consideration and his work and my results have shone.
While I obviously highly recommend the work he provides, the primary point I’m raising is how valuable it is to find the right guide for the right occasion. This is true in all facets of our lives. It is true for my finding someone with an excellent understanding of exercise physiology and a high drive to customize appropriately for my goals.
Each weekly session begins with a review of any concerns, problems, or updates to my immediate past, present, or future plans. This has become especially important as I have returned to running and began to increase the intensity of my runs. In fact, even the simple process of my recovery icing strategy was tremendously improved by Chris’s knowledge. His ice-water bucket and revised stretching program made the most notable improvement to my recovery of any part of the healing process. It is the flexibility of planning interlaced with the deep understanding of physiology which I simply do not have at his level that I can see bringing me towards my goal.
As Maya Angelou suggests, there is plenty of work involved to make things happen. As Thomas Jefferson suggested, though, ensuring we are working in the right way to get our goals is important. If you are struggling to achieve a dream, consider not just how hard you are willing to work but whether you might find a little guidance to better target the goal.
Einstein suggests it is the very definition of insanity to keep doing the same thing and expect different results.I think it’s a deeper concern to not reach out with a different plan to achieve the results we really want, whether they are fitness related, personal, career or even purely social. It is so easy to want to depend upon ourselves and certainly there is plenty for us to do in any approach. I just choose to work smarter as well as harder on the path to success and fortunately I’ve found some great guides along the way!
The enthusiasm for January’s resolutions may have waned and many people find themselves particularly poised for a preponderance of stepping back on all those commitments. Quitting doesn’t call to just our New Year’s Resolutions — it’s something we can face commonly throughout the year and our many undertakings. I don’t even want to count the number of times some of my training runs find me wanting to quit or the frequency with which my schedule feels overwhelming. I suspect most people feel this way frequently. What surprises me is how many times after a presentation someone asks a question which suggests the perspective I don’t feel this way or that I don’t succumb to it. In reality, I stepped off the course at mile 17 in my very last marathon.
I do, however, try to adhere to a few approaches which make it easier to avoid quitting and I’ll share a top five tips with you here for consideration.
Proactive solutions are always the best. As such, when I am adding a new goal or commitment to my life, I frame it as an individual addition with an intentional trial period. The temptation to add multiple things at once can lead me to feel overwhelmed and the resulting drop of all those things together. By adding things individually they can be managed individually, so we are less likely to quit everything and more likely to remove the actual thing that is too much. In fact, we are more likely to detect when we are approaching too much and ease off before we get there.
When I add something, I have a reason for adding it. I actually make a record of the reason I have chosen to add it to my schedule. This speaks to the purpose behind my choice. When I am evaluating removing something, I similarly write my reasons for wanting to remove it and then find my original reasons. I compare those and that helps me determine if I’m “quitting” or making a better life evaluation. If the original reason is still more powerful for doing something, it often renews my motivation to continue.
When I know I don’t want to quit but I’m feeling like quitting or even hearing the voice of my mind trying to tease me into quitting, I mindfully give myself a new and different thought to hold my focus. In the case of running, for example, when I’m tired and I think how good it will feel to stop, I deliberately think about how good it felt to finish previous races, I imagine what the finish of this race will feel like, and I use that distraction of a positive nature to push back the negativity of quitting.
Procrastinate procrastination! By trying to establish a habit of doing the difficult thing right away, I don’t leave myself too much time to consider quitting. I’m busy doing before I can get to thinking about not doing it.
Often I feel we sneak into quitting by having put doing something off multiple times until we’ve established a habit of just not doing it and we have quit almost without intention. My use of a schedule is part of how I evade this trap. I put what needs to be done onto a schedule and while there may be a reason I need to move it or choose not to do it, I refuse to allow myself to not do it until I’ve rescheduled it within my time constraints first. For example, if I have a training run at 8 am and a friend wants to meet me for breakfast, then I either move my run to a time before then, or later that same day when I know I’m free and able to run. I do this before I allow myself to say yes to that friend.
Obviously there are many more practices which any of us can use as strategies to keep us earnest and honest on the things which are important to us. Finding the ones which are effective and sustaining them long enough to make them habit (21 days is often suggested) leads to a more effective method of quitting quitting. Ultimately, nothing will stop us from doing the things we truly want to do — but life sometimes is made better for us by doing things which are important to us and yet we fall victim to less ideal habits which we actually do hope to quit.
“The problem I had, and I suspect a lot of people have, is that you sometimes give yourself the illusion of moving forward without actually moving forward.” – Matt Landry
As many of you know I’ve been working on my own book project for longer than I’d like to admit. It is going acceptably well at this point after a series of unreasonable delays which have disappointed me and frustrated me at various times. A friend of mine shared with me words from Stephen King suggesting that if you truly want to write, nothing will stop you.
I met Matt Landry indirectly as a result of our mutual appreciation of hiking. We crossed paths a few times including a marvelous afternoon last summer. I’ve been a fan of his on social media as his kindness and wisdom shone very brightly. Thus I was determined to read his newest book and share with all of you.
What a delight I found in the journey he shares with us! It’s far more than a journey through the 48 although I did some reminiscing of my own hikes while reading. It’s a journey of goal setting and moving our life forward, upward and onward.
1) This isn’t your first book and the choice to become a writer has come later in your life. What inspired you to publish initially and what was the motivation behind writing this book?
To make a long story short, my main goal in life is to make the lives of others easier. About 3 or 4 years ago I decided to go back to college to work towards my Human Services degree. In doing so, I took an English composition course, and with the encouragement of the professor, I decided to write a book. She saw a value in the way I wrote that I couldn’t see in myself. Writing a book was an excellent vehicle for serving my purpose of changing the world for the better.
The motivation behind the initial book “Learning to Be Human Again,” my first, was that it was drawn upon from a series of journals I had written about ten years ago while going through a major depression. One of the biggest lessons I learned was to in order increase my self-worth and limit my regret was to learn to simply be myself. The true “me” that was created to shine in only the way I knew best how to do before the World told me who I thought I should be. I thought others may have benefited from a book like that.
For the current book “Forward, Upward, Onward,” the motivation came more from just wanting to achieve a major goal and to see what I was made of, and again, maybe helping someone else do the same in the process. I had a lot of fun writing this one, and hopefully, it shows. It was good to re-live a lot of these hikes again while I was organizing and writing the book.
2) I used this quote as the lead into the blog and I wanted to ask if you would elaborate since I rarely get to ask the source of a motivational quote to enlighten us directly. While you do this wonderfully in your book, perhaps you can give us the abridged insight for the blog: “The problem I had, and I suspect a lot of people have, is that you sometimes give yourself the illusion of moving forward without actually moving forward.”
That quote has to do with a mindset and lifestyle that I lived with for most of my life, and I feel I’m not alone in that concept. The example I used in the book was that if you buy a book about how to speak Italian, it still doesn’t allow you to speak Italian unless you open it up and read it and practice the information inside. The same goes for music lessons. How many of us have bought a guitar, then let it sit without picking it up, then wonder why we can’t play it? Another great example that ties in well with this New Year is a gym membership. How many of us pay a monthly fee, and don’t go, but having a membership makes us somehow feel like we do? Or that paying monthly will somehow alone make us magically physically fit?
Having the mindset of the completion of a goal in your head is crucial. You need to believe and imagine you are running the marathon, passing the course, making the money, or climbing the mountain before you even step out the door. The problem I had was the walking out the door part. I had imagined the goal of hiking the 48-four-thousand-footers having been completed so much and so vividly, I was almost convinced that I had. The problem was that I actually needed to climb them in order to say I had.
It’s no different than losing weight, quitting drinking, starting a new career, or, well, writing a book. There comes a point when you need to stop talking and you need to do the work. I had that epiphany during my 48 peaks goal, and it made all the difference in the long run. Stop waiting for tomorrow, stop talking about it, and stop dreaming. Do the work.
3) You share many appreciative points of kindness in your book, including some sent in my direction–thank you for that. I’m curious what was one of your favorite responses you’ve received from those of us who are so appreciative at your choice to share so much of yourself and your insights with us in your books? Is there a favorite comment, letter or expression of appreciation you’ve received which you can in some part share along with why it has such meaning for you?
With all due respect, the kind words said to me by friends about the books or my insights mean the world to me, but it’s the strangers, the people who I have never met, that mean a little more to me. Although the encouragement of people I know is an important part of my getting these books done, it’s the connection of making a difference to those who I don’t know that goes a long way in motivating me.
Back to the question you asked, I have no specific notes of importance that outweigh another, but I’ve been blessed to get enough of them to help me realize that I’m on the right path right now in what I’m doing. Encouragement of any kind is always a great fuel, isn’t it?
4) While we are on superlatives, you cover many high points and low points of your journey in the book so I’ll leave those there. I’m curious if you have a high point to share in the writing process for either of your books?
In writing, I go with an almost fits and starts method. I will say that a high point in any writing project, especially a longer one, is the final edit. In my case, being a new writer, I also found another surprising high point was getting your book back from the editor and reading through it, to see how they were able to make it flow better. A good editor can make your words truly come to life. That was a surprising aspect of this writing journey I’ve been on. I thank goodness I didn’t release anything that someone wasn’t able to take a good hard look at first before I put it out there. You get so encapsulated in what you’re writing sometimes that you lose the forest for the trees about the story or concept of the book that you’re trying to convey. It’s nice to have that second set of eyes to set you straight or to let you know that you’re in the right direction!
Hiring an editor alone was one of the smartest things I may have done in writing a book. I learned more about my writing in general than any classroom could have taught me. I originally thought I was hiring an editor, what I didn’t know is that I was really hiring a teacher!
5) Any thoughts on what we might expect next in your writing world?
I currently have three projects in the works. My next will be a “Landscape Photography for Beginners” due out early February. In late April I have “Learning to Be Happy Again,” which is a series of 25 tips, habits, and tricks to live a happier life every day. And finally, I have a book based on my travels and lessons learned in the southwestern United States years ago due out at the end of the summer of 2018.
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