“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” ~ Frederick Douglass
I spent my weekend skiing at a resort that was new to me. It’s been a long time since that was the case for me, and I had forgotten how much it helps to rely on ski maps until you get your bearings somewhere new on a mountain. So, my friends and I studied the map, picked some routes, and targeted a few areas we were interested in experiencing. One thing struck me wherever we went on the mountain, though. I kept seeing signs that pointed to the easiest way down. Now, I know that if I had been on the beginner slopes, I would not have seen those signs; but because we’d decided to spend a fair amount of time on advanced terrain we saw plenty of signs that offered an easy way out.
Those signs are crucial on a ski mountain. Sometimes, without a map, you end up somewhere that might require more skiing skills than you actually possess. To keep yourself from injury, you need to find the easiest way down. But, the more I reflected on those signs, the more I realized that perpetually taking the easiest way down can do more harm than good. I only became a better skier when I began trusting myself and taking some risks on tougher slopes. If I had not been willing to let go, ski a bit faster, and believe in my abilities, I would still be stuck in the same rut, too fearful to venture out.
I work hard to show my boys that growth only comes through taking calculated risks, branching out, trying new things, and being willing occasionally to look foolish for a while while you work towards improvement. Most of the strides I’ve made in my life, the goals I’ve accomplished and are most proud of, have come only as a result of overcoming a struggle. Many things that have come too easily feel unimportant by comparison. And, the things I most worried I would not be able to do yet eventually accomplished are my happiest memories. If you look at a difficult task square on, have doubts in your ability to surmount it, and yet plug right along until the goal is reached, you truly are rewarded. If you’d asked me ten years ago if I could ride my bike 150 miles in two days, I would have flat out laughed. Yet, here I am with two MS150 rides under my belt and a third one on tap for this summer. I won’t lie. The last 7 miles on those 75-mile days are rough. But, once I roll under the finish gates, I feel such intense joy and strength. I know I can do anything. I am invincible.
Without struggle there is no progress. The easiest way down will get you where you need to be. No doubt about it. You can continually travel the same well-trodden path and live a perfectly adequate life. You won’t get anywhere but through it, but you’ll do fine. But if you can accept (or even seek out) a challenge or struggle now and then, you will grow beyond your wildest expectations. While I appreciate the tips on finding the easiest way down, I think I’ll keep pushing my boundaries for a while and see where I end up instead.