Who could imagine the opportunities awaiting us if we are bold enough to leave the illusion of safety on the known path? Concerning myself with pursuing some destination of purpose, an elusive moment of enlightenment, or a feeling of perpetual calm is a fool's errand. It leaves us chasing some mythical ghost, like a sea siren leading sailors to the depths of an abyss from which there is no exit. It's the belief that what we need is not already within us.

The truth is, all this is based on our perspective. We let others define and create the rules of our reality, creating the box we build our lives in. It plays into what success means on a societal scale; our society defines this prize as the material things we surround ourselves with: the car we drive, the house we own, and the amount in our bank account. It’s not based on having a fulfilling purpose, personal happiness, or a connection to our community.

It's only once you snap out of the spell of consumerism, comparison, and external competition that you realize the game can be played in an infinite number of ways. That game, you see, is life. The time between birth and death is the choose-your-own-adventure story. It’s in this section we have everything: all our experiences, exposure to thoughts and concepts, and where expertise is built.

The first draft of our lives is largely written by others. Where our soul arrived in this reality impacts this first draft entirely. Not just who your parents are, their jobs, relationships, access to education, ideas of success, religion, morality, and our sense of self-worth come from these unchosen experiences. This is further complicated not just by physical location but also by when we arrived. All the things we value, worship, and pursue are heavily influenced by the time in history. If you were born 50 years ago, you would have a totally different set of values, beliefs, and opportunities in the life you will live. This is all part of development and, like any animal, we need practice and guidance to create that first draft of self.

At some point, we choose to awaken and write the second draft of who we are. This is where we begin to test the edges, where we learn the consequences of our actions. Instead of harsh words or a smack from a parent, life delivers the course-correcting nudge. How we choose to listen to those nudges really determines what that draft looks like.

Do you hide away from anything that isn't pleasurable, convincing yourself you can't do this or that without first developing any of the skills needed to accomplish it? That voice desperately attempting to hold us to the first draft is our ego. The ego clings to an old identity like a life raft of safety in the sea of the unknown.

What separates those of us who leave the raft, curious to explore the uncertainty and see what comes from it, from those who build walls around that first draft as if it is US, instead of realizing it was created by experience?

It's a risk to venture out. You have to leave the safety of that raft. What will you find in the infinite depths of the sea of life? When we first leave, it takes time to realize we still float, we can learn to swim, and we can improve our ability to navigate safely away from the raft through experiences. One caveat is understanding that this exploration is, in fact, not safe, but nor is the raft. Both stories end the same way: with us fading away into the darkness that awaits all of us in death. This is nothing to fear.

Death is a guarantee and doesn’t need any more of your attention than acknowledgment that you are indeed on a collision course with it, whether you stay in the raft surrounded by those convinced the raft is the right way, or master the sea, visiting all the other rafts adrift full of different people clinging to them for different reasons (assumptions that what you learned in the raft is true) and at the heart of it the same reasons (fear of what we may learn).

As the old saying goes, “Ships are safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are made for.” Or, “Calm seas don’t make good sailors.” (I’m not entirely sure why I’m on a nautical theme here, but bear with me.)

Through experience, we learn what we are capable of. The only way to find this is by being tested, pushed to failure, and then regaining composure to devise a plan to try again. I have seen so many people try something outside their comfort zone with no preparation, take a beating, and convince themselves they aren’t that type of person.

I remember when I first started competing and training for the Highland Games in 2009, looking at the marks the pros were hitting and thinking, “HOW?” Specifically, being at a practice throwing the lightweight for distance, hitting marks about 68’. To be competitive as a pro, I needed to be throwing over 80’ consistently. Where was I going to find another 12’ on top of this? Over time, through experience, practice, and focus, I ended up breaking the North American record of 94’ 2”. Had I believed the lie I created, that would have been it. If I was focused on that number instead of progress, I would have never made it. It took thousands and thousands of throws to get there. It’s through repetition that I built technique, self-confidence in my ability to perform at that level consistently, and found opportunities to push my limits in the forge of competition. I stayed focused on improving and progress, and eventually, the mastery took care of itself.

Self-confidence to take risks doesn’t come from the safety of the raft. When you’re in the raft, your only option is to react to what life sends at you. The seas get rough, and you curse the waves, dreaming of smooth seas. You convince yourself that anyone leaving the raft is an attack on you instead of a choice to save themselves. When you take radical accountability for your life and leave this illusion of safety, you become a master of your reality.

Through this exploration, the universe exposes itself to you. Of course, there will be rough times. They are part of the beautiful flow of things. Rough and smooth seas both are part of the same ocean. Stepping outside of that raft, leaning into uncertainty, taking the best actions you can with what you know, and surviving unlocks the best parts of us.

It’s the harder path that reveals that the path is the great part, not the destination. It’s by following the unknown path that the next choice reveals itself. Quit sabotaging yourself with lies and start exploring. Find something that sparks curiosity and test your fortitude in both small and large doses. It’s through this we continue to write the story of who we are and what we are becoming. Not by just overcomplicating it, adding more to our lives, but stripping away what isn’t needed anymore. Eventually, you will die in the raft; that is certain, with a heart full of regret.

Personally, I have experienced this throughout my life, and it’s what shaped the man I am today. Without leaving the raft of safety, I’m not on this plane right now flying to Egypt with my wife and best friends. I'm certainly not getting the opportunity to travel the world and be paid for it. The version of me that stayed in the raft hasn’t written any books, doesn’t have unique perspectives of the world to share with my community and audiences, hasn't figured out how to keep calm in the face of stress that terrifies the weak, and above all else, doesn’t have the appreciation that I do for all the failures, fuck-ups, heartaches, losses, and previously lived chapters of my story.

I have no idea what the future holds for me. That is what I am excited about. I know to make the most of it requires my best to be available to navigate through all known types of problems I am sure to encounter.

Here’s to the unknown opportunities the universe will provide me for growth. I welcome the damage and the change that I will have to endure to get the most out of this life.

At death, people rarely regret any of the things they did; it’s the opportunities to live that they let slip away due to fear.

This will not be how my story ends. In this draft of my story, I choose to be the hero that saves my soul. As the final chapter closes and my life starts to flash before my eyes, I’ll be excited to take this ride again. Will you?

March 08, 2024