I’ll admit it straight off, I was a sheltered young man. Maybe not so much by others or my upbringing, but really by myself. I have built a strong “play it safe” mentality that I am steadily dismembering into something more realistic and hopefully a little less predictable.
Step one: Do it to learn it.
I have always been a prep/plan/prep type of gentleman, rarely moving forward on something until I felt I had all the necessary resources and contingencies developed to assure my success. This can be a good thing, but it quickly turns into analysis paralysis and then the ball never begins to roll. Nothing happens. So I am dedicating myself to just jumping in and trying things at the edge of my comfort zone, turning it into a bit of an adventure, and learning from the almighty DOING process.
This last weekend was my Baylor University room-mate and all-time great friend Matt’s 29th birthday. The simple version: get outside. Be together. Don’t have too much of a plan.
We compiled an array of sleeping and clothing items, not cross checking for duplicity, just shoving it all in to bags. Our first stop resulted in a questionably large number of beers and a minimal amount of sustenance, but at least there was something to cook over or in a fire.
Men like to boast about their efficiency, but in all honesty we moved about as fast as a herd of cats. An hour late to our drop-off zone, We finally slipped into the water and began our journey downstream.
The trip was perfect in its imperfections. We could have had a plan, but the truth is that the outfitter ran late and so we would have been hurrying for nothing. Was the food a gourmet feast worthy of a Bon Appetit cover story?
But it was sublime all the same.
As we meandered with the current we would take frequent stops along the way and just play. A game would emerge like the flame from a match and suddenly there was wholehearted enjoyment with nothing more than a tennis ball or a frisbee.
Thanks to Adventures Unlimited for the outfitting!
Each sandbar was something new, thoroughly scouted for its camping potential. Each bend introduced a new set of jokes and a fresh pile of laughter. A tipped boat became a legend instantly, and what was a detrimental accident became an epic retelling in about 5 minutes.
I don’t really think you can plan these things, nor are they as rich when you do. There is some great mystery in spontaneity. We learn a lot by being in the moment and responding to each thing as it comes. I spent hours trying to hack the best method for paddling, and we all perfected the art of reheating old hamburgers over an open flame with no utensils other than sticks. How many times in a week do we do this? Take enjoyment in learning something simple?
You learn by doing. Not by planning to learn.
If you don’t begin experiencing simple and novel things, then you can’t build the habit of responsively learning from whatever is in your way.
Thanks to outfitters and state parks, we have the chance to enjoy this kind of thing with far greater ease than we think. Opportunities to jump outside and into the moment abound. I’m working hard to integrate this into my professional life as I make the most of an opportunity that appears rather than trying to constrain my day strictly to the task list.
The same goes for procrastinating. I will generally put a project off until I know exactly how it needs to turn out, but it’s really not until you dive in that you begin to see the vision. I think “starting” is becoming more important to me than “doing excellent work” because if you don’t get going, then the latter is doomed already.
But still, do great work.
As I realized, yet again, on this trip. It can be really fun to learn this way, and isn’t nice to enjoy something as it is, in its actual form, rather than as you imagine or perceive it?
As we heard from the mouth of a young and tepid canoeist, under his breath to his brother, “Paddle you dum dumb!”. Sound advice, actually. There is a time to chill out and let the current take you, but there is a time to get behind it go some place. There are things to see and we can’t get there just sitting on our haunches, waiting for some guide to come along and get us going. Be prepared, yes, but don’t prepare at the expense of starting. Seth Godin said it well,