Public Victories

A few days ago I wrote a story on the concept of private victories. Today I will introduce the concept of public victories. After reading about private victories, one could think that public victories should be frowned upon, but no, not at all! A good idea is to mix both with diligence by evaluating what our statements are.

See, if we have a long-term dream like climbing Mt. Everest or to become a professional athlete we may want to slow down our horse and keep it for ourselves. At least we may want to wait until we get some momentum going towards our goals. We need private victories before public victories. It’s the same as cultivating potatoes. There’s an order to reap the crops! Once we have accumulated a few private wins, our confidence that came from investing ourselves in our endeavors will become our greatest asset when we decide to start sharing our ideas publicly. Actually, we may not even be sharing our ideas. By taking action we naturally bring attention to ourselves.

You see, once you let it out(or it gets known), you will now become the gate-keeper of your goals. You will have to defend them against people who are scared of your evolution, of your ambition or simply fend off hoards of haters. Now before we start sighing at all this opposition, remember that they become a necessary challenge. If you want it enough for yourself, you will manage. And one more point, if you know open and receptive individuals like mentors or good motivated friends then sharing your dreams and goals makes a lot of sense as they can provide you with encouragement. Do not underestimate the power of encouragement. Especially during your first steps. Just make sure you choose who you talk to carefully.

So why should we talk about our goals in public? Because saying something and setting out to do it is darned satisfying! It also helps us along the way when we feel discouraged. No one likes to lose face. At least not in terms of ego.

Hopefully, you will know when to keep ideas for yourself and when it is time to speak them out. This behavior is a great first step towards forging character.

Private Victories

Rocky doing his famous pose after his usual run, on his own.

It has come to my attention that whatever I speak to one friend gets told to my other friends who all sort of know each other. For example, I attended a friends marriage and the subject of my unemployment was brought up by a good friend of mine.

It was unexpected because I had told perhaps two other people about my wanting to become independent and to venture into more unconventional paths, if I may permit the use of this expression. A bunch of other occurrences like these happened over the course of a few weeks. These reminded of two things :

  • Talk about others as if they were present. This will help keep your integrity intact.
  • Don’t talk too much about ambitious projects with people who play it safe. This will help you avoid their disapproval.

I don’t mind minor hiccups, but it has made me more alert as to what I decide to share with some circles. I have been less open to certain people who have had the knack to sabotage or handicap me in subtle ways. As for toxic individuals, I have simply slowed down my meeting with them. Progressively doing this has been rewarded with a juicy amount of free-time to do more things that I like with people that I like.

What has stung the most has been my family. My father literally said : “I’m going to stop calling you because I don’t talk to people who do not wake up in the morning to go to work”.

I would make quick work of someone who acts in this way with me, but with my father I am trying to influence him because I would not like to see him be on his own. Right now I have simply avoided commenting on this with him, we don’t live together so this approach is simple and I am in no hurry of talking to him right now. If he wants to complain, let him complain, without me.

And so at this point I would like to introduce the concept of private victories. This idea came from a book called The Guide to the Good Life by William B. Irvine. It’s a book about stoicism and I did enjoy most of what it brought up. It is also a great work about stoic history. Essentially, mister Irvine suggests we make our changes, but with stealth in mind. Not to proclaim on the get-go that we have become stoic. He refutes that this will avoid you a lot of resistance, bitching and moaning from other people. I whole heartily agree. So if you have goals that can’t happen overnight, keep them for yourself and work at it. It takes discipline, but your actions will do the talking, I promise.

The Presidential Traverse

A little less than a month ago(August) I went to do the presidential traverse with a few friends. This trek is located in the White Mountains in New Hampshire state.

Overview of the mountains involved on the traverse

We weren’t really prepared. We started planning and reserving the same week we wanted to do it. I do not recommend doing so, especially if you plan on sleeping at a camp site the day before the hike. We had a hard time finding a campground we could sleep at for a night since everything was already booked for the weekend. After a few phone calls we found a place called Twin Mountain KOA.

Another problem was the weather. The weather around Mt. Washington is notoriously prickly. The forecast at the beginning of the week showed a beautiful weekend with clear skies, but as we prepared to leave we saw rain and chances of thunderstorms.

And yet another problem, since we were not doing a loop, so we needed a shuttle to lift us back to our car after our hike was over. We ended up paying for a shuttle from a trail angel service. It was a 100$ flat-fee. Split among 5 people this was very reasonable.

We packed our stuff and said “Fuck it, let’s do this!”. After driving for a few hours we arrive at the Twin Mountain campground. It’s about 8PM at night, but thanks to the summer solstice we still have the sun on our side. We are greeted by the campground manager and he quickly guides us to our camping area. I personally felt like the place was a bit too accommodating, but with such a friendly staff it is quickly forgiven.

Fire, Beer, Food, Yes.

As we start setting up our tents for the night we start a nice little fire and enjoy a few talks. There was a 10PM curfew, but after two mild warnings we keep on talking for a bit with lowered voices, enjoying sausages in BBQ dip. Fuck yes!

…Fuck no! One of us left the car keys in the car and locked all the doors! That’s right, everyone enters panic mode(I actually thought this was quite a funny situation to be in)! We spend some time trying to figure out what we were going to do. We had planned on waking up at 6AM to have a decent breakfast and head to the trail-head, but it doesn’t look like we would do that now. The campground manager comes back to see us for another friendly warning about shutting the fuck up and so I take this opportunity to give him a briefing on our situation. He says a garage owner living 5 minutes away has all the tools needed to retrieve our keys. I knew I could trust the American spirit(as a fellow Canadian I did not doubt one instant about our situation). The man would come to see us at 8AM though. So we were bummed, but considering our options this was a godsend.

The next morning we wake up from a good night’s sleep and pack up. At 8AM sharp we have the campground manager call up this garage dude for us. At 8:15AM we are back in the car ready to leave. Yeah!

Beginning of the Trek; onward!

We decided to drive to the Appalachian trail head north and go down south. The trail angel shuttle would pick us up on the next day at around 6PM since we planned on sleeping one night on the trail somewhere. Where? We didn’t plan for that.

And so we finally started the hike at 11PM on Saturday morning. I was exciting to finally start walking after spending half a day in the car, but I also remained conservative as I knew that we were only at the beginning of a trek that is considered difficult.

View from beautiful Mt. Madison

We had a good pace and reached Mt. Madison at about 2PM. We went 4000 feet up so we met a radical change in landscape features. From lush green trees to rocky terrain and strong winds.

BOOM! A panoramic view from Mt. Jefferson!

The weather was on our side so we briefly ate food and went towards Mt. Jefferson. This mountain was harder to ascend than we had anticipated. The rocks look like miniature boulders and we are challenged to a minor climbing exercise. I had packed light so it was a breeze, but for the rest of us, it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. One of us was an inexperienced hiker so we decided to distribute some of her weight to the rest of us who had a lighter load. We reached the top at 4PM.

This is where things went sour. After going over Mt. Clay at about 6PM we needed to find a flat spot to setup our tents for the oncoming night. Before starting the hike the ranger told us we would need to find a spot below tree-line. This made sense when we started, but after 10 hours of hiking we considered it to be a mad idea to go down one or two thousand feet down to find a place to sleep. After some hopeless searching we end up having no choice but to go down about a thousand feet.

Our tent setup near Mt.Clay, notice the decline

Most spots around Mt.Clay were just too rocky to put a tent up. We never made it below tree-line. Instead we found a ridge with a rocky wall that would potentially block the winds(it didn’t).

An absolutely splendid sunset on the ridge between Mt. Clay and Mt. Washington

Our misfortune is heartily rewarded with a beautiful sunset. The night was windy, but most of us managed to get 4–5 hours of sleep. We wake up at about 7AM.

The next day we climb Mt. Washington. A hiker told me that we should be on the lookup for some strong winds and rain. Cool. I’m not convinced, but the weather does not look good. After facing more strong winds we arrive at the rest area on Mt. Washington. I felt shitty, the wind made me feel cold, but whatever. We buy a few coffees and carry on.

The mofo polak and his mofo face made it in a blitz to Mt. Pierce

The rest of the trek is done in what I would call perfect weather. A few chunky clouds painted over the infinite blue. A bit of wind, warmed up by the golden rays of the beautiful sun. Infinite bliss. I decide to run the rest of the trek with the allure of a careless gazelle.

All in all, we were most impressed with this quality hike. We did not expect such beautiful scenery on the east-coast of America. Most of my hiking was done in tropical countries or on the west-coast. This place has earned a special spot in our hearts.

Understanding People

So lately I gave a shot at genuinely listening to people. From friends to family to strangers, none was spared the wrath of the empathic listener!

It’s funny, but before trying this experiment I didn’t realize how self-centered pricks we could be. I estimate that 70% of my time was spent thinking about my personal interests. That remaining thirty percent was split between listening during important conversations and having moments where nothing at all came to my mind(dozing off watching a movie).

And so, I tried really, really hard to put myself in other peoples skin. To get their perspective, their angle, their view on life. It felt fake at the beginning, but similarly to trying out a new sport, I didn’t expect to be a champion at this undertaking on the first day. I believed this feeling of falseness simply came from my consciousness detecting a new behavior that I exhibited in social settings. In other words, it was simply a small fear stemming from an unknown experience.

Two weeks in; I have noticed that people stop and ask for my opinion. It is strange, because the process of advice is reversed. Normally, you simply cut someone off before they finish talking to you and give them your opinion. Instead, if you do completely listen, over time, people will ask you for advice. It was hard to see the value in all of this, but I felt like experimenting and carried on. I also felt less apathy, there’s something unworldly about realizing that someone else is having a shitty day and that makes you sympathize with them.

The trickiest part so far has been in dealing with narcissists or individuals who try to take advantage of your presence. That’s why a decent dose of assertiveness will go a long way. To illustrate a situation, I was drinking a beer on a balcony with two acquaintances and the conversation quickly spiraled down into an argument about relationships. I did not involve myself in the arguing, but I quickly noticed that both of them had lost touch with their surrounding environment. I think I spoke two words in that conversation. So I resolved to get out and go talk with people who actually wanted a fair exchange. If I had been too keen on listening and giving people space I would have lost my time in that scenario. So I kept in mind that I wanted to be in a WIN-WIN situation. I win, you win, were all happy.

It isn’t easy, but if you practice listening you will eventually notice who is simply dumping his emotional load on you versus someone who has interesting ideas to share with you. It is appropriate to know who you want to hang out with, you might not want to be a sponge for other peoples issues for too long. Again, the WIN-WIN mentality is at work here.

And so I think this is pretty cool. I’m slowly feeling like we have a lot more in common than we think we do. To listen carefully before giving an opinion can be compared to a doctor listening to his patient before prescribing medicine, it just makes sense to operate in this fashion.

At the end of the day, this is about learning and growing. I keep in mind that I act from the heart and hope this makes anyone who crosses my path feel good about himself. In turn he makes me feel good. Were all winners.

Fitness is Confidence

I just came back from a sparring match with a newcomer who’s boxed before at a gym in Australia. From what he told me, he had a decent amount of sparring practices which means that he’s a great challenge for me. We’ve had two bouts previously.

This one did not go my way at all. I became a punching bag after the first round. There’s not much to say, I’m going to watch the tape and see what went wrong, but knowing myself I understand that my punches came from a source of fear. And I mimicked his style which does not fit me at all. My head hurts a little right now. This shall pass.

After our sparring match he told me that if I hit hard he would hit me back hard. It’s a fair treatment. The thing is, I hit him hard when he was basically guarding up. So I would hit him hard when he was perfectly protected and then I would get back a barrage of punches coming my way. Fuck. This too shall pass.

I’ve got no excuse, I do want to figure out why I was feeling fear though. Sometimes it is a game for me, but this time I put on the serious face and it did not do me any favor. He knew my confidence wasn’t there, with the face of disappointment that I exhibited afterwards, but he was fair. He’s a great tutor in some way and I know he has worked hard to reach his place. He ended up saying that fitness was confidence. I’m not sure what he meant by that, but it probably has it’s weight in meaning. It probably does…

It’s been bugging me though. Focus just isn’t there. A sparring session used to raise the hair on my arms up, increase my heart rate and put me a state of absolute concentration. These last few weeks have been all but that. I’m being careless and I’m showing apathy. This too shall pass.