A couple weeks ago, I set off on another vision quest/long-ass urban hike.
Last year I walked over 400 km in two weeks; this year I was aiming for 250 km in 8 days.
Last year, I turned right out my front door with a backpack, food, and hiking poles; this year I went left.
Last year, I was scared that I was going to fail and not make it to my goal; this year I was excited.
I left my apartment in Montreal on a sunny Saturday morning and walked all day. I felt confident. I managed to cover 30 km and find a decent spot for my tent in a neighbourhood park, not far from a row of million dollar mansions.
The next day I woke up to dark clouds and a large dog sniffing at my tent. The dog’s owner looked startled to see me on her Sunday morning stroll. I said, “Bonjour” with the most non-hobo smile I could. She called her dog and walked faster. I packed up my gear as quickly as I could.
The forecast was calling for 50 mm (2 inches) of rain and possible thundershowers. The rest of the week was looking the same. I put on my new poncho that covered me and my backpack, picked up my hiking poles, and started walking.
Soon after I started walking it started to rain. I walked for an hour and stopped at a corner store for a pee and a bag of cheese curds.
I continued walking. I trudged on through a neighbourhood of huge houses and manicured lawns. People looked at me sideways like I was some sort of criminal.
But I kept smiling.
As 11:00 am approached so did a park on my left side that looked painfully familiar. I slowed down to take a closer look. It hit me like a punch to the gut: I had walked past this same park yesterday!
“Fuck sake,” I thought, as I let out a laugh, turned around, and went back in the direction I had just come from. I tried to figure out where I went wrong. The scene from Dumb and Dumber when Harry yells at Lloyd for driving “halfway across the country in the wrong direction!” came to mind.
But I kept smiling. And it kept raining.
By the time 3:00 pm rolled around my feet were soaked and the rain still wasn’t letting up.
I called my girlfriend from a train station shelter in Blainville. “I got lost today, it’s raining like crazy, and it doesn’t sound like it’ll be letting up anytime soon. But, I’m still smiling!” I wasn’t sure if I was trying to convince her or myself that I was enjoying this.
“Eric,” she started to ask hesitantly, “why are you doing this?”
It was a great question.
I wasn’t doing it for the challenge because I had done a longer hike last year.
I wasn’t doing it for the Year of Fear because I wasn’t afraid.
I thought I was doing it for fun, but this wasn’t fun. I was tired of the suspicious looks from strangers, the apprehension I felt from setting up my tent in public places, and the rain. Perhaps my memory had been selective before I set out on this hike, choosing to forget all the shittiness I had experienced last year.
“I’m not really sure why I’m doing this,” I told her. I said I’d keep walking towards Saint Jerome, another 12 km away, and make a decision when I arrived there.
That meant I had three hours to think about why I was really doing this. It didn’t take that long to figure it out, though.
I was procrastinating. I was avoiding something that I was actually scared to do:
Start my own business.
Since losing my well-paying 9-to-5 job I had struggled with the direction to take in my professional life. Starting my own business has always been something I wanted to do, but I wanted to ease into it. I wanted to start slowly and eventually launch my business when all the stars in the heavens had lined up and I had the perfect plan.
I guess that fear of imperfection wasn’t gone, after all.
I was scared shitless to start my own business too early and fail. What if I launch a business and nobody buys my services? What if I make no money and have to return to a 9-to-5 job with my tail between my legs? What if all those people who say, “What the hell are you thinking changing careers from engineering to life coaching” are right?
But this is the Year of Fear, dammit! I knew what I needed to do. I needed to suck it up and accept the fear of failure, imperfection, and rejection because they never go away.
No more procrastinating. No more wondering, “What if I don’t succeed?” It was time to get home, sit down at my computer, and get to work.
So, with soaking wet feet, an aching body, and 50 pounds of gear strapped to my back, I pushed forward. I made it to Saint Jerome train station—the last station connecting back to Montreal—after walking 40 km in the rain. I hopped on the last train of the day and headed home smelling like a wet dog.
It was tough to admit that I was procrastinating. I had thought, “Well, I’m walking 250 km, so that’s pretty impressive/productive/worthwhile.” But it wasn’t. It was a way to avoid doing the work to launch my business.
Talk to any entrepreneur and ask them “When is the ideal time to launch your business?”
They’ll probably respond with a chuckle and say, “Yesterday.”
Have you ever procrastinated in order to avoid what it is you should really be doing?
Of course, it doesn’t just apply to starting your own business.
You should have applied to your dream job yesterday, even though you know it means you might need to change cities or quit a secure job to do it.
You should have asked that cute person out for coffee yesterday, the one you’ve had a crush on for longer than you’d like to admit, but you keep dragging your heels.
You should have gone back to school or started those night classes yesterday, even though you think you’re too old to change careers.
Instead of doing what it is we need to do we avoid it or we fill the time with other “productive” activities, like walking 250 km across Quebec.
These things should have been done yesterday but we keep waiting for everything to fall into place. We wait for the perfect time and hope that karma, magic, or divine intervention is going to show us the way.
But guess what? That stuff only happens in the movies.
This is real life and I realized I was avoiding my fear by going on a vision quest. Luckily, I had my vision after 70 km instead of 250.
I’ll be launching my business soon and I’m afraid.