Insights from the Pavement: Living By Our Own Standard

How many countries have you been to? How many miles have you hiked? How many top ten mountains have you climbed?

For those of us who’ve been traveling for any notable length of time, we can recall a period when these questions were important to us. But, as the natural progression of exploration goes, these inquiries make less of an impact on us than, say, questions like ‘how much do you know about this culture,’ or ‘how much time did you spend researching the ancient ruins of [wherever],’ or ‘how many languages do you speak?’

This is the graduation of interests that comes to any long term traveler who’s put in their dues and thought a little deeper about what it means to explore our world.

The truth is, there will always be someone out there that has done more, seen more, or is better at one thing or another than we are. And this is also true of us — as we certainly have our own talents as well. We may be better at keeping a blog than the next person while they may have visited more temples throughout Asia. And they may have travel stories from 50 countries while we have just as many stories from only a few.

When we boil it down to its most basic parts, the game of comparing ourselves to others is all relative. And ultimately, there’s never a need to do so. Because, even if we strive to visit the most countries, to learn the most about other cultures or to ride the most trains in the world, the person sharing that exact same experience will do so a completely different way. And therefore, they’ll value very different parts of that same event.

Leaving the contest to the inexperienced is best, so that they can learn to achieve in their own speed. Eventually, they will come to a point where they may realize that in the game of life, the only thing winning or losing determines is how we feel about ourselves. And in that, the same result can be achieved simply by doing our best or performing at our worst. It’s not others we’re competing with, after all.

So if we remember that the competition only exists within ourselves, it will only be our previous accomplishments that we will seek to surpass. And in that particular game, we always win.


Insights from the Pavement: Be a Failure

Along our travels, we will undoubtedly run into a variety of people. Among them will be people at various places and opposing sides on the teetering scale of success. Some people will exude success as if it were a glimmering coat of armor. Others will seem lost and simply working on challenges that would seem minuscule by comparison. And the rest may fall somewhere in between.

It can be said of the more successful people among us that our failures are many, and our victories are few. And this is not because we are failures. This is rather because our motivation for success greatly outweighs our worry of failure.

And never could this be more profound than when realized as an end result of many years of successes. Because for each successful venture, we’ll know that the many attempts that we made to achieve it has taught us how to do things better.

Growing only happens when we make mistakes. And the more we take risks at attaining our goals and dreams, the more opportunities there are for wins and losses. So it should logically follow that the most successful of us are those who have tried and failed the most (the operative word being “tried”). Unfortunately, though, this is not the mentality that most of us attach to our failures.

On the contrary, the stigma is that once we’ve failed, we are failures – we’re useless. Most of us feel terribly defeated when we’ve tried for something and not seen it come to fruition. We get down on ourselves and become unambitious as a result.

But if we look back over the process of finding success in our lives, it is not the success that teaches us our strengths. If anything, success not borne by hard work generally leaves us weaker and less capable of handling the challenges that our failures would have easily taught us about.

It is important to set goals. But it is just as important that we see them through to completion. And at first our paths will be riddled with wrong turns, missteps and miscalculations. But once we realize that these hurdles are teaching us how not to go about achieving our aims, we will quickly get the footing of what we should be doing to succeed.

This process, if continued, will undoubtedly find us winning battle after battle and learning lesson after lesson about our ever-expanding capacity for greatness. And it all starts with failing.