A young man had recently purchased a pickup truck. Needing some firewood, he thought it a great opportunity to test his new truck.
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After driving up the snowy mountains and out of cellphone service, he found a spot to park near some trees. He pulled off the road to park and got stuck in deep snow. Desperate, he tried everything he could to get out. Switching from reverse to drive and spinning out his tires, his truck got stuck deeper and deeper in the snow.
He put twigs under the stuck tire in hopes they would provide traction but to no avail. He used a shovel and tried digging around the tire, but he was stuck too deep.
Eventually, he became incredibly discouraged. The sun was hastily descending and weather bitterly chilling. He wasn’t sure what to do. He offered a simple prayer and got the feeling he should start cutting wood.
He worked for a few hours, chopping down trees and putting large pieces into the back of his truck.
Once the truck was full, he hopped in and turned it on. After a moment of humble silence, he tried reversing out. The heavy load of wood provided the needed traction to get out of the snow, to get back onto the road, and to move forward.
Without the load of wood in his truck, he’d still be there, stuck in the snow.
The Need for a Personal Load
Most people mistakenly believe that happiness is the absence of a load. We want life to be easy, without challenge or difficulty. However, it is by having a load that we can have the traction needed to move forward in our lives.
When we don’t carry a substantial weight of personal responsibility, we can quickly become stuck.
I have found this in my own life. It wasn’t until after I became a foster parent of three children — a substantial load indeed — that I was able to get the traction needed to develop my career as a writer.
Before having that personal load to carry, I was somewhat complacent. I lacked the urgency. I didn’t have the traction to move forward.
A life of ease is not the pathway to growth and happiness. On the contrary, a life of ease is how you get stuck and confused in life.
To quote my favorite poem by Douglas Malloch: “Good timber does not grow with ease: The stronger wind, the stronger trees; The further sky, the greater length; The more the storm, the more the strength. By sun and cold, by rain and snow, In trees and men good timbers grow.”
The Law of Opposites
According to Newton’s Third Law, all forces come in pairs. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Said Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
The very challenges inherent in life make it possible to thrive. Without said challenges, there would be nothing to overcome. You can’t possibly have “the best” of times without simultaneously having “the worst” of times.
To know sweetness, you must also know bitterness. To know and appreciate health, you must also be acquainted with sickness. To know happiness, you must also know sadness. Without darkness, there could be no light.
Without opposites and without contrast, you couldn’t possibly have a choice. But you do have a choice. Thus, you are empowered.
You can choose to love deeply at the price of suffering. You can choose growth at the price of difficulty and challenge. You can choose refinement at the price of discipline and humility.
The more extreme the difficulty, the more extreme the growth. The law of opposites — equal and opposite reactions.
There’s never been a more competitive and challenging time to live. Thus, there’s never been greater opportunity for success, abundance, and happiness in the history of the world.
If you want to create something powerful, you must be willing to fail in all of your nakedness.
Don’t be afraid of being bold. As Seth Godin explains in The Icarus Deception: You’ve been taught all your life to live between the lines. To stay in the middle. You’ve been taught that if you fly too high, like Icarus, your wings will burn by the sun and great will be the fall. So, you play life safe and convenient.
But that’s not where growth is. That’s not where love is. That’s not where art is. That’s not where life is.
The more potent the difficulty, the more powerful the growth. Good timber does not grow with ease.
You Must Choose for Yourself
When Margaret Thatcher was a young girl, she read a poem by Ella Wilcox that changed her life.
The poem read: “One ship drives East, and another drives West, By the self-same gale that blows; ’Tis the set of the sail, and not the gale, That determines the way she goes.”
The sun shines and the rain beats on all of us. You may not get to choose your external circumstances initially. The wind blows regardless of your preference. However, you get to decide what you do with that wind. You get to decide how you will respond to the difficulties in your life.
You get to set your own sail. Ships don’t sail with ease. There are crushing waves and storms to beat through.
Where will you end up? Who will you be? Which way is your sail facing?
Are you avoiding the hard waves?
Are you seeking an easy path?
How heavy is the load you’re carrying?
Is your load sufficient enough to provide the traction you need to move forward?
Good timber does not grow with ease. Neither do you.
Pressure is required to make diamonds. Scorching fire is required to purify gold.
All beautiful things come at a price.
If you aren’t willing to pay the price, but would rather the easy road, you will never know what you missed out on. You will never know love, and thus, you will never know peace.
The satisfaction of overcoming challenges and obstacles is sublimely greater than any momentary pleasure.
You are more powerful than you know. Don’t fear big mountains to climb. You are a climber. You were born to overcome. Your most authentic self is not who you presently are, but who you have the potential to become.
You have no clue how incredible you can become. You won’t know until you get there.
Keep pushing. Keep going. Your life is beautiful. The very challenges you face, the risks you take, the art you create, the love you graciously give—this is what transforms you into who you are.