January 09, 2017 / THE ART OF THE START
January 09, 2017
What would change if we spent as much time glorifying start lines as we do finish lines? What if we cheered as wildly for people the moment they assume their position at the starting block as we do when they run through the tape at the end of the race?
As a person who has crossed numerous finish lines, my ego and I have a vested interest in glorification. A lot of doors have opened for me because of my ability to break through tape, but I’ll tell you from experience that finish lines are the least interesting part. What excites me the most are starting lines. And to be frank, I believe it’s our ability to step up to the starting line that truly prompts all the doors to swing open.
Joseph Campbell named this kind of starting line the “Call to Adventure”. He defined the Call as a blunder, a stumbled upon chance that reveals unsuspected worlds, an epiphany that something else is out there. These are moments when we become capable of shifting from ordinary to extraordinary and from human to hero. But, how do we hear our own Call to Adventure? How do we know when a starting line is really a Call?
We can start by looking at some famous fictional Calls. For example, Luke Skywalker was a bored and lonely farm boy living on a distant planet when he received a life-changing holographic message from a droid. Harry Potter was locked in a cupboard under the stairs until letters revealing his true identity began arriving, delivered by a series of owls. Dorothy Gale and her ratty looking terrier were chillin’ in Kansas until a tornado shook things up.
These iconic characters, and many others like them, have one thing in common: prior to their Calls they were generally discontent with life. They weren’t living in terror. Life wasn’t miserable, but boredom and frustration were creeping in.
That’s sign number one: if your regular life doesn’t feel like it fits anymore, if dissatisfaction is seeping in through the cracks of the walls you’ve carefully built around you, PAY ATTENTION. This is the universe’s way of preparing you.
Next comes the actual Call. It can come in many forms. You might hear or see something. You might meet a new person or get an interesting email. Mine came in the form of a small blue sign that was dangling from the top of a ski lift, but that’s a whole other story. The point here is this: there are an infinite number of ways a Call can show up. And regardless of the variety, there’s a singular feature you can always count on – absolutely, unequivocally, your Call will be absurd. I’m not joking. It will be totally absurd. But please, don’t confuse absurd with asinine, the Call won’t be stupid. It won’t be lacking in any and all intelligence, but it will be unreasonable and highly unlikely.
Listen, the universe doesn’t do mundane or logical. That’s a human thing. No, no. The universe does wildly unreasonable. It does miraculous. It does things that border on ridiculous, things your human brain or the brains of the people around you might immediately classify as impossible. Your Call will be inspirational as opposed to rational.
There are two reasons for this: first, if your Call was reasonable, it wouldn’t classify as an adventure; second, if your Call was easy, there wouldn’t be growth involved. And you know that’s what this is all about, right? Emotional growth, spiritual growth, professional growth, growth of any kind.
So just to be clear, these are the ingredients required for a starting line:
If we are going to actually step up to our starting line, we must have the courage to take action. The problem is, even once we see our starting lines, they are easy to ignore. Because things aren’t horrible and because the idea itself is questionable.
Instead we make small changes. We convince ourselves that we’re able to grow by taking small risks instead of saying yes to the big ones. We change the color of our hair or buy a snazzy new road bike. We trade in Flaming Hot Cheetos and House of Cards for kale chips and PX90. Some of us might even change jobs or careers – but even those changes are just band-aids when we know we’ve been called, when we know there’s a starting line right in front of us but we’re scared to put our toe on it.
I’m not saying it’s easy. Getting to the starting line, saying yes to a call to adventure, well… it’s one of the hardest things a person can do. I’ve done it multiple times, and it’s gotten harder each time. But it’s worth it because nothing feels better than knowing I’ve been asked to go after something bigger and that I said yes to something more important than the finish line that’s being used as the bait.
Let me leave you with this: Are you ignoring a Call to Adventure in your life? Ask yourself, what would change if you shifted your focus? What would change if you stopped looking for finish lines and put your feet in the blocks instead?