My first two pieces on Why it is Wise to Wander and The Success Equation were originally inspired by a trip I took in 2013, during which I wandered through the Alaskan wilderness for seven weeks with 30 individuals. I won’t get into the nitty gritty of the trip (other than to tell you to GO TO ALASKA... it’s incredible), but I will share with you something I realized on the final days of the trip that changed my life. Something that inspired a new mindset I’ve used as my sole tool for achieving truly authentic happiness. We had just gotten back to Michigan, where the trip began, and we stopped on Lake Michigan at the beach. Each of us separated on the coast line and were told to write letters to our futures selves. Instead, I wrote a letter to my 30 new best friends. It read:
As I stand here on the beach, I let the waves crash onto my feet over and over again. And as cold as each wave is when it hits, the way my feet feel as each wave recedes is indescribable, because as each wave leaves, my feet sink a little deeper into the sand. This is what helped inspire my final thought on our Alaskan adventure.
Our lives are full of waves. Jobs, tragedies, road trips, school, relationships. They are all waves, and they are endlessly hitting our feet. And as tough as some of these experiences are, like saying goodbye to my Alaska family, I know that the waves will recede and my feet will be a little deeper under the sand. With every wave, I will continue to become more grounded until my feet are so deep that I am stuck in the ground. Stuck as the person I truly am.
Don’t let the waves knock you down. Embrace the waves and let them ground you. If you can keep this mindset…that each experience, good or bad, is going to make you a better person, I think you’re on your way to living the dream, whatever the dream may be for you.
I didn’t know at the time, but this mindset is something called mindfulness (something my company MeditationWorks and WiseMindGentleSoul help people cultivate). A state of mindfulness involves being present, and when thoughts or experiences arise, acknowledging them without labeling them as good or bad - simply noticing them and then letting them exist.
I’m not overly successful. I’m not an expert on happiness or how to achieve your dreams. To be honest, I’m a fairly average guy. And those who know me well know that I’ve had some rough patches in my life. But what I can confidently say is that I am happy. Truly happy. Through the thick and thin, good and bad, my mindset allows me to acknowledge what I cannot control, smile, and truck forward. I attribute all of my happiness and success thus far to the mindset I gained in Alaska. So for whoever is reading this...whatever experiences you are going through now, good or bad, know that they are molding you into someone so f#$@ing awesome! Let the waves ground you and I promise the majority of your days will be spent with a smile.