Bruised & Battered

I often wonder how many expeditions, how many movies, how many books, how many genius ideas or how many dreams almost came to be but never saw the light of day. J.K. Rowling, the creator of Harry Potter, one of the most successful stories ever written, saw her manuscript refused 12 times. During the five years it took to finish her first novel, between that day on the train when she imagined Harry’s character and that fateful day when finally her book was chosen by a very small publishing house – what motivated her to keep writing, against all logic and financial realities? What motivated her to keep presenting her book, rejection after rejection? She had no money. She lived off social security, saw herself as “the biggest failure”, her marriage had failed, and she was jobless with a dependent child. What pushes people to give up any sense of security and stability for a quest that makes no sense to anybody other than themselves? What is it that they see, or feel, that is worth risking everything for? Even their relationships with cherished ones. They will lose friendships and money and instead rack up tons of debt, stress and worries. Morgan Spurlock had more than $200.000 in credit card debts before his movie “Super Size Me!” came out! They will have to constantly justify their choice to a world that doesn’t understand. Every day, they will face the judgement of their families, loved ones, and even strangers. Do they need to be crazy? Self centered? Egoistic? Masochistic? Loners? The odds that their efforts will come to fruition are minuscule, and, if by a miracle, they do succeed, they will arrive bruised, battered, and with a sense of disbelief. Having been refused and let down, broken and having fallen so many times, they have come to accept their struggle without ever imagining that making it was any longer possible. I remember reading the story of Edward W. Gillet who kayaked solo his way from San Diego to Hawaii. Within sight of his destination, sixty-three days after leaving the California coast, he was so beaten and disillusioned that he didn’t believe he had actually reached the islands until he literally felt the sand under his feet.

The world of exploration is filled with expeditions that saw their major source of funding disappear on the same week that they were scheduled to leave. Where do people get the energy to keep going? How do you keep believing, when everything you have worked so hard for is crumbling again and again? How do you stay optimistic when you are up to you neck? Or when do you decide that you have had enough? Some projects take one year, others ten years, but many more end up in a dusty corner, simply forgotten. So when do you decide that you have invested too much, lost too much and that it is time to throw the towel and give up?

The truth is that Dreamers can’t be explained. They defy the norms of logic. There is simply no way of making sense of what they do and why they do it. For them, it is an emotional quest, it is in their guts, and in their hearts. They don’t believe in something because of its potential to succeed. They believe in it because it is simply stronger than them. For every time they will fall, they will get up and continue, even if they die trying. They might be told that they have only a 0.001% chance of making it, yet they will discard the remaining 99,99% of improbabilities and hold on to that fraction of a possibility. As a matter of fact, Dreamers tend to think in a binary mode. There are no fractions or percentages, only yes or no, can or can’t. I can climb this mountain or I can’t. I will reach the pole or I won’t. I will survive or I will not. There are no in-betweens.

Sadly, in a world that has become ever more obsessed with numbers and statistics, all we want is to find ways to quantify dreams and determine their potential. Scientists, mathematicians and Hollywood spend millions every year working out the perfect equation that will predict success and minimize the losses. Banks and investors now solely rely on numbers and before you can count on a loan, their computer will have to approve the worthiness of the return. It is really sad to see that our society has come to put so much emphasis on the financial aspect of dreams. What happened to the mystical aspect of dreams? The possibility of breaking new grounds and new frontiers, just for the sake of it, without a dollar sign at the end? What happened to teaching our children the simple notion of following their intuition and to dream the impossible – the “Sky is the Limit”, we used to say! Having a financial return was never a requisite to dream. Why is it so today?

If some of the great explorers were to do today what they did in the past, would Hillary get his funding to climb Everest? Would Columbus get his boats to cross the Atlantic and discover the Americas? Would Scott and Amundsen find the necessary support to explore the South Pole? Would Armstrong have set foot on the moon? Maybe, but unlikely. I do agree that we need to keep in mind the financial aspect, but we have to be careful not to use it as the only measure with which Dreamers are valued.At the end of the day, I want to live in a world where dreams and ideas are encouraged and welcome even if it is only to give people hope and to teach the children that anything is possible!

“Our dreams disturb us because they refuse to pander to our fondest notions of ourselves.  The closer one looks, the more they seem to insist upon a challenging proposition: You must live truthfully.  Right now.  And always.  Few forces in life present, with an equal sense of inevitability, the bare-knuckle facts of who we are, and the demands of what we might become.” Marc Ian Barasch, Founder and Executive Director of the Green World Campaign

Dream Big & Dare to Fail, by friend and fellow explorer Julian Monroe Fisher