I finished my breakfast of mutton and mare’s milk, rooted my laptop out the depths of my rucksack, and slipped out of the yurt.
Our campsite was on a plateaux by a river and we were surrounded by majestic peaks. Their steep sides were shades of pink and green and dotted with pines, and ice clung to their tops like white hats threatened by the breeze.
I turned slowly about to locate the nearest of them, and after hopping across a handful of streams and wading through a shallow, rushing river of staggeringly chilly ice-melt, arrived at the foot of it.
With the enthusiasm of a young goat I began to scamper up the incline. It wasn’t long though before I was on my hands and knees, panting like an old hound, clutching my laptop with one arm at my chest. The thin air was new to me, and I still hadn’t got used to the concept of pacing myself.
Before I continue with this story, I must take you back a few weeks, to a London tube station. The train doors slid open and in front of me was a big advert on the wall. It made me mad. How unbelievably sad, I thought.
It was for a mobile network company. Three ragged and weather-beaten men stood at the crest of mountain. They grinned and pumped the air with their fists, but it was not the staggering view nor their achievement that they were celebrating, but that they had a 3G signal.
I realised it was meant to be humorous, but still I made my way out of the station muttering to myself. I suppose it was because adventure is important to me, something I get my identity from, perhaps. The ad seemed to suggest that you could be adventurous and be addicted to data. In my mind this was preposterous – you could not be both, especially not at the same time. I looked down on people who were glued to their devices, especially when surrounded by natural beauty.
Anyway, now that you know how judgmental I am, let’s go back to the Kyrgyz Pamir mountains.
After an hour or so of scrambling, exhausted I rolled onto my back. Recovering a little I flipped open my laptop and plugged in the dongle. No internet signal.
I resumed my climb for another 10 minutes, but still there was no signal. I went for another 10 minutes of scrabbling, and still not a bean, zero bars.
I rested a while. There must be some signal somewhere on this mountain I told myself, though I was starting to lose hope. I had seen people climbing to higher ground on TV to get their phones to work, but now I began to wonder whether that was one of those things that didn’t work in real life.
I set off upwards, and after a time squatted down on a damp tuft and plugged in the dongle. One bar! I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy and relieved and overjoyed, the emotion was quite overwhelming.
I clicked refresh on my emails. It took perhaps 10 minutes using the basic HTML view for the page to load.
There, in bold, were 3 unopened emails. Not just any emails. Messages from my girlfriend (and now wife) on the other side of the earth. I had spent so many weeks feeling so far, so many hours wondering if we were still part of the same universe. I felt like a magnet feeling pulled but trapped among the mountains. But finally, I was connected to the one I missed so much. I could see her words on a screen, words written to me.
A swell of nervous excitement rose in my stomach as I waited an eternity for the first message to open. Is she ok? Does she remember that I exist? She must do because she sent me emails….
Her familiar, random and sporadic chit-chat about nothing and everything was a joy to read. All was ok again.
The strength of the signal didn’t permit me to email back. I closed the lid. Then for the first time looked about me. The view was phenomenal. I’ve lived on a small island for most of my life, and the scale of mountain landscapes bewilder me.
And then it hit me. I had a flash-back of that moment in train station. I was them! I was the men in the advert – sitting in majestic mountain wilderness, exhausted and shabby, celebrating internet connectivity.
A laugh erupted from somewhere deep within my belly. I choked on the thin air and teased myself for being so uncannily similar to the fictional people I had given 15 minutes of my day to mock and judge and look down on.
Driven in circles by fear or inspired by a ‘yes’
This moment taught me in a light-hearted way more about one life-changing lesson – whoever I fear becoming, I will become.
This happens, because when we fear something we fixate on it. And whatever we focus our attention on in life, we naturally grow into.
A person living in fear of becoming like one of their parents, will almost undoubtedly do just that. Their focus is on everything that they don’t want to be, but unfortunately this causes them to create the very thing they are afraid of.
The ad in the station made me cross because deep down I was afraid that I was becoming unadventurous – that my masculinity and thirst for danger were being eroded by Google and Instagram and modern life in general. This fear of being like the people on the wall literally became reality for me. I understand it’s not a particularly serious example, but it illustrates my point.
If we want to achieve meaningful things, we can’t be driven by a fear of what we don’t want to become, because fear drives us around in circles, never forward. We are forever running away from bad things but never running into anything good.
We need a yes
The thing we need to be successful, is a ‘Yes’. We need a vision for what we do want, and for that to be our primary focus. Then we have something to move towards.
This Yes is so powerful because it gives us a reference point to make decisions from. Ever not know what to do? Finding the answer is a lot easier when your focus is on what you’re trying to build, rather than on what you are trying avoid. You just pick the option that is going to best further your vision.
So what are you going after in your life? You and I have the potential to do astonishing things. The feint hope you feel that you are here for greatness is not there to taunt you. It is there because it is supposed to be a reality, and having a Yes will help you bring it into being.
What is your yes? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.