should I stay or should I go?
Updated: Apr 23
In my previous blog, I walked alone, I mentioned a social research project. Only three of the sixty-eight participants made it through the eight hours of being disconnected, or to reverse it, 65 gave up.
I was a youth worker for nearly 20 years and the capacity of young people to “give up” as soon as any discomfort is encountered no longer surprised me. Young people simply do not learn the discipline of sustained voluntary effort and have not had the chance to develop the necessary filters to organise their private world.
New Year, it’s "let's make a resolution” time, lose weight, give up smoking or go to the gym, makes no difference, most fizzle by February. It appears adults haven't developed the required discipline either.
Ernest Shackleton knew this. His criteria for accepting men on the ill-fated but ultimately heroic adventure in the Antarctic included men over the age of 35. He understood young men might be stronger but they lack the necessary mental stamina gained through years of sustained effort and hardship on previous endeavours.
On the 2,200-mile long Appalachian Trail, only 1 out of 4 declared “thru-hikers” will actually finish. Modern people are all enthusiastic about the quick win, short bursts of energy, the sprint, and the short cut. We are less willing to voluntarily endure the hard, mundane weary slog of the long-term effort.
I faced the same problem. My head played tricks on me. Like two of me fighting, inside my head and often out of my own lips as I argued out loud with myself.
The “go” side of my split personality invented some very good reasons to give up. Oh, the joy of sitting still, no more blisters, a hot bath or a "beer a beer, my kingdom for an ice cold beer". It created beautiful concepts to tempt me away from my hardship and tempt me they did, every hour of every day I would ask myself "why am I doing this?"
A lobster is a creature who wears its skeleton on the outside. When it grows too big it becomes uncomfortable inside its shell. It’s this stress which forces it to hide under a rock from predatory fish, get rid of its old shell and grow a new one. It’s the stress which initiates growth.
The temptation to give up is so enticing and if we did? For Christian, in Pilgrim's Progress, there would be no “slough of despond”. Frodo Baggins would never have left the comfort of his home in the Shire. Luke Skywalker would have stayed on Tatooine. No one would bother going to the moon or climb Everest or trek across a dark and dangerous continent to see Victoria Falls or sail for a new world.
Some people have described me as stubborn. I am, but it was this very characteristic, which by sheer bloody cussedness, made me stay on that utterly miserable walk. I could not give up, I just couldn’t.
I had been walking for four weeks and covered about 700 km's. I was sunburned [again], I had blisters, my feet were sore, my ankles, knees and back ached - all the time. I was talking to myself, even when people were nearby. I was ready to give up. Oh God, I so wanted to give up.
And if I had, if I had packed it in, if instead of staying on my journey I had gone off to be comfortable? I would never have experienced the one event which was to change my life. It was just 30 hours away.
I wonder how many people give up just before they were about to succeed?