Category Archives: Personal Development

Revealed 20 Years Ago On The Appalachian Trail, Discovered Again This Week

I’m writing a book about being a successful adventurer (more about that in the coming weeks), based on my Appalachian Trail thru-hike 20 years ago. Part of the research has been to look back at journal entries and letters that I wrote at the time. Sometimes it’s inspiring reading, and other times sad. Here’s a few paragraphs that’s a little bit of both.

11 May 1990 — Got to get to Damascus, VA to see a doctor about a possible foot infection. I do know one thing, the foot hurts like hell and I can’t walk with a shoe on my left foot. I’ve walked a few miles (about 8-9 miles) with a flip-flop on my left foot and a boot on my right …

When I was walking yesterday and decided the pain was too much to walk with my boot on, I was seriously depressed. I knew it was more than a blister, but didn’t know what it was — except that it hurt like nothing I’ve felt on the trail.

But after putting on the flip-flop and getting over the fact that I would finish the Trail despite the problem, I felt really pumped. For a while I thought, “oh, no, this is it,” but remembered the vow I made to myself, which was that I would finish the trail no matter what — only a serious broken leg would stop me. So, remembering my personal vow got me pumped again; “I’m going to finish, even if it is with a flip-flop and a boot.”

I can’t describe how good I feel about my attitude and fortitude in the face of this situation. I will finish, not despite of the foot problem, but because of it; the problem and my adapting to the situation has given me greater powers. That’s one thing about getting depressed out here is good for — becoming stronger. No one is by your side to comfort you — unless you talk to fellow hikers — you’ve got to find a way out of the depression yourself, or else just quit. Probably three or four times I’ve been really down, then found my way out, only to become stronger. When I’m back in the real world I’ll be an animal — nothing can stop me after finishing the Trail.

After all, what’s harder than testing both mind and body seven days a week, for four and a half months? I got a ride from an older gentleman in Erwin, TN and he asked, “How’s the work going?” Nobody has ever expressed walking the Trail that way who has never walked the Trail themselves. I thought, “how’s the work going” was great, because it is work, for me at least. I like the fact that I’m working out here. Certainly I’ve never been tested as hard.

One thing I liked about wearing the flip-flop (that is, if there is anything to like about it) is that I changed to confront the challenge in front of me; the Trail wasn’t going to become any easier just because I was hurt. I had to adapt to the situation and do the best I could with limited resources. I didn’t beat the Trail, but I worked with what it gave me.

Photo by marklarson and republished here under a Creative Commons license.

5 Things I don’t know today

Right now I’m writing my first book that I plan on publishing for eReaders like Kindle and Nook. And it’s a lot harder than I thought. Writing isn’t the trouble — I think my writing is okay — the problem is how much I don’t know. During the writing process I discover something new every day.

Part of the process of writing, as espoused by William Zinsser in his book, Writing to Learn, is learning as we write. That even though we may know the topic, have done the research, we’re still learning as we write. We’re making connections and discovery during the act of writing.

And if you add to the mix more reading about a topic while you’re writing? It just might make you’re ear drums pop.

Given just the “known unknowns” (a favorite Rumsfeld double speak), here’s what’s missing today:

  1. I don’t know how to study other writers without becoming overly self critical of my work.
  2. I don’t know how to write powerful sentences that don’t sound like writing.
  3. I don’t know to physically do the job of writing. Sciatic nerve issues have been giving me a dead left leg.
  4. I didn’t know that self discipline wouldn’t be enough to keep me off the Internet when trying to craft sentences.
  5. I don’t know what I’ll write tomorrow — which is kind of scary — but I will write and it’ll be okay. There are always revisions.

What don’t you know today?

Oh, why this photo: I don’t know! I searched on Flickr for Creative Commons photos using the phrase “what I don’t know” and this photo appeared. The mysterious, confident smiles made me happy.

Photo by moonlight on celluloid and republished here under a Creative Commons license.