Get Lost. No, Seriously
May 07, 2019
Have you ever been lost? I mean really, really lost? So lost you actually worry you might never find your way back?
I have. Both literally and metaphorically. It sucks. The feeling in the pit of my stomach is the worst. You know the feeling, right? It starts off as a tingle when you begin to realize that things are not going well. But you push on, because that is what you do, expecting things to get better, because things usually do. Eventually the tingle gets heavier as you realize that things are not getting better. They are, in fact, getting worse. At some point, your body flips from warning mode to full-on panic. You look out over the vastness of the terrain before you and you realize there is no way you are ever going to make it back. It sucks.
Then something happens.
You hit rock bottom and yet it somehow isn’t that bad. You are, after all, still breathing. You also realize there is nothing to do but do something. So you do something. Whatever something that comes to mind, you do it. Not with the wild and frantic flailing of someone stuck in a riptide, but with the deliberate actions of someone who is resigned to do the best they can. You may get help along the way. You may not. Doesn’t matter because the journey is yours and yours alone. So you keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Eventually, you find something that looks familiar. A road sign. A rock that resembles a Volkswagen Beetle. A familiar face. Something that lets you know that you’ve found your way out of the wilderness. But the wilderness wasn't something you needed to escape from.
It was a crucible.
A glorious combination of heat, pressure, and maybe a catalyst thrown in for good measure. What comes out of the crucible is way more valuable than what went it. It’s way stronger too.
I’ve heard people describe the time following Steve Jobs’ ousting from Apple as his “wilderness years”. In his Fast Times article, “The Lost Steve Jobs Tapes
”, Brent Schlender describes the experience as necessary for making Steve Jobs into the person who was able to bring Apple to the point of massive success that it has become. The wilderness was necessary.
So, where is this wilderness? Sometimes, it just shows up on your doorstep. Literally. Like it did for my friends Batch and Holly, when hurricane Katrina decimated their home leaving nothing more than a concrete slab. Sometimes it blind-sides you in the boardroom, like it did for Steve Jobs. It might show up in your bedroom when your significant other tells you they no longer feel the same way about you. Sometimes the wilderness comes to you. During these times, you deal with it. Because that is what we do.
It’s also possible for you to go to the wilderness. You can create your own crucible, one where you get to determine how much heat and how much pressure get applied. You can get yourself lost from time to time.
I promise, you’ll be stronger afterwards.