The more the summer has unfolded, the more I am becoming tuned into myself and understanding me better. Time, circumstances, and those around me have made for fertile ground from which the phoenix of my essence is rising – and it’s all due to the failures I am encountering.
Through the course of the summer, I have been looking to accomplish so much and have done so little of what I had set out to do. This was the summer for me to reflect on the past 29 years of my work life and what I wanted for the last 10 years of my career. I have come pretty short on attaining this in a formal manner. Oh yeah, I have worked on some books, chatted with some wise people about it, and even done some formal training. But with all this I was nowhere closer to determining the path of my future.
At least not until a massive failure in the Canadian Rockies during the August long weekend.
Four of us from my lodge took on the challenge of climbing Mt. Rundle between Canmore and Banff. The trail was deemed moderately difficult, but I was promised a turtle’s pace by the leaders of the pack. Upon reaching the trailhead, I knew I was no longer in Kansas as the trail seemed really, really steep to me. My breathing got heavier and my pulse started to race. Finally I had to stop and take a breather. Not good when you can still see the parking lot.
The further we went, the shorter the hike and the longer the breaks were for me. After an hour of hiking, wheezing, and resting I announced I was tapping out and would set up “base camp” right in this spot overlooking the valley while the rest of them pushed for the summit. I was not up for being a hero, glutton for punishment, or a heart attack statistic for an up and coming weekend warrior in the wilds of Western Canada.
Fortunate for me, one of the other brothers offered to stay with me and keep me company. This was truly a masonic feat for which I am grateful to him. For the next hour, we sat there, looking out over the Spray Lake valley and were pretty quiet. Then we packed up our bags and trundled down the path to the parking lot.
The hike for me was done, capute, not going to happen. Then things started to fall into place, like a confused jigsaw puzzle when you get the one piece that brings it all together. My piece of the jigsaw puzzle was failure.
How can failure be success?
For whatever reason, I have not had many failures in my life. Maybe I have ensured to not stick my neck out far enough to risk it. Maybe I have been subliminally wise and selected paths in my life which I was amply equipped for. Maybe, just maybe, it has been dumb-ass luck, pure and simple.
There, on the side of Mt. Rundle, only 1/3 of the way to the ridge, I realized growth comes from doing things and failing. This may seem obvious to you and I know I have heard it, read it, and likely seen it countless times before. But much like astronauts and their experience with the overview effect, I had to experience it with my own two eyes and racing heart to truly understand it in my mind.
It was then that I realized changes I needed to make in my gear selection, my approach to climbing a kilometer straight up on a big-ass rock in the middle of the wilderness. More importantly, I realized I needed to make changes to my physical body and emotional psyche if I was going to tackle this SOB next summer.
Challenge laid and challenge accepted. Next year I will summit this SOB and teach it a lesson about perseverance. Well, okay, it will long outlast me, but I suspect you get the point I am trying to lay down here.
I know what you’re thinking, “So Scott, this is a blog about your time swimming in the big pool of Freemasonry — what gives with all this Sound of Music mountainside crap?”
This is an excellent question, Grasshopper…
Another space quote comes from NASA which I have long ascribed to: “Nothing is so bad that we cannot make it worse.” I have been living my Masonic life in an attempt to not screw things up worse than they are. I talk at length about how I want to an assigned role 100% plus a healthy percentage tip for the brothers involved. While I do care about doing an excellent job for the officers, degree team, and the candidates, my overshooting to 115% was also to cover my ass when I came up short. By overshooting the mark, when I failed in front of my brothers, I would still land close to perfection.
On the ridge of a mountain, nowhere near where the majestic eagles soar, I learned how to approach my remaining time as Worshipful Master. I have learned how to approach the rest of my Masonic career. All this feeds into a sense of wonderment of how I am going to fail in the remaining years of my life.
I look forward to failing
I look forward to learning
I look forward to growing
I look forward to a life lived with a richer mosaic of experiences…