By Ethan Maurice | January 13, 2016
There exists a gap between the start of an endeavor and perceivable result. Between the beginning of a journey and the first signs of measurable progress. A kind of void. A void people don't speak of while inside.
A month ago, I received a book in the mail called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Someone clearly purchased it on Amazon and had it sent to me. Who that was, I have no idea.
Deeply intrigued by the mystery of not knowing who sent it, the book jumped to the top of my reading list. I read it a couple weeks ago. It was profound and full of parallels to my own life. I'll be adding it to the Bookshelf soon.
One part of the book particularly struck me. The author leaves the shore of a vast inlet in the Canadian wilderness in a kayak around midnight. Bound for the opposite shore, he paddles until the land behind him disappears and finds himself in a physical void. It's emptiness, stars, and him. He continues paddling for the next couple hours, without a way to measure his progress. Paddling and paddling, he can't tell if his efforts are actually moving him forward and worries the opposite shore will never appear.
Exhausted and after what feels like far too much time has gone by, he finally spots trees on the horizon! His spirits lift and the shore comes up fast. As he puts it, “the shore reaches out to you, to welcome you home, almost pulling your boat onto the sand.”
Before spotting trees on the horizon, though, he physically occupied a space many of us mentally fear—the void. In the void, we can't sense progress or must give much time and effort before we see any result.
In the void, many give up.
When beginning a workout routine, but not losing any weight in the first few weeks. When laying the groundwork to start a business. When working towards anything not yet measurable, with potential to prove fruitless we are in the void. In the void, it's so easy to surrender—to quietly bow out and move on to something with more measurable progress. The void is the silent killer of countless ideas and ambitions.
We don't talk about the void because there isn't much to talk about. Its very nature is emptiness. Crossing the void is a personal journey of will. If you give up before reaching the opposite shore you'll have nothing to show for your efforts. For this reason, we often silently work to cross the void, waiting to see if we can reach the opposite shore before even mentioning to anyone else we'd been paddling the whole time.
Today, I write you from the void.
Currently, my two major pursuits, at which I spend most of my waking day, have no real way to measure progress yet. This blog and my startup company's progress don't have any real chance at measurable success until much work has been exerted.
In the void, thoughts of failure and wasted effort constantly lurk beneath the surface of our ambitions. We're in the dark and the dark is scary place to be. But even in the deepest, darkest voids, there always exists one faint guiding light on which we must focus—the knowledge that our ambitions were great enough that we willingly left shore and paddled out into the void in the first place.
The shores of our ambitions may or may not lay as we envisioned, but whether or not they do is less important than our drive to reach the opposite shore and explore it.
If you find yourself in the void, I urge you to keep paddling and not give up until you've set foot on the opposite shore, whether it lay as you imagined or not. If you're standing at the edge of the void and envision something on the opposite shore, I urge you to answer the call and cast off.
The shore you dream of beckons. But in the distance between your dreams and reality exists the void. And you must be willing to cross the void to explore the opposite shore.