For the last many weeks I have been reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert Pirsig. This monster 400+ page book is the most dense, slow reading experience I have had since college… but it’s one of the first books in a long time that is true journey. It wraps you up in wandering, drifting, “Chataquas” on concepts like quality and the philosophical thoughts on technology and why some folks appear to have a hatred for it while others embrace it. I cannot do the book justice in even fifty blog posts, so I won’t try to review it. By the way, I’m not even finished with it yet. However, a few days ago I read through a part of the book where the author and his son went on a mountain climbing adventure. The language and the message in this section was powerful to me, and I wanted to share it as I believe it relates to our personal journeys in amazing ways. In this part, his son keeps getting winded and needing a rest. He realizes that the son is climbing the mountain only for his ego. He wants to conquer it and get to the top. Here are some of the author’s comments just after that realization:
Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you’re no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn’t just a means to an end but a unique event in itself. This leaf has jagged edges. This rock looks loose. From this place the snow is less visible, even though closer. These are things you should notice anyway. To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow.
But of course without the top you can’t have any sides. It’s the top that defines the sides. So on we go. . . we have a long way . . . no hurry . . . just one step after the next.
Then a few pages later the thought continues after realizing that his son continues to be tired.
Any effort that has self-glorification as its final endpoint is bound to end in disaster. Now we’re paying the price. When you try to climb a mountain to prove how big you are, you almost never make it. And even if you do it’s a hollow victory. In order to sustain the victory you have to prove yourself again and again in some other way, and again and again and again, driven forever to fill a false image, haunted by the fear that the image is not true and someone will find out. That’s never the way.
The application to many here should be obvious. To entrepreneurs, to new grads entering the workforce, to anyone embarking on a project, a mission, a journey, these words should carry great significance.
I hope to share more excerpts from this book as I slowly pass through it.