Sometimes it doesn’t look all that courageous. In fact, sometimes it looks more like the just-keep-moving-along’ers journey. Which is much less titillating a title. But might be a little more truthful to the reality.
Years ago, I went to San Diego to cheer on a friend who was running a marathon. It was an intensely amazing experience, even just as a spectator. At the starting line, there were hordes of people: friends and family standing around watching, bearing witness, and the runners. There was eager anticipation in the air, buffered by excited chatter and gentle jostling of the runners trying to keep warm. When they started running, there was almost this big collective breath we all took together, runners and spectators alike. Even just being a spectator, I was part of the moment. It was almost overwhelming and I found myself getting teary-eyed just watching all these amazing people embarking upon a 26.2-mile journey.
Considering myself a one-woman cheering committee, my plan was to run to different points in the path of the race and cheer really loud when my friend ran by. This was made easier by the fact that the race path was laid out, and was circular, so I could cut across the middle and be able to wait at a later spot for my friend. After the start, I found 3 other spots – one was about 5 miles in, one was almost at the halfway point, 13 miles, and one was just a few miles from the finish.
When she started, and at the next spot I stopped, she looked great. Happy, excited, chugging along. At the 13-mile mark, though, she looked like she wanted to be anywhere but exactly where she was. By the last checkpoint that I waited at, only a few miles from the finish, she had perked up and was going steady. And I knew those were only four small points in time along her journey that I was witnessing.
When I went out on my own to start my business, I had a lot of folks in my life and in my network cheering hard. People were amazed, excited, and inspired to hear my enthusiasm and attitude to build my business. I was a hero in their eyes for going after what I wanted. It was sunshine all around. And actually getting started was like that first shot of adrenaline at the marathon – I was off and running, with gusto, excitement, ideas, and energy.
This past week or so, I made a realization about the hero’s journey. People think about the start, where you’re amped up, ready for anything that comes your way, or the end when you round that corner and breeze through the finish line. And yet the real character of the hero’s journey, the real grit and teeth to be witnessed, are the long empty stretches where the hero just.keeps.going. It’s the space in between getting new clients, between meetings with prospective clients, between when new ideas crop up, between when you’re busy making it all happen. It’s those long, quiet stretches where there is nothing. Nothing but another step. And then another. And then another. And still another stretch of more nothing.
This is the real heroism that we display. The faith and the push to carry on when there is nothing to see, nothing to grasp, nothing to distract us from the path that, as far as you can see from right there, is empty. That is the real heroism to behold.
*Special thanks to Joni for the gift of this blog title.