We can dream anything, absolutely anything; spaceships, perfect romance, wealth without end, fancy cars, whatever we want. There’s no end to what we can imagine. It’s truly amazing.
Unfortunately, when we begin to work towards making our dreams come true, we collide with the extraordinary and often immovable resistance of reality. The physical world, after all, is not nearly as accommodating as our imagination.
I’m reminded of the common saying, “A long row to hoe.”
Not far from where I live, in the heart of South Carolina, there are cotton fields that go on for miles. When I was a kid, farmers and their help would be in the fields day after day manually thinning the cotton and chopping the weeds. It was brutal labor that often went on from sunrise to sunset during the hottest days of summer.
Every day those men got out of bed, went to the field and did what they had to do to make a crop…even when they could not see the end of the row…even when the heat and mosquitoes would have killed lesser men. It’s what they did. It’s who they were.
For me, this defines perseverance. Some might call it pigheaded perseverance.
I think most dreams, at the least the big ones, can be like a long row to hoe. Success takes time, maybe ages, maybe a lifetime.
And, here’s the thing, the process never unfolds the way we imagine. When we go after an objective whether it’s writing a book or building an online business, you can bet there will be setbacks, unforeseen struggles and maybe even betrayal by the people we trusted most.
Still, we have to find a way to keep going…
Recently, I read Mastery, a book by George Leonard. Mr. Leonard was a student of Aikido, a martial art that takes a lifetime to master. He knew a thing or two about perseverance. George Leonard wrote that people who master anything have grown accustomed living on the plateau.
You see, when we strive toward an objective we might make progress for a time, but eventually we’ll meet with resistance. It might seem like we’ve stalled.
Maybe the problems are too big, the questions unanswerable, the path too difficult or frustrating. We might throw our back into our work and still not make progress…for years and years. This is the plateau George Leonard wrote about.
Those who master their dreams are the ones who find a way to keep working when there’s no visible improvement or result. They take the next step and, eventually, there’s a change, some success. Then, there’s a setback and they settle again on the plateau, but this time they’re operating a little higher than before and they take the next step.
The process repeats. There’s a long stretch with little or no improvement and then a slight success and they’re back on the plateau again, hoeing the long row, but a little more advanced than before. Then finally, after ages, they have another success. And the cycle continues with long stretches of backbreaking labor followed by brief success, over and over again.
Eventually, they win, they finish the job and enjoy the fruits of their labor. That’s the easy part. Anyone can do that. The real accomplishment is slogging across the plateau with no end in sight.
When we chose to follow a dream, we chose to live on the plateau, to hoe the long row and keep at it. Regardless of the heat and mosquitoes, setbacks, frustrations, fears and betrayals…take the next step. Celebrate every success, no matter how small, and take the next step.