The four of us snaked the mountains of Doi Inthanon National Park under the canvas canopy of a pickup truck's bed on two benches, travelling sideways toward our destination. Despite, the nicely paved road, it was a punishing windy drive through the forest. As we rose into the higher elevations smoky from the "burning season," the balmy Chiang Mai climate thankfully became more tolerable. My ego refused to yield to my oncoming car sickness, but my sister moved to the cockpit with our guide.
We turned and four-wheeled a side road for a quarter mile, thicker forest gradually ingesting us into the upcoming magical experience. Ming, our guide, opened the tailgate and loaded his pack with meat, vegetables, fruit, and water we bought from the open-air market in the valley. Our still fairly youthful joints creaked as they rediscovered movement.
A Karen tribesman joined us. He spoke no English, we were told he would be walking ahead to thwart perils such as wild boars -- albeit unusual -- on the path and would set up our lunch site. Ming gave a bit of context for the surrounding area, including the fact that all clearings were packed with opium fields as recently as two decades until the government began subsidizing farming in the area.
The dirt path narrowed, varying heights of flora brushing our flanks as we walked. The exclusive topic of conversation became the lush jungle. Ming carved little pieces from the various trees, allowing us to handle and experience the Ben Gay smell of Tiger Balm and the sap of a tree that tasted like aspirin and for the Karen tribe, had its same medicinal qualities. We encountered a Tarantula and various insects. As luck would have it, spiders are my greatest fear. We were also treated to the unique smell and feel of wild mint, cinnamon, lemongrass, turmeric, and other spices.
We undulated the never-ending steep path while clumsily hurdling felled trees many feet in diameter and used limbs lain from bank to bank to cross rivers like a tightrope. Someone did occasionally end up in the drink.
Our lunch was anything but gourmet, but our biggest treat because of its assembly. We gathered firewood, cut banana leaves used as plates and to make a mini-cauldron to boil our soup over the fire from sticks. We also harvested banana blossoms and lime leaves for our soup. We skewered pork strips with sticks and spun them manually over the fire. We made small cups and spoons from bamboo. Lunch was then capped with a swim in the river rapids.
Our lunch was at the exit of the jungle, the second half of our walk across pastures in the open sunlight. Leaving the canopy behind, the steepness of the walk largely remained. We sampled wild strawberries and happened upon a herd of surprisingly friendly unattended oxen. We occasionally passed a small open-air hut containing a farmer laying in its shade, literally seeming to just watch the crops grow. At the Karen village, we got a tour of tribesman's unique wooden stilted abode, drank sato rice wine, and attempted unsuccessful communicate with his potbelly pig. The truck scooped us up for the equally nauseating return ride. That night over dinner, my sister proclaimed her desire to repeat our trek experience the next day, which we contemplated at length but realized we had firm bookings the next day.
Two weeks later, back home on a treadmill walking at a high incline, I sweated, sighed, and winced from the agony of the walk across the static scenery of the gym, praying the seconds would tick by. A thought hit me -- how much does a journey that is a new experience make the pain and toil of reaching our goals disappear? How can we remove the pain from gain when we focus on the journey?
I reviewed that trek in my head, realizing how comparable it was to my activity in the gym. I harkened back to the obstacles and just the ruggedness of the path itself. I only then, in the gym, recognized the pain in our legs that day and the sweat cascading down our backs as we immersed ourselves in a completely unusual world. Wouldn't have most of us left early from work if we were experiencing the nausea from that pickup truck? Our six-hour walk passed like a flash, our memories were exclusively ones of intrigue and wonder, and we longed to repeat it. Stopping or turning back never crossed our minds.
The fullness of that journey made our pain on the way to our gain almost unnoticeable. So how can you incorporate a freshness into your day-to-day trek toward your goals so that patience and endurance become more of an afterthought?
- Take on challenging new projects that are outside your comfort zone. One of the greatest ways to impress your manager, even at the C-Level, is to proclaim a desire to stretch. It shows an appetite for innovation and creativity -- an asset to the company -- and a boldness that all companies desire. For entrepreneurs, how much does coziness stifle the growth of your business? We all know the magic lies outside your comfort zone. Stray far and wide, and watch the journey unfold.
- Put out bait to draw new people. My husband tells a story of a project back in his days at Deloitte. He was leading a testing team for a software product in disaster mode. More tests produced defects than success. One day, he hung three signs outside his cubicle, each saying, "I love defects," in the three languages he speaks -- Spanish, French, and Italian. People became curious, and in days his project team had hung up twenty more translations. It became a conversation piece. All 250 project team members at every level eventually stopped at his desk to inquire. One of them created an opportunity that doubled his salary.
- Make play time more fulfilling. Align your time outside work more with your passions. Again, go out of your comfort zone. Can you carve more time to spend with your kids? Maybe pick up an instrument? Can you force yourself to take more vacations or more enjoyable ones? If the money you make at work feeds more rich experiences, that will also take some pain out of your road to gain.
Keep things interesting and fresh, and you may reach your goals in what seems like a flash. It doesn't take a jungle experience to truly drive you where you never thought you'd be.
Laura Berger, PCC is a leadership coach, media personality and bestselling author. She has spent 20+ years counseling leaders to achieve positive, long-term, measurable results for themselves, their people and their teams. She is a corporate and conference speaker, workshop facilitator, and private coach. For more information visit Berdeo Group LLC
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