It was probably back in 2003 when a good friend and mentor at work (John) got me into walking. We'd squeeze in a walk before lunch a few times a week. Then every day we'd shave off some time until much later we had a 2.4mile route down to thirty minutes (that's a very brisk pace ~5mph, as I added distance my pace evened out at 4mph). As the months rolled by my good friend Jim joined us. I continued walking daily at work, often on my own, and added in some hikes after work. Walking had become my guilty pleasure of choice by 2005, and I was traveling 50miles+ per week on foot (weather permitting). My walking time/distance peaked in 2007 at 100miles+ per week during the spring/summer/fall months. I found it grounding to be out moving about on foot for hours, as I was having some difficulties finding enjoyment in my day job.
Cut to the present, now in the winter months of 2009 it's challenging for me to cover 40-50miles per week. It appears my acclimation to the cold is fading with age, even the low twenties with a slight wind makes being outdoors for prolonged periods discomforting. Last week there was a large snow storm in the north east (I live on Long Island, NY), so my walk a couple of days ago was harried by slush and cars zooming past over snow covered roads. Yesterday I decided to go to my favorite park, there's a wonderful 11-12 mile loop if you walk along the periphery of the reserve. I underestimated the snow depth, and made a BIG mistake in my planning.
About 5 miles into my hike some ice had melted around my ankles and dripped into the tops of my walking sneakers due to an error in the way I was wearing my socks (the sneakers have always been waterproof). At about the same time I pulled a muscle at the top of my right leg, in the front where the leg meets the hip due to the way I had to move through the deeper snow drifts (pulling my feet up before moving them forward). It was a mild strain, and as an avid walker I knew what I could deal with injury wise before needing to call for assistance. Either way, I was deep in the park so it would be difficult to get any help at that location.
My pace was slowed to about 2miles per hour. Each step was pained, especially through the deeper snow when I was forced to keep pulling my right leg up, before moving forward. My fears began to manifest as I began losing feeling in the front of both my feet. I kept flexing my toes with each step, but the water that had leaked in had gotten colder over time due to prolonged periods in deep snow. For the next two hours I focused on each step, and with each step I was getting closer to my car. My mind drifted to thoughts of what I would do as soon as I made it to the vehicle. It was just an hour away I told myself.
I didn't have much time to worry, the soreness of my leg muscle and numbness in my feet were all that I was concerned with. My world began and ended with each step, nothing outside of that mattered. I was never concerned as to whether I would make it back to my car. I knew I could make it regardless of damage to my feet. I forced myself to get angry in order to increase my heart rate. I jogged for thirty seconds to increase blood flow to my legs and feet. I did everything I could, hoping that the insulation in my sneakers would be enough to prevent frostbite. I cursed my poor planning, and dwelled on the small leg muscle pull that was becoming increasingly painful, and how it could potentially be the precursor to me getting severe frostbite.
My breathing was somewhat strained, and I began coughing. The stress of the cold on my legs and feet was no longer isolated, and was taking its toll on my body. Still I moved forward, one step at a time. All there was and ever would be is one more step, always moving forward. I recognized a turn in the trail, and the sounds of small streams as I approached. I escaped the deeper snow and moved very quickly over the plowed blacktop by the entrance, I had MADE IT BACK! As soon as I got in the car, I stripped off my sneakers and wet socks and blasted the heat on my feet. I kept flexing my toes and warming them with my hands, the top parts of both feet were very cold but I could feel them. Life was slowly returning to them. My new balance hiking sneakers had somehow kept my feet warm enough the entire time. Note to Self (and other walkers): wear extra socks and pull them out out of the hiking sneakers/boots over your pants! I know better, but I got lazy and it almost cost me dearly. It took twenty minutes of driving before I gained full feeling back in the edge of my toes on my right foot but there was no permanent damage, I counted my blessings. After a mild fever and cough last night, a good nights sleep seems to be all I needed for a full recovery.
I think we would all benefit if we can leverage that survival instinct to our financial endeavors. If we can bring that same focus and drive to our work or business, even extraordinary problems can be overcome. By focusing on taking one step at a time, by living within that single step we are able to move past all the other concerns and distractions that make taking that step otherwise impossible. At the end of each step we are reminded of our goal (in my case yesterday a warm dry car). In our work lives this goal may be financial independence, discovering a new calling, or finding real value within our existing businesses. String enough steps together and you'll be taken to places you never even imagined.
But don't forget, or allow your goals to obfuscate the simple truth that there is a universe of satisfaction in each step.