Greatness is in the Steps

If hiking has taught me nothing else, it is that things happen one step at a time. Greatness is the process, not the destination.

There might be things in life that just happen. A person might win the lottery after buying a ticket for fun. But most things happen gradually with a lot of effort.

When I’m backpacking, sometimes it starts to feel like the only thing happening is that I’m putting one foot in front of the other. And eventually, after many miles, that act of taking a step feels like nothing short of miraculous.

It is easy to get caught up in the grandeur of backpacking. One need only to log onto any hiker blog or the backpacking section of reddit to see picture after picture of grandiose panoramas.

But what you won’t see is 30,000-40,000 steps per day for most hikers. 40,000 seemingly insignificant actions that add up to an activity worthy of publishing many magazines about.

Most people, myself included, aren’t thinking about that panorama while slogging up a mountain. It is often enough just to will my legs not to buckle underneath me.

I have even tried to use the image of the panorama to motivate novice hikers to keep pushing forward. Unsurprisingly, not many of them care about getting a good picture when they are mid-way through a 3,000-foot ascent. In fact, in that setting, many of them tend to be quite animated about their lack of caring.

Greatness doesn’t happen in magical, panorama landscapes. Greatness happens one step at a time.

Good musicianship is going to the practice room every day to play scales and tone exercises. My roommate’s boyfriend is a successful salesman who achieves his numbers by picking up the phone and calling clients one at a time religiously. The famous choreographer Twyla Tharp writes of her commitment to experiment with motion and record it as part of her daily routine. Many writers make a commitment to journal frequently.

Here I start to get cliche but the best part of life is the journey. We all have resumes, scrapbooks, facebook galleries, websites, instagrams, and college transcripts that try to capture who we are by the places we have arrived. But the more I backpack and the more I live my life, the more I realize that true beauty is in how I got to those places.

Taking one step, playing one scale, or calling one client and then doing it again and again. That is what is truly amazing. Anything that goes on a resume is just a reflection of the process it took to achieve it.

Greatness is in the steps.


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