by Niall Doherty

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” – Hunter S. Thompson

Last week I tried really hard to find a boat to take me from India to Sri Lanka. It should be easy — the two countries are separated by just eighteen miles of sea — but since there’s no passenger ferry, it isn’t easy at all.

So last week I made over a hundred phone calls, sent a few dozen emails, and met with several folks in person. I reached out to cargo ship companies, sailing clubs, fellow travelers, the local Couchsurfing community, and anyone else I could think of who might be able to help.

At the same time, I was busy with my book launch and two big web projects, amounting to an average of ten hours per day in front of my laptop and less sleep than I would have liked.

By the end of the week I was exhausted, and not much closer to finding a boat to take me to Sri Lanka. And yet I felt remarkably good about myself. Two reasons why…

1. Capacity Improvement

Cal Newport got me thinking about this with his article on hard focus.

He writes about how it’s entirely possible to train your focus muscles, to the point where you can sit down at your desk and concentrate on one thing for several hours on end, be it writing or programming or whatever. Just like training for a marathon, you might only be able to stick with it for 20-30 minutes a session in the early days, but over time you can’t help but build your discipline and endurance.

Last week I felt I greatly improved my capacity to try. I picked myself up and brushed myself off after every dead-end and every rejection. I was right at the edge my comfort zone throughout the week, and it was often stressful, but that’s where I needed to be to stretch myself, to increase my capacity to try.

When’s the last time you pushed up against your edge?

It’s not a place you want to be all the time, but you don’t want to be away from it for too long either. At your limit is where you redefine yourself and move the chains.

2. You Just Have To Try

The second and bigger reason I felt good about myself despite failing to find a way to Sri Lanka last week, was that I knew I’d given it my absolute best shot. The trying was its own reward.

I never once self-sabotaged, never once gave into laziness or fear or procrastination. Despite all the setbacks and roadblocks, I kept coming up with more things to try, more people to contact, more possibilities to explore.

I still haven’t found a way to Sri Lanka, but I’ll continue to try and try hard.

Failure doesn’t bother me so long as I do everything in my power to succeed. As one of Coach Wooden‘s favorite verses goes…

At God’s footstool, to confess,
A poor soul knelt and bowed his head.
“I failed,” he cried. The master said,
“Thou didst thy best. That is success.”

So here’s me encouraging you to try

Even if it seems impossible and you think you’ll likely fail, know that the goal itself doesn’t really matter that much.

What matters is that you give it your best shot.

Win or lose, you’ll learn plenty of valuable lessons along the way. You’ll be left feeling good because you followed your true path, you fought for your dream, and you expanded the definition of yourself.

How hard are you trying?