Solo camping in the Yukon Territory in the center of a frozen lake, where moose, wolves, bears, and other large animals live just beyond the perimeter of the forest on the shores. All images: Milosz Pierwola
The world is full of opportunity available to anyone at any time. The only difference is learning how to identify it, how to position yourself to reach it, and following through. Simple, but not easy.
How do I know this? For the past several years I have supported myself while traveling the globe and pursuing adventure.
This did not come easy. Growing up I had low grades. Graduate school piled on the debt. I entered the workforce during the recession and was earning less money than my friends who had dropped out of school.
At 29, I had a job I detested and no benefits. It felt like my dreams were fading away more every day as I sat behind a desk. Drudgery. I wanted to be outdoors and to feel alive, but I’d grown up in cities. I had no experience in the outdoor industry, no connections, and everyone in my life telling me that quitting my job to become a full time adventurer was the worst decision I could possibly make.
However, facing the reality that the only life I would ever know was one that I detested, I discovered the courage to jump into the abyss.
Now, I am living a different life than I thought possible, much more aligned with what I had always hoped to become. How did I discover the resources for all that I managed? How did I stave off certain doom and overcome failure, rejection, and insufficiency?
Step 1: Calibrate Your Compass
Most people in this world do not know what they want. While school prepares us to be part of society, it never explores our innermost interests. Then, once school is over, not only do we lack the time to search, but we have most likely committed to a career whether we like it or not.
For me, the most important thing was to explore what it was I wanted to truly do with my life. In order to discover this, I had to disrupt my life. To discover how to create a career out of what I love to do, I had to first know what it is that I love to do.
This is your compass - it will tell you the way no matter what you are looking for. Once you know what you most desire, every choice in your life can be made by answering a simple question: “Will my decision bring me closer to my goal?” If yes, then take it; if not, then do not.
Step 2: Commit
This step tests you. Everyone can have energy and ambition at first, but only those who have passion to fuel them get anywhere beyond that. Practically every self-made successful person I have met has told me the same advice and it has worked for me as well; persistence is key.
Step 3: Take Responsibility
The most liberating revelation in my life came when I realized that I was responsible for all of the failures in my life. That led to an epiphany: the inverse was also true. If I was responsible for every single decision that lead to catastrophe in my life, then I was also fully and independently responsible for any success as well. It was a flash of inspiration and gave me courage and motivation to continue my slog.
Step 4: Don’t Apologize
Along the road to your dreams stand those who gave up, who stopped or quit, those who, for one reason or another, did not continue. Your pursuit alone might offend them, and they might disparage your decisions.
You cannot take this personally, for they do not understand the source of their contempt themselves. And every attempt to explain, justify, pacify, or defend will steal the most valuable resource you have; your time. It is up to you to move forward in spite of the world screaming at you to stop. The only person that is guaranteed to come with you on this journey all the way to the end is you, and you are the only person you owe anything to.
Step 5: Never Stop.
The world’s greatest accomplishments were not achieved by those who made excuses. They were made by men and women who did not quit no matter what.
Whether it was reaching the summit of Mt. Everest so that we could stand on top of the earth, designing the first airplane so that we could fly, or firing a rocket into a great infinite nothing so that we could collide with a giant floating rock and play golf on it, the only way to achieve your dreams is to find a way. And the best way you can do that is to use your compass, because it will always steer you in the right direction.
Follow ambassador Milosz Pierwola at @adventuremilo.