“I thought you said you wanted to be successful…when you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful…when you don’t care about no basketball game, when you don’t care about what’s on TV, when you don’t care about nobody calling you, when you don’t care about some party…when you get to the point where all you want to do is be successful as bad as you want to breath, then you be successful. Some of you love sleep more than being successful and I’m here to tell you today if you’re going to be successful you’ve got to be willing to give up sleep. ”- Intro to Gramtik’s album “No Short Cuts”
Up front I will admit that I frequently use the word “google” as a verb, as in let’s “google it” to find an answer to what is usually an arbitrary question, like what was the real name of the actor who played Winston Zeddemore in the movie Ghostbusters or to what depth would Lake Superior, if drained, cover North and South America (Ernie Hudson and 1 foot if you’re keeping score). What I fear though is that we will loose the ability, as a result of asking the internets, to speculate on or conjure up our own theories to life’s mysteries. For example, I used to think that since humans are made of electricity and water (and a few other things I know) and since both electricity and water will usually opt for the path of least resistance that it was only logical then for us to also take the easy way in life. It was a totally ungrounded theory, but it made sense when we were wondering why we feel guilty for choosing the easy solution to life’s problems. While on paper I still think there is some possibilities with that concept, kinda like my theory that if we eat deer poop like bears do we will be able to acquire the intestinal flora to digest rough plant materials, I know that there comes a time when a theory leaves the drawing board, which is usually when reality has the tendency to duck hook speculative ideas into the tall weeds.
I have leaned now that there is no easy way out in life (cliché I know, but just like the 20 year old who thinks they invented getting waaaaasted at the bars it doesn’t diminish the importance to the individual) and that which appears to be easy is only perceived to be that way due to factors like luck, hard work or the generosities of others. I know, being a Midwesterner steeped in an unrelenting and possibly unhealthy work ethic, that nothing worth having comes cheap, nothing worth saving comes easy. That is contrary to the going rate these days where instead of grinding out day after day of long bike rides, hours in the gym or learning how to eat healthily we choose to let cosmetic surgeons electrolux out our fat. We all have a choice: walk our bikes up that hill or get off our butts and take life head on (thanks for that lesson dad); it may hurt but that hurt will only make us stronger for the next hill.
I see that same quick fix mentality in the bushcraft world where people want the end result: be it proficiency with a bow drill or the ability to tie a good clean non-inverting slippery bowline, but lack the dedication and commitment to learning to achieve their goals. After years of teaching people how to live a healthy life the bush and over a decade of living this life myself, I know that the only way learn how to make friction fires, hit a bullseye at 100 yards with a rifle, tie a bowline quickly and correctly, make a black ash pack basket, navigate by the stars or with map and compass, or any of the other skills it takes to live this life is to put in your time. We say to tie a good knot you should tie it 100 times, then 100 times with your eyes closed or only after 100 miles do you begin to learn to paddle a canoe. A bow drill will take you months of daily practice to fully understand and get consistent coals and it may take 50′ of natural cordage to teach you the grace of reverse wrapping dogbane fibers. What this means is that you can’t learn these skills in a weekend nor can you master them in 9 weeks, it’s only through a lifetime commitment that we begin to own these skills. On a side note I can also tell you that if you aren’t spilling blood from a axe or knife mishap, losing sleep from a less than perfect shelter, or sweating fighting a blistering headwind paddling an 18′ canoe all day, you aren’t giving it what is takes to really learn this life. There is no short cut, no easy way out.
This is one reason why getting certified in bushcraft based on the instructor’s reputation instead of on your experience or receiving a framed certificate saying you took a bushcraft or survival course is kinda silly; it shows you were there and did some skills a couple of times but it does not speak to your ability. If you want a certification, it should be 100 pages long detailing everything you’ve experienced, accomplished and learned is full of pictures, videos and completed projects. It’s like many people who get college degrees- they physically showed up for class and went through the motions of learning (which is all a degree says) but what did they actually learn unless they took the initiative to really learn the knowledge? I guess that is what this all comes down to: commitment and dedication to learning, if you have it you’ll master anything you put your mind to, if you don’t all the teaching in the world will never get to your goal.
Right now I am preparing for a 45 day/250+ mile winter expedition that myself and 3 other fellers are going to attempt this February in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Norther Minnesota. Two years ago we did a shorter trip (see BW 2014 category on this blog), but even that 120 miles we covered in 21 days was enough to make us ready for the finish line. Just like last time, this winter we will be hauling over 150 pounds of gear, food and technology over frozen lakes and snow piled portage trails with no help from dogs or machines. What this means is that we need to be fit, and not just fit as in “I ran 4 miles and did 50 push ups” fit but as in I hauled 200 pounds of logs 5 miles around my property every day from November to February in order to prepare my body for the long haul of this trip. So I am training already, and after a soft summer of teaching my body is resenting the workouts, but I know every sore muscle now will pay me back when I can snowshoe all day and still have gas in the tank to set up camp, cut firewood and prepare to do it again and again. As any athlete or adventurer knows, you rely on your body to perform at a high level, and unless I missed something there are no short cuts in training. But just like when you finally get that first bow drill coal, the harder the work the greater the payoff in the end.