Pick your hell
He stood on the edge of the cliff, shifting his gaze back and forth from the rock-littered desert below to the beautiful valley he could see in the distance.
The wise old guru sat on a rock and watched him bemusedly.
“Isn’t there a bridge to cross?” he asked the old man. “Or even a rope to climb down?”
The old man chuckled. “No bridge. No rope.”
“So the only way down is to step off the edge, like you said?”
“There is no other way.”
“Okay, so suppose I actually survive the fall. What then?”
The old man’s weathered face crinkled into a grin, his eyes twinkled.
“Taking the leap is just the first step. Then you must cross the desert. And make no mistake — that journey will be hell.”
“Will it be worth it?” he asked.
“You tell me,” the old man responded. “How worthy is your goal? And how big is your why?”
“I can’t imagine anything better,” he affirmed.
“Then yes, it will be worth it. You see, everyone who stands at the edge of this cliff sees something different on the other side. What you see on the other side is your particular goal, and that is unique to you.
“But there’s a reason why you have not achieved that goal yet — you are not worthy of it. You have not become who you need to become to deserve it.
“As you cross the desert to your promised land, you will endure tests and trials specific to you and your goal. If you persist, those test and trials will transform you into who you need to be to be worthy of your goal.
“You can’t achieve your highest, noblest goals as the same person you are today. To get from where you are to where you want to be you have to change who you are.
“And that is why no one can escape that journey — it is what transforms you into a person worthy of your goal. The bad news is that that journey is hell. The good news is that you get to pick your hell.”
“Pick my hell?” he asked. “What do you mean?”
“Because of your natural gifts and interests, your inborn passion and purpose, there are some hells that are more tolerable to you than others.
“For example, some men can endure hard physical labor because their purpose lies in such fields as construction or mechanics, while other men could not even dream of enduring that hell.
“I’ve met people who knew they were born to be writers. Their desert to cross, their hell to endure was writing every day for years without being paid or being recognized and appreciated. But in spite of their hell, they were happy because they were writing. Though they still had to earn their way to the valley of their ultimate goal, they were doing what they were born to do.
“Ever read the book Getting Rich Your Own Way by Scrully Blotnick?”
He shook his head.
“That book reveals the results on a two-decade study performed by Mr. Blotnick and his team of researchers on 1,500 people representing a cross-section of middle-class America. Throughout the study, they lost almost a third of participants due to deaths, moves, or other factors.
“Of the 1,057 that remained, 83 had become millionaires. They interviewed each millionaire to identify the common threads they shared. They found five specific commonalities, including that 1) they were persistent, 2), they were patient, and 3) they were willing to handle both the ‘nobler and the pettier’ aspects of their job.
“In other words, they were able to endure their particular hell because they were in the right field, they had chosen the right career that coincided with their gifts, passions, and purpose.
“Here is the inescapable reality: No matter what you pick as your greatest goal, achieving it will stretch you in ways you can’t imagine right now. You will have to get out of your comfort zone. You will have to become a different person than you are right now to become worthy of your goal. You must cross that hellacious desert to get to your awe-inspiring goal.
“But I get to pick my hell?” he asked.
“You get to pick your hell.”
He turned back toward the edge of the cliff. But this time, he didn’t look down at the desert; he fixed his gaze on the valley of his goal.
And after a moment, he stepped off the edge…