Change is hard. Change hurts. The birth of something new is always, always painful. Change requires us to move through the discomfort and overcome the resistance to reach whatever is really, truly good. That good thing is on the other side of the pain.

If only we could clearly see the path all the way to its ending, the pain of the unknown would be gone. But there are twists and turns in every trail, including the trail of life. Obstacles must always be overcome. You can never see the entire path--instead, it unfolds before you one step at a time.

The key is to keep taking steps. Keep moving forward. One step at a time, the path will be revealed. 

As we take steps, we must remember that we only have one step to take: this step. The step that lies directly before us, right here and right now. Truly, this is the only step that we can physically take. Not the step after that or the step a mile down the trail, but THIS step. Right now.

Do it.


Day 32

For a challenge to be worthwhile, it must be bold. It must be audacious. You have to risk very real failure for a goal to be worthwhile. 

In the past, I have set goals for myself that I know with almost complete certainty that I will complete. One example is Strava, my favorite means of tracking my activity stats. On Strava, you can set a mileage goal for the year in your profile. In 2017, I set a goal of 2,000 miles. While I hadn’t reached the 2,000 mile mark in the previous two years, I chose 2,000 miles because I knew that if I didn’t reach that amount of mileage, I had had a poor year. I knew from experience that in order to have a halfways decent year of mountain biking, I had to ride a minimum of 2,000 miles.

Despite spending the first two months of the year on downhill skis, overcoming a hip injury, and losing the final two months of the year to knee surgery, I still soared past that 2,000-mile “goal.”

The bar was set so low, that I easily accomplished it without even trying.

Some people see this as a good way to set goals. If the bar is easily surpassed, that gives you a feeling of success and you’re likely to go way above and beyond. While perhaps there is some merit to this, that only means that the sense of achievement when the low bar is reached eventually gets labeled as “not important.” You know that hitting the low bar is pointless, meaningless.

On the other hand, if you choose an audacious goal, a goal that you can and probably will fail at, but a goal that is worthy of giving every ounce of effort that you have to achieve it—such a goal is worthy of the effort that you expend. Such a goal can (and will) motivate you to achieve more than you ever thought possible. 

In short, such a goal is worth it. Easy goals are not.

Set an audacious goal this year, and see what you can do!

Day 27
I want to take some time and consider: exactly how important is mountain biking in our lives, really?
To do this, I’m going to examine Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
. . .
Is mountain biking actually required to fulfill any of the levels of Maslow’s pyramid? No, of course not. As I touched on in the introduction, billions of people around the world use different methods to achieve these basic human needs, and many of them are no better or worse than any other.
The paradigm shift happens when you choose to embrace the mountain biking lifestyle. Or perhaps you fall sidelong into this life without consciously choosing to do so, until one day you wake up and realize that all you think about is bikes. Once a person has reached this point, I’ve illustrated how mountain biking can, in fact, help the rider achieve all five (or even six) levels of human need and motivation.
But is looking to mountain biking as your primary means of achieving these six needs wise, or even healthy? Is it a good idea to use mountain biking as the means to achieve these six ends? That, my friend, is a question you’ll have to answer for yourself.

One of the first questions I get after a new injury is, "so, are you done skiing, then?" Or, "are you going to back off on those jumps?" It's usually a question that follows the reasoning, "you got hurt. This sport is dangerous. You shouldn't do dangerous thing that hurt you."

But as I take a step back from their question and think about the absolute best moments that I've experienced in my life, many of those beautiful moments have taken place out in the mountains. Practicing these so-called "dangerous" sports has led to many of the very best experiences of my life.

To focus on the hiccups along the way instead of the beautiful panorama of incredible adventures that span months--even years--in between the injuries, the hiccups, would be a serious error in perspective and mindset. If we're always fixated on the small things that go wrong, how can we appreciate the many things that go so wonderfully right in this life?

We can't allow our focus to remain on the few challenges and difficulties, no matter how formidable they may be. Instead, let us focus on the beauty that surrounds us daily.

Day 24

The main reason I was hesitant to begin my challenge on January first, and doubly hesitant to begin writing about my challenge on January first, was this ominous shadow of self-doubt lurking behind every thought related to Outside 365: “What if I FAIL?” 

Well, I could very well fail. I’m recovering from surgery, after all. So how will I respond?

Here’s my plan: start again.

See, the inherent problem with a challenge that requires you to do something every day, for 365 days straight, is that if you miss just one day—just one—you’ve technically failed the challenge. Of course, the point of doing the challenge, the reason that such an audacious challenge exists in the first place, isn’t foiled by missing just one day. But the overt stat-tracking part is

Why set myself up for potential—even likely—failure in this way? “Because I’m just not all that bright,” is the best answer I have for you right now.

As I embark on this audacious and foolhardy challenge, I do so with the knowledge that I could, at some point, fail to complete it on my first attempt. If I stumble, if I fall, I won’t let that stop me. I will dust myself off, pick myself up, and begin again at day 1. Whether I fail at day 30 or day 300, I will reassess, try to understand what went wrong, and begin again.

Outside 365 isn’t a goal that I devised for myself, to give myself motivation. Such goals rarely work. Rather, Outside 365 is a goal that found me. This project was born of a desire that rests so deep in my soul that it can’t be quenched, it can’t be satiated, until it is complete.

While setbacks will inevitably occur, failure is not an option.

Day 20
I love the dawning of a new year. The passing of the old and the genesis of the new always brings with it inspiration and motivation for change and improvement in my own life. I reflect on the year that’s just concluded—the goals I met, the ones I didn’t—and work on honing my priorities for the coming year.
The problem is that January 1, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, is one of the worst times of the year to set a year-long mountain biking goal.

Photo: Jim Cummings

Many times when we set a personal goal for ourselves--something like Outside 365--we dramatically overcomplicate the parameters of the goal. As I outlined my challenge, I asked myself: "Is simply being active outside enough? Should I add some other aspect to my goal to make it more meaningful?”

Then I realized: we often think that making things in our lives more complicated automatically imbues them with more value. In fact, the exact opposite is true: the simplest things in life are usually the most meaningful.

For many people reading this, who may not be athletes (currently) but are drawn to the idea of physically reconnecting with nature everyday, the idea of riding a bike for an hour or running a mile may be overwhelming. It may seem physically impossible at this point. It may actually be physically impossible.

To just such a person, I have this to say: just go for a walk. Walking is enough.

The more complex a challenge, the more likely that you'll feel the burden of overwhelm and buckle under the pressure. It's always easier to make a goal more complex or nuanced as you go. But to get there, you need to start somewhere.

A limiting reality in my life over the last three years has been a series of serious injuries. Most recently, just over two months ago, I had my second surgery to reconstruct the ACL in my right knee. For me, it is currently physically impossible (or at least inadvisable, according to my docs) to run, hike, ride a bike (except on a trainer) -- you name it. But the one thing I can do? I can walk.

I've been walking a lot during the first few weeks of this challenge. On one hand, it seems mundane--can't I even be on a trail? But then as I slowly inhale and exhale, allowing the stress to depart my body, I pick my gaze up from the gravel in front of my shoes and look around. I look at the mountains--unusually bare for this time of year. I notice the wooden fence, with the dried bark peeling off from the relentless punishment of the Colorado sun. I breath in the sweet scent of the ponderosa pines all around me. 

As I drink in the world around me, I realize: for now, walking is enough. Bigger adventures are on the horizon, but for now--I will walk.

Day 17