Fact is, most people don’t really know where they’re going.

It seems like the tools for figuring it out are everywhere. You can buy books that will give you an idea of direction. But you can read them all and still have no idea.

All they do is give you a map to where they’ve been, and that really isn’t that interesting.

What you really want is a map to the unknown– a Wild West. A place that’s unexplored enough so that it’s exciting to go, but with enough markers so that there’s still some precedent.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been lost (with a smartphone doesn’t count), but when there are no signposts at all, it can get very scary. No markers of progress. Nothing to tell you if you’re doing it right or wrong.

All this and the sun is going down. It’s getting darker, which means you’re losing time if you don’t move.

Your real quest, when it happens, will feel increasingly terrifying. That is its nature. It is testing your resolve.

It gets more real the deeper you go, which means more at stake, more people invested, and more failure the bigger it gets. So every day a little scarier.

And yet most people still don’t know where they’re actually going.

It’s unfortunate, but the only real way to understand where you’re going is actually to build up your instinct.

That takes lots of data, which takes a lot of time.

But you can’t wait until you know. You have to go on a journey now– the biggest, most ambitious one you can find.

At least then you’ll be learning. Not the way people who work in corporations claim to be “learning” (which is bullshit).

Real learning happens from coming extremely close to error. Scars.

Last week I was climbing a tree. Up at the top was this beautiful, human-sized nest that an artist had made.

The higher you got the more the chance of breaking your bones if you fall. You feel this in your chest.

But it’s also the natural way of things, to climb.

Young people climb because it’s in their nature.

Older people don’t climb any more, but hopefully they did when they were young.

Have you climbed? Where did you go? Was it high enough?





32 responses to “Destination”

  1. Addison Avatar

    I feel like your analogy of “being lost without signs” can be directly related to the climb we go through every day of life trying to reach our goals. I find it extremely hard to identify if the decisions I am making are really the best ones, but at least I am trying to push forward I guess. But what happens when you fall from such a height that you are left with far more than just mere scars?

  2. Kyle Reed Avatar

    I’m climbing right now. Into areas that I didn’t think were possible. Maybe it is because I want to have a new vantage point, but i think it is more for the challenge of seeing how high I can climb and pushing through the fear. Currently working on not flinching.

  3. Alex Avatar

    I started rock climbing about a year ago, so I am literally climbing as well as mentally. I’ve been doing 500-100ft climbs in Yosemite. It freaks me out but it is the only time I really feel alive. The risk is great, but the reward is even greater!

  4. Ryan Avatar

    I left my corporate job and moved to a small island to become an entrepreneur. It’s scary as hell. I’m already deep in and still some long ways to go.

    There aren’t many others along the way to help…but every so often, there’s a bug (Julian) that whispers in my ears and fills me with the energy I needed to keep climbing. Thanks bug!

    1. Shreeraj Avatar

      Are you a minimalist?

      1. Julien Avatar

        No, I never have been. We just tend to get along.

  5. Ruxi Avatar

    I’m currently scared of getting anywhere, no matter how much I try to tell myself I’m not. I don’t know where I am, no direction… actually I do have a few, but I keep questioning myself if that is the right choice and I keep hesitating. I don’t even know where I want to go.
    But I do know that I want to be happy. I am not right now and I can’t bring myself to go further in order to achieve it, even if all the ingredients are right in my face. And I feel like a coward while keeping a straight face all the time.
    It’s a pretty weird funk I’m in right now…

  6. Adrian Avatar

    “Older people don’t climb any more, but hopefully they did when they were young.”

    Bullshit! That’s the 2nd time you’ve dissed seniors, Julian.

    I’m 60 – I started MMA training when I was 55 and I’m 60 now; fighting, and on the way to competing. That’s not all I do either – I’m always challenging myself – and there’s a lot of other old buggers like me – doing stuff like Tough Mudder and all sorts of other challenges. I don’t have much in the way of money so I’m still climbing and enjoying all the challenges. Age doesn’t mean shit – what you think about all day long does! 🙂

  7. Jeff Euteneier Avatar
    Jeff Euteneier

    Yeah I did climb high enough. And fell.

    My wife and I opened our own business with some family money in the summer of 2009. Brilliant timing. It was a two year process to get there and the economy was just starting to tank. That first year was the worst of my life. Took me to the edge of suicide. Ultimately our rotten business partners forced us out but by the end I was so crushed spiritually, mentally, and physically that getting out was the only way to survive.

    This was beyond scars, more like an amputation. Difficult to explain in this forum, but we have grown back from it but the debt and years of work down the drain is tough to simply chalk up to experience and be positive about it.

    A fall from a very high tree? Yeah, it can kill you. It brings you into the moment, makes you focus and grow, but it can break you too.

    Bright side: We’re on our way back now, family is together and healthy, jobs are great, school is great. Fuck the haters, head down, bull forward.

  8. Daniel Avatar

    when i was a kid, i thought there were signs for adults telling them what to do. like there was a book or something they everyone read when they got out of high school, and then the lived their lives according to that plan. since high school, i’ve been around the world 3 times with the army, got married and divorced. now i’m moving 3000 miles away from home to go back to school.

    my point is this: not only do you have to climb, you have to adjust and change your plan for the climb. you may run out of branches, or find a hornet nest but keep going.

    and a question: is there a top?

  9. Stacey Avatar

    “Your real quest, when it happens, will feel increasingly terrifying.” nailed it! I have been asking for confirmation that I am on the right path and your words delivered that. I feel the darkness closing in and the urge to move at all costs is strong. Thanks for the kick in the pants to get moving… I’m burning daylight!

  10. Ryan Avatar

    LOL @ Adrian. You go!! Another cool post Julien. Gonna go read Scars now. I align with most of your stuff, because it’s all the real stuff, which rocks.

  11. aditya Avatar

    I got the overall point you were trying to make but what did you mean by “build up your instinct”. Please explain.

  12. Don S Avatar
    Don S

    Ruxi, I admire your honesty. I too am running in circles. I tell myself to stop running in circles and now I running slower, but still in circles. It reminds me of a friend of mine who was suffering through a serious depression stint. I kept trying to tell her to become undepressed. Similarly, I keep telling myself to get unstuck. If only it were that simple.
    Anyhow, I just wanted to applaud your honesty and let you know that you aren’t alone. I too am stuck! And yes, it is a pretty weird funk.

  13. Joe Avatar

    Hmmm. Interesting. I guess it kind of depends on what your personal pinnacle or peak is. That is the thing to strive for. Your life. Your rules.

  14. Shreeraj Avatar

    More than the fear of failure what scares me the most is the idea that I might be pursuing entirely wrong goals, and that I may never find peace.

  15. fjr Avatar

    Older people DO SO CLIMB! (Just not trees)

  16. Kanna Oddie Anigbogu (Odinaka) Avatar
    Kanna Oddie Anigbogu (Odinaka)

    Hey there Julien. I get it but, how do I build up my insticts exactly??

  17. AJ Avatar

    I like your site. I appreciate your perspective, love your energy, and find your writing to be refreshing, candid, and funny. But I have to say … this particular entry is among your worst. It is just meandering, pointless, inspire-o-bable that makes no sense at all. You said it better, in fewer words, when you said:

    “If you dismiss the things that do not matter; if you remove those things from your mind and focus on what must be done; if you understand that your time is limited and decide to work now; only then will you be able to get to the finish line. Otherwise, you will be dissuaded into living a life you aren’t interested in.”

  18. Brown Vagabonder Avatar

    Love this post – building up scars as you go along in this life journey is exactly what I believe Travel helps you with. The more you travel, the more your instincts build up and the more you know if you are going the right way.

  19. Vera Avatar

    Funny thing. There are people comlpaining that they do not know what they want..neither the direction..
    I think that it is because they are not willing to take responsibility for choises, action,failurеs….
    By such people I have been called “too daring”,”naive”,”a dreamer”…
    By my own opinion I am proud to be a “self made person”…
    Done a lot, lost a lot….full of scars…but gained a very importatnt thing – the beleif that whatever comes along I will find the will to face it…

  20. AnnaLisa Avatar

    I’m over 60 and I have gotten lost and fallen many times, physically, mentally, spiritually. I have the scars to prove it.
    Your post made me cry. Those that stop climbing, DIE. My last bad fall was 8 years ago and it left me permanently disabled.
    I am climbing again and the view is SPECTACULAR!
    My mother stopped climbing last year. It’s okay. She’s 90.

  21. Matthew Palka Avatar
    Matthew Palka

    There is a big tree in the side of my yard that I climb. Not as often anymore, but I still do rarely. I used to do it because I did feel up and out there, and got to see what the woodpeckers were devouring. Experience is the best teacher because you don’t know what to expect and you can only prepare so much. My dad and I travel and fish in new lakes. There’s a scary feeling looking around you…and not knowing completely where you are, or thinking about your boat equipment failing.

    The normal individual when acting expects everything to go right, the smart and prepared person is surprised when nothing goes wrong. GET OUT THERE AND EXPERIENCE! Great article focusing on how we need to scare ourselves with our own potential often.

  22. Jeff Goins Avatar

    Love this. A thought I’ve been considering: the direction matters more than the destination. If you keep moving, you’ll find your way.

  23. Lisa Avatar

    My husband informed of this post while I was getting tattooed yesterday. I just read it now. I have told you a little about myself and my family. I don’t know if I fully explained my dedication to the institution where I work. The company has provided for me since I was a child. I am struggling with the sense of loyalty and the need to succeed on my own and climb that tree.. Incidentally the tattoo is of my company logo (it’s a lovely scar). Hope you are enjoying the soap. Thanks again Julien.

  24. Kat Avatar

    I climbed, literally, up a mountain and got horrendously lost, alone for four hours in the snow, with nothing to follow but animal tracks (bobcats? bears?). I was 15 minutes away from calling to be rescued. I had to use my compass and map to get myself back on my trail. It was the scariest experience of my life, but has changed me forever ( in a very good way). Now I am facing another climb, but of a different kind. I was diagnosed with breast cancer two weeks ago. I did not expect to go down this path in my life, but I know I am strong enough to make it through and I will not get lost this time.

  25. Jo-Anne Avatar

    I always know where I am going even when I am lost…….

  26. helen Avatar

    I like “Bite off more than you can chew and chew it.”
    I am constantly feeling a little scared and it keeps me moving forward. I figure it’s only money and there are no pockets in a shroud, or tow bars on a hearse!

  27. Quicksilver Girl Avatar
    Quicksilver Girl

    I feel like I found my “tribe” here – the 60+ and fully alive group – Thanks Julien for your stimulating writing. Oh, yeah – I’ve climbed all my life: started with trees as a young girl, continued with Haleakala Crater as a 25yo; Had my 3 babies on my own at home and then homeschooled them all (they are all now successful adults doing amazing things and really living life). I left their father after 22 years of marriage and finding out he was adulterous…did I mention I was on the otherside of the world and had to make my way back on my own? Now I fish in the Smoky Mtns, hike remote trails (and encounter bears), bike 100-miles a week with my husband – and I’m ready for the next adventure.

    It’s weird, but as I get older, I still feel like I’m the same person as I was in my 20s and 30s. My grandmother told me that insider secret when she was in her 80s! “Life’s a fieldtrip, not a dress rehearsal.”

  28. Chad Miller Avatar

    Sometimes we have the fortune of climbing more than once. We fall, lick our wounds and allow them to scar, and continue on the unmarked path in search of a new tree.
    Great post for reflection, Julien.

  29. Chad Miller Avatar

    Sometimes we have the fortune of climbing more than once. We fall, lick our wounds and allow them to scar, and continue on the unmarked path in search of a new tree.
    Great post for reflection, Julien.

  30. Ron Fischman Avatar

    I did, when I threw over a modest consulting practice to try to become an opera singer. In the course of that quest (because of it?) I met my then-wife, and adopted our two miracles. I fell short due to having only a fair amount of talent. But what if I had never tried, and always wondered?

    Much better off this way.

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