I have a favorite bike ride that I try to do a couple times each week during the summer. It’s not a really long one, and it’s not up a mountain or anything crazy like that, but it challenges me. I get a good workout and a good rush of speed out of it. And that’s all I’m really looking for in a ride.
But there is this one point in the ride where, the first couple times I rode it, I thought I was done climbing. I could see this point from several hundred yards off, and it was my target. I thought I was cruising from there only to find out that, once I crested that hill, there was a slight turn to the right leading to ... another 75 yards of climb.
It’s not that the 75 yards is particularly harder than any other part of the climb, it’s that I thought I was done. I refer to that spot lovingly now as “the spirit breaker;” once you imagine the hard part is over, it’s really tough to ramp back up again, even for a little bit.
Unfortunately, many parts of life are exactly that same way. You do something difficult, rewarding and amazing, and you think you’re done with it only to find out that there’s more hard work left to do. A teacher friend of mine, Mike McQueen, recently finished writing a book called “Getting Boys To Read,” which is a timely and very important topic. And I thought to myself, having been there, “Way to go, Mike! Are you ready for what’s next?” It turns out, he was: he held an online “crowd funding” fundraiser, and raised enough money to pursue self-publishing and a substantial printing of his book.
More power to him. There are more hard days ahead.
One of my heroes is J.K.Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter novels. One of my favorite aspects of her story is that her work was rejected by 12 different publishing houses before it finally got picked up. (How would you like to be the literary agent who issued the last rejection before Harry Potter hit the bookshelves and made a gazillion dollars?) Writing is hard — writing a novel is very hard, and takes talent and energy and effort and concentration over long periods of time. Imagine creating something as magical as Harry Potter and then being told 12 times that it wasn’t good enough.
But she avoided her “spirit breaker” and persevered, to great reward. I believe Mike will avoid his own “spirit breaker” and put something out that will be important and rewarding.
I think we all have our goals, our aspirations and our hopes, and it is incredibly important that we pursue those. Without them, there would be no forward direction in our lives. And, all over Jefferson County right now, thousands of high school seniors are looking toward one last semester before graduation, the first major goal of their lives.
But it’s important, I think, to remember that goals are often just the start of the story. There will almost always be other hills to crest and other challenges to face. If you bring the same energy to those that you do to the first hill, there will, eventually, be a place to pick up speed and coast. A little.
Michael Alcorn is a music teacher and fitness instructor who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. He graduated from Alameda High School and the University of Colorado-Boulder.