Go Boldly.

“Go boldly where you think you should be.”

My orchestral conductor used to say that all the time in college; it was one of his infamous pearls of wisdom. He used it to not only talk about music, but also as a metaphor for life. His idea was that in any score, with any action you take- go for it. Don’t do it later. Don’t play catch-up. Do it now. If you are unsure about the syncopation, your timing after a rest, or even about the arpeggios that are before you … go boldly. Make a choice, and attack. Enter, because the rest of the orchestra is going to keep on moving, whether you join or not. He always encouraged us to “get in there and figure your way out” rather than to be too timid to attempt at all. In music, as in life, you’ll learn that others are often waiting for you to take action – watching you – without even your awareness of it. Go Boldly.

Recently I went to a local climbing facility to get some exercise and have some fun. While there, I saw a man on the wall, just a few feet off the ground. Around him was a small crowd. He had reached for a climbing rock, missed, and sat there suspended on the rope, gathering himself to try again. As he sat, his eyes were closed and his head was shaking, almost as if he were having an internal dialogue to convince himself to recompose and try again. Once he was ready, he made another attempt. “To the Right!” “A little higher!” – a voice encouraged. He tried a few more times, missed, and repeated the suspension/attempt cycle for several rounds. He could have gotten down from the wall and given up, but he didn’t. He remained focused, determined, resolute.

I stayed and watched for only a few moments before I walked past and found my own climbing track, just a few dozen feet away. Shortly thereafter, I heard a cheer. The man had successfully connected to the piece he was aiming for. I later saw him walking around, one hand held by a staff member, the other clutching a walking stick. This man was blind, and he was on a climbing wall … climbing. He was taking chances and overcoming others’ perceptions of what he was capable of and who he should be. And he was doing so, boldly.

A little later, I found myself 3/4 of the way up an ascent, stuck. For those of you who have been with me at any tall building or near any ledge, know that I am terrified of heights. Paralyzingly so. I often joke that I’m only “this tall” because I’d be scared to be any further from the ground. I’m only partially joking about this. In this moment, I had looked down past my feet and saw where I was on the wall, and froze. I was very high. And now, “stuck”. I had a flashback to another moment just a few months ago when I was cutting down trees with my dad. The large branch he was cutting broke away, hit the ground and snapped away from the trunk. When it did, it caught the ladder he was standing on and pulled it several feet from where it was perched. There, several stories up, I saw my sexagenarian father suspended between the ladder on one side and the tree on the other, as if here were the crossbar in the letter “H”. He still held the chainsaw in one hand, not wanting to drop it in fear that it “might break”. “Dad- let it go. If you don’t, you’re the one that’s going to break.” With no clear option on how to escape, I saw his (and my) life flash before my eyes. I held on to the bottom of the ladder, trying to keep it stable, all-the-while configuring an exit plan from this situation. There was no good choice. He knew it too. And so, he dropped.

From my spot on the wall, I saw this happening to me, now, as I looked past my feet to the ground. But then I recalled the climber whom I had just seen a short while before. Like him, I knew that I was safe- I was harnessed, strapped-in, and still suspended. There were many options of how I could move forward. I could descend back down or I could collect myself, just as this climber had, and give it another go. “Go boldly where you think you should be.” I wanted to get to the top and complete the track. I reframed my mind, and continued to climb. … Boldly.

This flash-in-the-pan moment, on a casual night at a local climbing facility, resonated with me. “Go boldly where you think you should be.” It reminded me of the metaphor for life this saying holds, and the value of the practical sentiment behind it. This adaptive climber certainly seemed to be living it, unquestionably. He was a great reminder for me, and certainly seemed to connect with others, too, as evidenced by the small crowd gathered around him in support.

So, no matter your endeavor- be it climbing, your first marathon, ultra marathon, Ironman, triathlon, 5k, mile, goal to lose weight, to get back into shape, or showing up at your first November Project workout – Go Boldly. This sentiment extends beyond the physical; apply it to your personal life and your professional life, too. Take a chance on a relationship. Complete that new job application, or apply to university. Don’t be bogged down by others’ perceptions of what you should be doing; don’t allow others’ judgements to define you or who you want to become. Be that adaptive climber. Believe in yourself. Define your goal and make plans to achieve it. You won’t always succeed on your first effort, but it is from the attempts- the perseverance and commitment- that you will ultimately get to your goal. And you’ll be better for it. Though November Project is a workout group, we are also a tribe- a family. Through your individual strength and success, we all improve, collectively. We will cheer for you through the struggle and cheer with you through the triumph. It is only from taking that chance that you’ll truly learn how far you can go, who can become, and what you can achieve.

The weather is changing- the days are getting longer and the weather is getting warmer. Race season is upon us, and the world around us continually evolving, advancing. These changes happen quickly; life swiftly passes by if you only passively wait for something to happen for you. Be active. Actively be. Just as the orchestra will continue to play on whether you enter or not, so too will life advance. The present is only good for now, and the future is not guaranteed. I’ve certainly been reminded of this many times lately. Define your goals and your moments by “where you think you should be” … and then get there. Be bold. Yesterday, the world lost a man who certainly did this – Prince. He boldly trusted himself and defined his life by his own terms- his music, his attire, his lifestyle – not the other way around. And from that, the world-over is mourning his passing. Be the Prince of your choices.

As you go off into the rest of the day, as plan your weekend, and beyond- Go boldly. You might even land that rock you’ve been grasping for. Sign up for that 5k. Apply for that promotion. Take a chance on a new relationship. … Set yourself up to reach the finish line of an otherwise “impossible” feat that others said you’d never accomplish. You never know- you might just get a PR. Or that new salary. Or a new wedding dance partner. And then, when you do, we’ll all be there ready to cheer you on.

Are you good?!

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