When I was in 4th or 5th grade, I went on a summer hiking trip up in the Adirondack mountains. It was a three-day trip with about 15 kids. At night we camped out in tents along the trail.
Overall, I recall the experience fondly and the trip started off great.
The first day was bright and sunny. I was one of more the more athletic kids, so along with a few others, I set a pretty aggressive pace for the hike. We were way out front ahead of the pack. I remember what it felt like to be out front – it felt good. It felt like we were winning. We could stop to explore different areas at will, we could leisurely enjoy views of the mountains, we were in complete control.
Day two was a bit different.
Right after we packed up camp in the morning, I got stung by a bee. Now, I’m not allergic to bees, so it wasn’t an emergency, but it definitely set me back about 10 minutes at the start of the hike. A counsellor waited for me to pull the stinger out and then we were off hiking, but way behind the pack.
The day two trail was very rocky – at times the trail was just one giant boulder field. That combined with our heavy backpacks made it difficult to catch up to the other hikers. I was destined to be trailing the pack all day.
I remember so vividly how it felt that second day to be at the back of the pack. Physically, it was no different from being at the front. I was traveling the same exact speed, exerting the same amount of energy and traveling the exact same distance – but emotionally it could not have been more different. It felt like I was losing. As we continued to walk, the counsellor who stayed behind with me started to provide some light words of encouragement – “C’mon you can do this!” “You got this!” “You can do it!”
I was speechless.
In just one day I went from being a clear winner, setting the pace for the group, to being dead last and needing support from the counsellors.
Walking through that rocky Adirondack trail on the second day I remember thinking to myself just how thin the line is between winning and losing. Just a few small differences and I went from way out in front winner to way behind the pack. And what I found even crazier is I was walking just as fast (if not faster) when I was in the back of the pack than when I was in the front.
I’ve always known that winning requires hard work – and I’ve always been a hard worker. But what I learned that day is that working hard alone does not guarantee success. Sometimes if you start in the wrong position and if the conditions aren’t right, no matter how hard you work, you’re still going to lose.
You should have seen how quickly I packed up camp on day three.