“I will not let people walk through my mind with their dirty feet”
– Mahatma Gandhi –
If there is one thing I’ve learnt from over three years and 4000 miles worth of adventures, it’s that people like to say no.
They will say things like:
“That’s not possible.”
“You can’t do it.”
“Why would you want to do that?”
“You’ll never make it”
“It’s too dangerous.”
“You’re doing it wrong.”
“There’s nowhere to camp here, you should check into a hotel.”
Ignoring the No-People
I’ve experienced my fair share of negativity. I was told I wouldn’t make it from Mexico to Canada. I was told I shouldn’t go up into the mountains in a snowstorm. I was told quitting my job to live in the wilderness was a stupid idea. I was told I can’t do a million things that I have then gone on to do with an even greater amount of success and satisfaction. The “fuck you” factor makes any victory so much sweeter.
This is by no means a generalisation of the entire human race. For every single negative person, there are probably 50 others who will encourage you and tell you your idea is brilliant, even when it isn’t. These people are great, and you want to have as many of them fighting your corner as you can. But it’s the tiny minority of no-people who can have the biggest impact on you if you let them.
All it takes is one seed of negativity to take root in your mind and cloud your vision with doubt. Your adventure will be over before it’s even started.
You might begin to ask yourself if it is a good idea after all. You will start to wonder whether you should give up. You may even question whether everything you’ve worked towards up to now has been a waste of time and the people who are telling you “no” are right about everything
In my experience, the ones who like to say no are the people who have never done it before. They’ve never had an adventure. They’ve never climbed a mountain. They’ve never crossed a country on foot. They don’t know what they’re talking about. Would you take driving tips from someone who’s never sat behind the wheel? Would you take childcare advice from someone who has never been a parent? No. So why would you listen to them now?
That’s not to say you should never listen to advice. Take all the advice you can get. But only from people who have been there themselves. People who know what they’re talking about. People who can give you something of value, not just bad vibes.
It may turn out that what you’re doing is inadvisable after all, but at least you’re basing your course of action on facts and knowledge, rather than negativity, incomprehension and jealousy. If a bear expert warns you not to hike through Yosemite Valley naked and smothered in honey, you may want to rethink your plans. But if someone who has never slept outdoors in their life tells you it’s too dangerous to wild camp – you can probably ignore them.
Ignoring the negativity of the no-people is a good policy, but an even better solution is to embrace it. Let that negativity spur you on. Let it fuel your desire and motivate you as you continue down the road towards the end of your journey. There is nothing more satisfying than proving someone wrong.
When I set out to walk across America, 99% of people had my back and wanted me to do well. But it was the 1% who told me it was impossible, stupid, ridiculous and pointless that made the completion of my journey all the more rewarding. It may not be the most noble of intentions, but when you’re struggling to muster up the will to keep going, the thought of being able to rub it in their faces is the best inspiration you can get.
The best way to prove you can do something is to do it. So start planning, tell as many people as you can, wade through the negativity and that “f*** you” factor will be all the motivation you need.