Originally Posted July 1, 2009
The other day I had an interesting life lesson come in the form that many do, an analogy. I was flying home to Alberta from Manitoulin Island with my fiancee Kelly and my parents in my dad’s airplane, a Beech Baron. It’s a 4 seater, twin engine plane, with quite a lot of room in the back for baggage. A nylon cargo net hangs behind the two back seats to keep everything in place in case of a crash landing, but it has spaces between the nylon webs about 4 inches square so that it’s possible, albeit annoying, to reach through the cargo net and pull things through as you need them during the flight.
We had packed a couple grocery bags full of food and snacks for the long day of flying, about 9hrs in all plus one stop for fuel and a bathroom break. So about 2hrs into the first flight I realized I was getting pretty hungry. But just the thought of having to contort my body to reach back into the baggage compartment through the tangly webbed netting in order to fish out some food made me wish I’d had a bigger breakfast before leaving Manitoulin Island. It used to be that my mom was always the one to retrieve sandwiches and snacks from the back of the plane while I sat up front with dad, even as a young kid, helping him make radio calls and watching the autopilot and GPS take us across the country. But on this trip I mostly sat in the back, with Kelly snuggled up against my shoulder, reading and watching movies on the portable DVD player. So suddenly it was my job to fish out the food, not just for myself but for all four of us.
Once our collective hunger became stronger than my laziness I started trying to think of what edible luggage would be within my easiest reach. Since turning around to face the grocery bags directly would be almost physically impossible from my back seat position I had to reach my right hand behind Kelly and I and feel around blindly until my hand felt something recognizable. I would have thought that in order to find what I wanted I would have had to pull almost everything out, one thing at a time, organize it all on my lap, and then pain stakingly return it all through the small openings in the cargo net. But this is where the analogy began. To my surprise, the item I had visualized in my mind just happened to be in the first bag I reached into. It was even near enough to the top that I found it almost instantly. Chalking this up to a fluke I told myself I should try to fill up completely on peanuts, since digging for the veggies and dip would likely be a tiresome and frustrating chore. However, an hour or so later and totally sick of eating peanuts, I tried my hand again at foraging for more victuals.
This time, as I visualized exactly what I remembered the container of vegetables looking and feeling like, my hand almost autonomously crawled through the bag of food, rejecting oddly shaped objects that didn’t match the description sent to my fingers by my brain. It was like my hand behaved like a robot on a clearly defined mission, or like a small animal acting purely on instict that always knows what to eat and what to avoid, completely separate from my conscious mind. Moments later it found the correct match and sent the signal to my brain ordering for me to pull out my hand along with its new payload. Feeling like a racoon with its hand caught in a trap I had to wiggle, twist and pull just right to retrieve my hand and once my eyes could see what I’d grabbed onto I was pleasantly surprised to see it was indeed the veggies. Success!
This process repeated itself not only for me to find the dip, and a couple bananas, but in fact everything that I could think of and went after during the entire trip home. It seemed remarkable enough I guess that I started to ponder its relevance as a parallel to striving for other, larger goals in life. I think the first lesson is that no matter how daunting a task may appear at the outset, failure is only gauranteed if you don’t try. The next and even more meaningful realization for me was that success is exponentially more probable when you know precisely what it is you’re after. Aimless searching is far less often rewarded than a planned and precise mission. The power that comes from visualizing a goal, any goal, is something I may not understand. But it’s still something I can employ, whether it be rooting around blindly for food in the back of an airplane or shaping and developing a new life with new dreams, new priorities and new roots.
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