A Journey of a Thousand Miles ...

A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

I don't remember when I first heard this maxim, but it first took on meaning to me about 10 years ago. I was standing at the top of a hill in Germany, looking east. I had been working as a business intern at a wig factory in Kronach, in isolated town in rural, northern Bavaria. Weekend entertainment options were minimal, and at that time (1997) most shops in Germany still closed around 1 PM on Saturdays, so I had often spent weekends exploring hiking trails in the area, often walking for 6 hours or more at a time.

I find that I do some of my best thinking when I walk alone. Perhaps it is being alone with one's thoughts, or the rhythm of one's steps that gets the mind going. In fact, I often found myself thinking out loud, having conversations with myself. I was completely alone, why not? (I did get "caught" on one occasion, however.)

Having spent so much time walking and thinking, I began to wonder about what was out there, to the East. I knew the Czech Republic bordered Bavaria directly east of where I was, so I began to wonder how long it would take to walk there. Perhaps I could walk there and back before Monday, in time for work. I let this train of thought develop, and thought about what lay beyond the Czech Republic: Russia, the Middle East, Asia. Then one of those crazy ideas came into my head. It was the type of idea that everyone has from time to time and probably most of us simply write them off as crazy, impossible or unlikely. Whatever we label them, we never accomplish them because as quickly as these ideas come into our minds, they leave. But I held on to this one just long enough so that I did not forget it. I wanted to walk from London to Hong Kong!
Why not? (Of course, I couldn't walk across the English Channel, but other than that...) Yes, it was a prodigious distance to travel by foot, but what is walking after all? It is just putting one foot in front of the other, and doing that enough times would eventually bring me to Hong Kong.

Every great accomplishment must have started the same way, with an idea, and an idea never becomes an accomplishment by thinking about how impossible or unlikely it is to achieve it. Whether one is speaking of literal steps in a trek from Paris to Hong Kong, or small increments of advancement in a career, or a project, it is the discipline and dedication of continuously "putting one foot in front of the other" that allows all of us, no matter how exceptional or how mediocre we are, to achieve greatness.

This mindset reminds me of another maxim: "10% inspiration, 90% perspiration," which also first took on meaning to me when I was in Germany in 2003/4 working on a Master's degree
(a story I may share in a future entry). The idea is only the first step. Talent is only a small part of success. Discipline to work hard and dedication to reach the goal count for much more.

I wish I could end this entry by saying that I had realized my dream of walking across 2 continents and share all the wonderful, life-changing experiences I had, but I have not yet been able to do this. Not yet. Although it may be unlikely that I will ever complete it, I also have never given it up, and I never will. My hilltop epiphany of 10 years ago has changed my thinking and my approach to life. I rarely discount ideas I have, if I think they are worth pursuing, no matter how unattainable they may seem. I write down the ideas that intrigue me the most in hopes that I will not forget them and may achieve them someday. Some of them I have, others I have not (yet!). Even in my daily life, I tend to set my goals beyond what I think my reach might be, hoping that I will reach my full potential. I can think of several instances, where I had set goals I thought were impossible to reach. I have not yet failed to achieve them.

It is in this spirit, that my wife and I move to Japan and begin the study of taiko, or Japanese drumming. There are few people who can experience a live performance of taiko drums and not be moved to a near spiritual level. My wife and I have been captivated by Japanese drumming for several years now and have decided to begin our own amateur group and school in a couple years. In a couple weeks, we will move to Japan and begin study of taiko. After several years, we plan to return and pass on what we've learned to others. This online journal is intended to share our experiences as we take this first step, of several thousand miles. Please join us.

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