There was a guy, Sebastian, who really appreciated picturesque views of landscapes most people would never have the opportunity to see. He’d seen things others never would, from vantage points the average person couldn’t get to on foot.
He had worked hard and invested lots of time, energy and emotion into climbing tall mountains, diving deep into underwater caverns, and trekking deep into treacherous caves.
His accomplishments were noteworthy, but he wasn’t fulfilled. He yearned for more.
He’d seen pictures from, and heard stories about an old man who’d seen views more breathtaking and inaccessible than anything he could ever comprehend. Rumor has it he’d seen the one thing Sebastian dreamed of seeing. A volcano filled with the most glorious chicken and dumplings of all time.
The man reluctantly agreed.
“What do I first?” Sebastian asked.
Slowly and methodically the old man instructed Sebastian, “Swim across the Mediterranean Sea to Cyprus. Hike through the forest, find the tallest tree in the middle of the forest and you’ll see the volcano, and understand what you must do next,” he explained.
“WHAT!?” Sebastian blurted. “But that will take years.”
The old man merely nodded and walked away.
Sebastian was nervous, but excited to began his trek, and he spent many days and nights building the strength to swim the Mediterranean. After four years he found himself at the base of the tree. He’d nearly drowned a few times, he’d been attacked by wild animals, and almost starved to death, but finally he was right where the old man said he would be. He quickly climbed the tree.
When he got to the top he could see the volcano, but it was clearly many miles away. This wasn’t the view he was looking for. He couldn’t even see the chicken and dumplings boiling inside.
He was hurt and angry. The old man was right. He knew exactly what he should do, quit.
He went back to his homeland, and found some comfort in his family and friends, but he still had the itch to see the majestic volcano.
After a few months of wandering aimlessly he felt compelled to go see the old man again. He would scream and curse him out. He would ask him why he betrayed him. He knew he was foolish to think the old man would reveal his secret.
He found the old man doing yoga with Jenny Blake and simultaneously puffing on a pipe. He was making smoke-shaped animals with each exhale.
“You betrayed me,” yelled Sebastian.
The old man smiled wryly, “Did you not see the volcano?”
“I did,” Sebastian said, “But there was no way to get to it. It’s impossible. At least with the directions you gave me.”
“Perhaps you didn’t listen to them carefully enough,” the old man offered.
“Listen. Don’t play games with me,” Sebastian screamed in a hostile fashion, then again in a manner that resembled a desperate plea.
“Shall we try again?” the old man asked.
When Sebastian didn’t answer, the old man reached into his robe, and pulled out a tattered scroll. He looked at Jenny devouring a cupcake, shook his head in disappointment, and handed the scroll to Sebastian.
Sebastian took the scroll, and carefully unrolled it. When he looked back up, the man was gone. The instructions were infinitely longer and more intricate than the last set of instructions.
Frustrated, he crammed the scroll into his pocket and ventured home. Each night for the next month he lay awake, thoughts racing. What if this worked? It would be an epic journey, and he’d already been duped once.
It would take so much work just to prepare his body, and mind. It’d take countless hours of grinding away. Some days the sheer minutiae of it all would feel like quicksand. Some days there would actually be real quicksand.
He would encounter treacherous people. Cruel and awful people trying to hold him back, others assuring him that his task was impossible. People that loved him wouldn’t understand, and people who were his friends would invariably be jealous if he could somehow see the volcano and eat just one fluffy dumpling.
He looked into the volcano and saw the old man in a john boat with a monster ladle stirring the chicken and dumplings. The old man nodded ever so slightly and pointed to something written on the wall of the volcano.
I’m worried that too many of us give up the first time we sink a lot of effort into a challenge, and it doesn’t turn out the way we want it to.
It takes a long time to find your dream job, and you’ll likely have to endure challenges that rival Sebastian’s to get there.
But what then?
Finding the dream job, eating chicken and dumplings out of a volcano, running your first ultra-marathon. It’s a huge accomplishment. One you should be proud of. One you should stop and appreciate.
But you can’t get too satisfied. You can’t get complacent. Get a new itch to scratch.
What do you think? What challenges prove to be the biggest setbacks? How have you overcome challenges in pursuit of your dreams? How epic are chicken and dumplings?
Photo Credit: Storm Crypt