Failing on Purpose: Shark Mountain

on February 19 | in Individual Improvement, Inspirations | by | with 6 Comments

public domain photo - source

Over the three day weekend, I didn’t practice my daily meditation. I didn’t read spiritual books, I didn’t exercise, and I didn’t watch my diet. I didn’t respond to customers in my work and I didn’t keep up this blog after Sunday morning. I didn’t do pretty much any of the things that I do to keep up forward momentum.

From the tiny perspective of self, that’s failure. Without failing on purpose, though, we wouldn’t have gone.

Saturday, we bought things we didn’t need. Sunday, my family and I packed up the car and headed to the desert. My wife and I used to go camping all the time before my son, and we decided on a whim that it was time for my two year old and our two dogs to explore the dry heat and mean cacti less than an hour from our house in the sticks.

Monday, President’s Day, we were fully in camping mode and my son wanted to go exploring. We started the half mile hike up to a scenic overlook at a snail’s pace. The dogs insisted on tromping in the cactus fields. My son insisted on poking sticks into large holes that undoubtedly contain some desert wickedness. The sun was in the sky, and in this twisted version of a California climate the heat of summer already radiates down. My son’s had severely bad reactions to excess heat before, and could be that rattlesnake season will start early this year. A ton of worries as we slowly climbed up.

Just past the halfway mark, my son named a rocky hill that was on our left “Shark Mountain”. It had a jutting angular boulder on the top that did indeed look like a shark’s fin. I regretted later not taking a picture of it, but we’ll be back. We weren’t naming the hills, we didn’t inspire him to be creative. He just looked at it and named it, as he sipped some Gatorade in the shade of a manzanita. In that instant, camping stopped being my thing and our desert campground stopped being my place. He claimed it with a name, and it’s his now.

When we made it to the top and looked down on the desert valley below, my son gave me a high-five when I told him that he did it. Then he asked Mom to take pictures of a cactus right there, at the top, identical to the thousand we passed on the way. Less than a minute of looking at the view, and he was ready to head on back down.

I had to carry him back down, poor little guy was tuckered out. One of the dogs chewed through his leash and repeatedly scampered into dark caves in the rocks. More concerns. But then, as I held my son and sweated back down the trail, he started singing happily over my shoulder back up the hill, back up to Shark Mountain.

So, I didn’t do any of the things I regularly advocate here. In some sense, I failed. But now my son has a mountain out there in desert. Whatever wisdom and teaching I might have to impart to my son, whatever enlightenment I might edge toward, all the hard work I put into business, my efforts to write, and the joy and pride I have being of service to people on a daily basis are trifles. I came to full awareness of that on the hike down past Shark Mountain, as we descended from the heights we’d reached.

All of the expectations and tensions of self-improvement and career building are just petty ambitions of our egos. Lay it all down, sometimes. There can be a much deeper spirit in failing on purpose than you can find in any business endeavor, book, or repeating of mantras. Do those things, of course, but not always. There’s unnamed mountains out there.


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6 Responses

  1. That is probably the best story of “failure” I’ve ever read. It really sounds like you and your family (especially your son) had a great time. As my wife says, you always have to create memories, especially when they are that small.

  2. Remarkable responses and attention from a two year old. I’ve always maintained that children and animals are our true teachers.

    • Matt says:

      Indeed, my friend – I’ve perhaps taught him words and letters, but he’s taught me expanded faith and expanded love.

      A little less the case with the dog who chewed his leash, but I still agree there. 🙂

      Thank you much for your comment!

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