The road

May 12, 2022

We were out deep in the Idaho backcountry up on the snow-covered mountains where trees were bare and the snow was plentiful. Fluffy flakes of snow floated down and melted as they met our warm faces and the plastic covering our still warm snowmobiles. 

The photographer of the crew, Mark, was laughing as we were shoveling snow into the massive cheese wedge of a jump getting ready to serve as a runway to the sky. “Mark, what’s wrong?” I asked. “I’ve never met any other snowboarder who’s as particular as you at what they do,” he said smiling. 

Having never heard of that word, English being my second language, I just smiled back and kept shaping up the jump. Even if I had known what the word meant, I would not have known what Mark meant by saying it.

Particular. As in strict. Tight ass. Control freak. There are many more ways of saying it. Mark was being gentle. A true friend.

The results I got by being disciplined, focused, and unwavering were world-class. Strict Steve, my beloved companion on the trip to becoming a pro snowboarder was relentless.

You get results when you put in the effort. Day in, day out.

Snowboard more. Results.

Shovel more. Results.

Lift weights. Results.

Relax. No results.

I knew what I wanted and how I wanted it. I was focused because it gave me results. I was determined because it gave me the success I wanted. I restricted myself from doing things that didn’t produce results.

The one thing I couldn’t do was to take it easy. To chill. To relax. To be flexible. Why? Because if I wasn’t productive I wouldn’t achieve the things I wanted. And by being strict, I would remove the excess and reach the optimal results faster. And because I knew what I needed to do, any other way was not the right one.

Like Henry Ford’s automotive factories, I was a machine optimized for maximum effectiveness.

There’s just one problem with that. No, actually there are a bunch of problems with that. 

Imagine you are taking a road trip from New York City to Los Angeles and you are determined to optimize your trip and get to your destination as fast as possible. If you drive without stopping other than to gas up it’ll take you about two days. That’s without sleep. You don’t have time to stop and cool your feet off in Lake Erie, rest your eyes on the endless cornfields of Iowa, enjoy the views at Grand Canyon, meet a new person, fall in love, lay on the wheat fields of Texas and look at the sky while your head is filled with pheromones of love or greet the bears in Montana as they catch salmon straight from the river. 

If you just perform you forget to live. And when you end up in Los Angeles, or whatever destination you’ve set for your career, health, or for your life, when you finally get there and you’ve got nothing left, and your eyes are bloodshot and your ass is, I don’t know, numb shot and your back is aching and your heart is aching because you’re just an empty shell with only regrets of the things you didn’t do, that’s when you’ll realize that the road to results went by too fast. You should’ve stopped. You should’ve enjoyed the views, you should’ve lived. But you didn’t. But it’s not too late yet. Because sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes, more often than not, it does matter how you get there.

So I solemnly vow to myself to be a bit more chill. A bit more reckless. Adventurous even. Or dare I say spontaneous, so I can look back at myself when I’m seventy and wrinkled and bald and have a saggy belly and an ache in my back but no ache in my heart because I’ve lived. Not for the results but for the road.

A black and white photo of the author Jussi's smiling face with shortcut hair and a short beardJussi Tarvainen

Former pro snowboarder. Author at night. Multi(failed)-entrepreneur. And mostly an awesome designer (said, my five-year-old son).

plenty more loot in the vault

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