Want to Do Epic Shit? Learn to Love the Boring Shit.
“I want to do that”
It’s a phrase I’ve only really heard articulated in relation to two things I do. The first is outdoor adventures: skiing up and down mountains, climbing on things, getting lost in the woods and paddling around on the ocean. The second is organizing massive protests, especially mass civil disobedience.
For a long time, I’ve tried to keep those parts of my life separate. I use my weekends and vacation days for adventure. My weekdays, nights and work days are for politics. I post political things on Twitter and photos of adventures on Instagram. I’m not even sure why I still have Facebook, self promotion I guess. That and online rubbernecking at the festering swamp of online human interaction that it has become.
Recently, I realized that mass protests and outdoor adventures actually have one major thing in common – to do either, you have to do a lot of boring and tedious shit. And, to do anything epic, you have to learn to love that boring and tedious shit. The weird thing is that the boring and tedious shit you have to do for both is remarkably similar. Here's what I mean:
- You have to pay for some shit. Even the most basic adventure is going to have some costs. Whether it’s picking up some energy bars and filling up on gas or buying a $300 rope, you’re going to need some cash, and that cash has to come from somewhere. Similarly for mass protests, someone is going to have to pay for something at some point. It might just be paint and staples, but if you’re trying to make 100 signs, it adds up.
- You (and everyone else) need to eat, drink and shit (literally). One of my favourite moments talking to any large group about mass sit-ins and blockades is when we start to talk about adult diapers. You see, the point of mass protests is typically to take over a space for a period of time to either get someone to pay attention, to force someone to do something. The main reason that humans, at least physically, can only stay in a place for so long is that our body produces waste, and we have to put that waste somewhere. If there isn’t a bathroom nearby…well you can probably figure out why we end up talking about adult diapers.
Thanks to this conundrum, we spend a long time figuring bathroom logistics for any mass action. Same for epic adventures. Think about it, if you’re sitting in a kayak for 10-12 hours a day in the open ocean, how are you relieving yourself? If you’re ski mountaineering and camping on a glacier, where is the toilet? Do you really want to get up and trudge into the snow to pee when it’s -40ºC and a snowstorm? There are even places, like Mt. Ranier National Park, where you have to pack your shit out with you, literally.
And, before you can even think about your bodily functions, you also need to think about how you’re fueling your body, and those of everyone with you. Whether you’re getting up for an alpine start so you can be on a mountain summit my mid-day or waking up at 4:00 a.m. so you can deploy a blockade in the dark, someone has to sort and pack all the gear and someone definitely needs to bring the coffee.
- You aren't entitled to shit. This is probably the most important thing I’ve learned. At the end of the day, most of us would love to climb epic peaks and most of us would love it if we could gather throngs of people to validate our political opinions in the streets. But wanting something does not make it so. Nor does wanting something mean that we’re entitled to the resources to make it happen. Sure, I’d love it if a bunch of outdoor gear companies would outfit and resource my summer trip to Alaska, but that’s only going to happen if I hustle and somehow convince them it’s worth their while to hook me up with a jacket, a kayak or just a box of Clif bars. And, since I’m not a professional explorer, that’s a hard, and frankly, unlikely hustle to succeed, at least at first. I need to put in my time, finance my own trips and learn the ins and outs of the game.
The same is true of activism. Just because you have an idea, even a great one, it doesn’t mean anyone is going to fund it. You need to hustle, and to convince people who have money that they should give you said money. The trick is, thinking that you’re right politically isn’t usually a good enough reason for someone to give you money. They need to feel excited about your project and your cause, and yes, sometimes that can feel like you’re selling your soul (because frankly, sometimes you are). But, on the other side, if your strategy to get your cause or event or trip funded is to guilt people into supporting you, your best case scenario is getting resentment money, and that will be as little as someone can give you, and will almost definitely be a one time thing.
At the end of the day, doing epic shit requires a lot of tedium. The trick is either learning to love it, or doing things that require less of a grind. But, at the end of the day, who the hell wants to do that?