A Nerdy Analogy To Help You Navigate Tough Stuff

difficult times
A few weeks ago, I was pacing the floor/wringing my hands/generally being wound up and annoying in the vicinity of my man-partner.
I nattered on about 2015 and all the big, exciting, really difficult things that are coming my way this year. I talked (at length) about all the articles I was reading and the books I’d ordered so I could research everything in exhausting, minute detail. I discussed the counsel I’d sought in experienced friends and professionals.
I couldn’t shake the belief that no matter what I do, or how I prepare, I’m going to screw it up, ruin my business, and fall into a carb coma so deep I’ll never dig myself out from beneath all those buttered noodles.
After listening to me drone on for hours a few minutes, that calm, kind man said reminded me of a plot point featured in nearly every fantasy/sci-fi/magical book his sons read: The wizard in the woods

When you’re the hero of your own story, you very frequently begin your journey with a cape and a staff and a interaction with a wise, mysterious wizard.He’ll appear beside a gnarled tree and tell you all about the amazing things that await once you reach your goal. Gold! Self actualization! A castle! Your very own dragon!

But – he cautions you – your journey will be fraught with peril. You’ll meet temptation and distraction. You’ll doubt yourself, your travel companions, you’ll question why you ever started on this stupid adventure anyway.

It will be challenging because that’s the nature of adventure.
This is what happens when you go after what you want.

You’ll be required to show persistence and bravery. Yes, this will be hard, but you knew that. Hell, you expected that.

I immediately felt better. I have a tendency (like many of us) to only do things I’m good at. Apparently I also believe that research and preparation will protect me and if something’s hard, I’m doing it wrong.
But a lot of things in life – big career choices, friendships and relationships, huge athletic goals, moving to a new city – are hard and right. Next time you’re engaged in floor-pacing and hand-wringing, I’d encourage you to remember that wizard in the woods. This is your path and your adventure. You can do this.
Do you have a go-to analogy that helps you navigate hard times? I’d love to hear them in the comments!
P.P.S. No, I’m not pregnant nor am I attempting to become so. 🙂
photo by Ben Clarke // cc

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  1. Courtney

    I love this post, thank you so much for it! I also tend to avoid things that are hard for me, preferring to feel productive and successful all the time, and tying that to my self-worth. But one of my intentions for 2015 is to be fearless, which means pushing myself out of my comfort zone. And I signed up for a really big cross-country ski race, something that is very outside of my zone! So I will definitely be returning to this post over and over again as I train. Especially this line:

    "It will be challenging because that's the nature of adventure. This is what happens when you go after what you want."

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      The good stuff is usually hard, right? Congrats on taking on big things!

  2. boppinalong

    Thank you for this. I was just having a similar conversation. For me 2015 is about action over perfection. I'm also trying to get comfortable with the idea of failure. If you challenge yourself things don't always go right but at least you are pushing your own limitations, growing and that is good thing. Yikes.

  3. Brianna Soloski

    Progress > perfection. I have a tough semester ahead. Not because my classes are hard, but because I have a lot on my plate and I'm doing more things in less time. But everything always gets done and everything always works out.

  4. katielookingforward

    While this analogy doesn't quite fit for me (I wouldn't read harry potter until I had seen all but the last two movies, and fell asleep during each lord of the rings….shameful I know). I loved the life has big plans for you post.

    I definitely tend to only do the things I'm good at, and/or I give myself so much grace to do things at the beginner level, that I rarely push myself to see just how far I can go. Hopefully that will change a bit in 2015, I'm considering grad school (actually the IMC program at St. Kates) which some days seems like the obvious next step for me, and other days seems like a total cop out for just trying my best and learning as I go on my own.

  5. Anna

    Are you familiar with Joseph Campbell's monomyth of the hero? It's a common pattern for hero and journey stories — this story reminded me of it. So much good stuff on the call to adventure and overcoming trials along the way.

  6. Pieliekamais

    Love this post!

  7. Kelly

    Oh wow. I'm hip deep in my PhD research right now, and it certainly feels like a long dark tea-time of the soul right now. This was a great reminder to buck up and get back to work!

  8. Kelly Jo

    I echo Courtney and Kate: oh my god, did this hit me! Going through that exact debate about grad school in my head right now and frequently getting lost in it. I'm also getting ready for my first-ever solo backpacking trip in Central America! Even though I actively pursued and planned each of those things, I feel overwhelmed by the number of big things looming ahead. I'll check out that article about grad school!

  9. KrisWithaK


    I just took my kids to the last Hobbit movie, and when I was leaving I started thinking about how much I wished that I had a Gandalf in my life to keep me moving forward and to show up with sage warnings or advice at key plot points.

    I'm glad I"m not the only one who needs a wizard in the woods 🙂


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