This Is The Bridge – And I Must Cross It

Mountains Trail Hiking Path Road

The weather was beautiful as I headed out with a friend to the trailhead one afternoon. My hiking backpack loaded with snacks, water and medical supplies was on my back, and a light breeze coasted over the mountains

We parked on a sleepy little side street, applied our sunscreen and entered the trail marked by dirty pink ribbons. After climbing sideways through a few switchbacks we made  it onto a small clearing. We could see the ocean, mountains in the distance, and our destination straight ahead:  the summit at the end of the trail.

The Peak Ahead

From where we were standing the peak appeared to be an hour or two of solid hiking.  There was a small forest at the base of the hill we would need to climb – and along the way we would face elephant grass, cactus, rocks and good old fashioned heat: there was no shade anywhere once the clouds gave way.

Undaunted, we set our sights on the peak ahead and started hiking.

After hiking most of the way the obstacles we had encountered started taking their toll – our arms and legs were (and actually still are) scraped up from the elephant grass, thorny plants, rocks and the occasional branch or tree stump.  With sweat in our eyes and vog (volcanic fog) scratching our throats we trudged forward making steady progress.

A Rough Patch

We came across a portion of the trail that looked particularly difficult and taxing – a brutal, steep hill climb through some dense, tall elephant grass.  We were sure to get cut up, likely get lost inside it, and there was no way that any wind was penetrating that thick grass forest.  Just standing next to it we could feel the heat emanating out of the grass.  It was a short section, but uncomfortable and difficult.

We were unenthusiastic about conquering this section of the trail, so we took a step back and surveyed our options:

  • To the left, a steep fall off the ridge and certain doom.
  • To the right: a steep fall of the ridge into cactus plants, certain pain, and uncertain doom.
  • Straight ahead – suffering, but hopefully eventual triumph

There was only one way that we could reach our goal: we had to climb through that elephant grass hill.  It was either that or retreat.

After gathering our breath, we buckled down and began to push through the grass.

It took a a very long time – we could see the ribbons marking the trail ahead in the distance, and every step required concerted effort and (optional) grunting and yelling.   Finally I punched my hand through the last of the grass, grabbed some tree trunks and pulled myself up the last few feet of the hill – the salt from my sweat burning in my scrapes.

After crossing the elephant grass forest, everything else was easy and we reached the peak at the end of the trail.  Along the way I remember thinking at that particularly taxing section:

This is the bridge – and I must cross it.

This Is The Bridge – And I Must Cross It

That phrase has helped me through some difficult challenges in my life.  Just as we had to choose what we wanted to do when faced with the thick elephant grass forest, in life we often come across situations that really only have two options:

  • Retreat and accept failure
  • Realize that this is the bridge – and that we must cross it.

I define a bridge as any type of experience or path that will take me from where I am to where I want to go – or need to be.  Very often I’ve seen friends and colleagues see a bridge in front of them, and then get stuck.  They know it’s there, but are afraid (or simply in denial) of the chasm that exists. 

I think part of this is because they don’t realize that a bridge is just that – a connection.  It’s a temporary situation, but one that must be endured to get to the other side.  I approach bridges with the mentality of “This too shall pass” – the difference being that we choose to put ourselves in situations that I call bridges.

In my life I’ve encountered a few difficult situations – but simply realizing that I had come to a bridge, and needed to cross it, has made all the difference.

Crossing My Bridges

Here are two example of bridges I’ve encountered in my life – where I could have retreated, but chose to instead push forward.

Lifting Weights In College

When I entered college, I weighed 114.5 lbs – at 5’11.  I decided I wanted to gain some muscle, and convinced some of my friends to come down to the gym to lift weights with me.  When we got there, I learned that I was much weaker than all of them, and significantly less muscular than all the college athletes also training in the gym.

I was a little intimidated and considered giving up on weight training, or perhaps put it off until later – and that’s when I realized I had come to a bridge – and I had to cross it.  Until I gained muscle I would always be the smallest guy in the gym.  I decided I could either give up, or just accept the feeling of awkwardness & discomfort – and cross this bridge.

So I continued to go to the gym, in spite of my awkwardness.  One of the regulars there, Jarius gave me some advice and helped show me proper form.  Another friend of mine, Justin, helped to keep me motivated and we discussed nutrition.  It was a slog, but eventually I was no longer out of place in the gym – I felt like I belonged.  

Making New Friends In Los Angeles

I moved to Los Angeles in 2003, and I knew only a handful of people there.  After being there for a little while I started to feel a little homesick, and missed my friends and family. I considered moving back home – and that’s when I again realized I had come to a bridge – and I had to cross it.  I could either retreat back to the safety of home, or I could push through the awkwardness of learning my surroundings and making new friends.  It was a temporary situation that I could change if I chose to.  So I did – I stepped out of my comfort zone, and for the first time met random people through Craig’s list.  I actively organized social events, and made friends with strangers everywhere.

I have always loved the culture and music of big cities, but by the time I left Los Angeles I enjoyed that as well as a healthy social circle – cultivated one person at a time through music, tennis, running and networking events.

Neither of the above two cases were easy for me – I had to work hard to get from where I was to where I wanted to be.  The important thing I realized however is that in each case, I was simply on a bridge – and had to make steady, dedicated progress to get to where I needed to be.  As long as we continue to put one foot in front of the other, we’ll eventually cross our bridges.

Progress Is All You Need

Oftentimes when discussing goals and motivation we’ll talk about peaks and valleys – times when we are very motivated, and times when our motivation and passion fades.  I think that one mistake we make however (and I do this as well) is believing that our progress with our goals is tied to the way we feel.

We believe that when we are highly motivated and feeling great that things are progressing quickly – and they often are. Conversely when things are difficult, we feel less motivated, and it feels like very little progress is being made due to obstacles we encounter on the way.  We think that we’ve hit a valley, and get discouraged.  This is where I think a change of perspective is in order, because against difficult obstacles, sometimes slow progress is the only kind of progress you can make.

Instead of viewing difficult situations as a valley, I mentally change my perspective and tell myself this is a bridge – a crossing, and that going through this is the only path to the other side, so I might as well get on with it.

Our progress through the elephant grass was much slower than walking through a golf course fairway, but nobody would expect us to go any faster.  So when things get difficult, and progress slows, I like to step back and see what I’m doing wrong – and in some cases, there is nothing I’m doing wrong – it’s just the nature of the task at hand.

That’s when I remind myself that:

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Comments 39

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  2. Ali Hale

    Really great post, Sid; I love the way you tell real stories and draw me in! I think there are too many people in the “personal development” sphere promoting the idea that achieving our goals should be effortless and that we should be feeling constantly motivated, fired up and enthused.

    Sometimes, it's a long hard slog! There's nothing wrong with that — it doesn't mean you've gone in the wrong direction, or that you're being pessimistic — it just means facing the elephant grass to make it to the summit. (Great metaphor, btw!)

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  6. Anastasiya

    I love hiking and I could feel the excitement rushing through me veins when I was reading your article. I wish I could go on a hike like that too. WOW! And you are right that any difficulty that we face in life is nothing but a bridge. It is our choice who to react to this difficulty and which path to choose. Nobody makes you go forward if you do not want to but at the same time if you retreat you will never find out what is in front of you.
    Great article in all senses!

  7. Miche - Serenity Hacker

    Great post, to think of our transitional points as a bridge. People don't cross the bridge often because it is so darn uncomfortable, often so unknown… it sometimes can seem like every bridge is an entirely new bridge, and you think “yet another bridge, what the…” But yes, they need to be crossed, they take you where you want to go, even though they show up at times when you're least expecting them.

    Thanks for sharing this,

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  9. marioremedios

    Wow, really great post. We all face bridges all the time. Particularly during the tough times. Thanks for this post!

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  11. mrjWells

    Hey Sid, this one line sums up my take away from this post: “Instead of viewing difficult situations as a valley, I mentally change my perspective and tell myself this is a bridge – a crossing, and that going through this is the only path to the other side, so I might as well get on with it.” This perspective is the one that leads to a successful and rewarding life. Nicely done!

  12. Sid Savara

    Hey Ali,

    Thanks! Funny that today I also read an article about how people like
    stories on blogs. Maybe I'll do more of that – I enjoy writing them =)

    What?? Achieving our goals isn't effortless? I must have been misled

  13. Sid Savara

    Hi Anastasiya,

    Your name is awesome!

    I'm glad you enjoyed the article =).

    The hike was really intense! I love hiking, and wish I had explored more of
    the island before this when I was younger and had more free time (and healed
    from cuts faster!) =)

  14. Sid Savara

    Hi Bea,

    Thanks for your comment!

    You're right – there are a lot of different choices and paths we take on
    every day. I agree it's usually best to move forward, even though sometimes
    we really should retreat ;)

  15. Sid Savara

    Hi mrjWells,

    Thanks for your comment!

    You know, you're right – that one line does sum it up. I like that
    perspective much better than staring at a problem and not knowing what to do
    about it =)

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  20. Tristan Lee

    Hey Sid. Thanks for this crossing story of yours. I also like going hiking and I do it every Sunday with my uncle and aunt. I find it relieving, relaxing, also helps me clear my mind for what I want to do for the rest of the day.

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  22. Christine Livingston

    Thanks for this post. I've found it inspirational.

    I've completely changed my life recently to create space to build a different kind of business. My excitement is immense, but just yesterday the rubber hit the road when I began to get down to thinking about exactly HOW I was going to realise my dream. Having the map is one thing. Being on the journey is another. Your post reminded me that bridges come along because they need to be crossed. They are points of both immense challenge and immense learning. They're not easy, nor should they be. Thanks for reminding me of that too.

  23. Sid Savara

    Hey Tristan,

    Thanks for your comment! I totally agree – getting out to nature, looking
    down across the mountain definitely gives me some perspective and helps me
    clear my thoughts!

  24. Sid Savara

    Hey Christine,

    Thanks for your comment!

    Good luck building your new (or new kind of =) ) business! I know what you
    mean about the rubber hitting the road – it's always the getting down to it,
    the working hard (“hustle” as Gary V puts it) that makes the difference.

  25. Carlos

    From all the personal development bloggers I used to follow, you are one of the few that keep bloggin' about truly personal dev. and not senseless soap-opera stuff (don't know why, but once they have reached certain level of success, they start to post about their meaningless love life or act like a Hollywood star and insult other people who do not think like them).

    Keep up the good job, always refresing!

    Regards from Spain.

  26. Sid Savara

    Hi Carlos,

    Hey man thanks so much for your comment! I really appreciate the vote of
    confidence and I promise – no senseless soap operas from me =). Until I get
    rich and famous – just kidding ;)

  27. Sid Savara

    Hi Carlos,

    Hey man thanks so much for your comment! I really appreciate the vote of
    confidence and I promise – no senseless soap operas from me =). Until I get
    rich and famous – just kidding ;)

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