Updated: Jan 11, 2020
In honor of 9-11, I decided I would do the #911Challenge-- climbing 110 flights of stairs with 50 pounds on my back. It took me 37 minutes of climbing and I had to take a break half way because I felt like my knees were buckling every time I took a step. IT. WAS. BRUTAL.
To complete this challenge, I borrowed some weights from our training room, put them in my backpack, and headed to the stair climber at the rec center. I selected my podcast and started climbing with one thing in mind: 110 flights of stairs.
After about 20 flights of stairs, I quickly lost sight of that thought. My back was already hurting and sweat was already running into my eyes. By the time I had reached the 30th flight of stairs, my thought quickly shifted to "one at a time."
"One at a time" was all my brain could handle. I was no longer seeing how long it took me to climb 20 steps or trying to climb 60 floors before the halfway point of my podcast. Nope. One at a time. More than once I thought I wouldn't be able to finish. I thought about the first responders on 9-11. How did they keep going? In order to save anyone, they could only go one step at a time with no distractions. What if they had allowed themselves to be overwhelmed by the height of the building, the weight of their equipment, or the panic in the streets? Fear would have paralyzed them and no one would have been rescued.
We have all heard cliche sayings like "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." But I learned that the concept of simple, tangible maneuvers are not little sayings to help us get off the couch. They are tactics that determine life or death. The mission when the Twin Towers were attacked was to save as many people as possible. The method was one step at a time for 110 floors as many times as necessary. The mission is the desired outcome. The method is what can be done right now that works toward that desired outcome.
18 years later, that thinking is still relevant. I thought about how much fear has controlled my own thinking because the weight was too heavy and there were too many floors. But if I only worried about what can I do right now? how different would my life be? What if my actions, influence, example, or service literally saved someone else? Gave them hope? Softened their hearts? I would still be afraid, but I could tell fear to shut up.
We have a duty as Americans to honor the fallen from September 11, 2001. They did not give up their lives for our freedom so we can lock ourselves away in prison built by our own fears. Every day, in their honor, we must ask ourselves
1. What if my gifts save someone? Just as those officers, firefighters, and EMT's trained every day for the opportunity to save a life, never knowing when it would come. Believe that the world needs you at your best!
2. What is my mission? No distractions, no nonsense, what would it take? If it takes 110 flights of stairs and 50 pounds of equipment as many times as necessary then that's what it takes. Suite up and get moving.
3. What is within my immediate reach to fulfill that mission? One step at a time. Don't worry about paying off that debt or quitting that habit or restoring your marriage. Those are desirable outcomes that are only possible by the daily steps we take. Think of the "happily ever after" ending to your story. How did you get there? It wouldn't be with a quick fix or a few sessions with a therapist. Real accomplishment comes from the daily methods that support the mission.
My prayer for you is that September 11, 2019 would be the day you put yourself in the shoes of those who laid down their lives for their fellow Americans and realize how you can do great things too. In honor of them, yourself, and our country, breathe in that relentless spirit and never look back. Do it scared. Do it simply. Do it now.