When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Philosophical

I am less than one week out from kicking off my NOBO AT attempt.  The rosy visions of campfire sing-alongs and sweeping vistas that filled my mind’s eye six months ago when I committed to this plan have given way to the very real Instagrams of my soggy, chilly, tired, trailblazing comrades who have already taken their first steps on the AT.  The hikers tell me that sticking out an AT thru-hike is as much a mental game as a physical one, if not more.  “Mind over matter,” they say.   But as I dip from Brooklyn brewpub to toasty, waiting Uber through a surprise bout of thick sleet, I can’t help but wonder:  am I going to die cold and alone in the woods?

In an attempt to temporarily assuage my very real fear of dying (or at least being quite cold and wet), I’ve turned my attention to collecting quotes by some great thinkers to keep me moving.  Now, I love a good “hike your own hike.”  And I certainly don’t mean to snub my nose at a well-intended “you’ve got this!”  But, at the risk of coming off as an inspirational-quote snob, I do like a little more cultural heft to my motivation.

In that spirit, here are a few mantras and quotes that I intend to deploy as needed:

  1. “If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.” –  Pres. Barack Obama
  2. “You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” – Toni Morrison
  3. “You’re off to great places, today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.” – Dr. Seuss
  4. “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” – John Muir
  5. “The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  6. “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.” – Confucius
  7. “When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you … never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe
  8. “Me: unbothered, moisturized, in my lane, well-hydrated, flourishing.” – Cardi B
  9. “I am a slow walker, but I never walk back.” – Abraham Lincoln 
  10. “If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?” – Rumi
  11. “Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.” – Lorraine Hansberry
  12. “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain
  13. “It goes, boys!” – Lynn Hill
  14. “Shut up, legs.” – Jens Voigt (who also, famously, has the words “I am mother fucking Jens Voigt” printed on the neck of his bike)


And finally, as a man wiser than famous once said: “How do you know that this is not a blessing?”  Share your go-to quotes with me below.

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Comments 4

  • keith wingad : Mar 5th

    Success is getting up one more time than you fall down.

  • Steve F : Mar 7th

    “Don’t give up! Don’t ever give up!”
    – Jimmy Valvano

  • Matt "Smokey" Davis : Apr 25th

    ‘Take many trails in life. Just make sure some of them are dirt’ – John Muir.

  • Matt "Smokey" Davis : Apr 25th

    ‘When the going gets tough … the tough get going’ – John Belushi “Animal House”


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