Do What You Can’t

“To the haters, the doubters, to anyone who ever told someone with a dream that they can’t…”

I can’t tell you how much I like people doubting me.

It drives me just as much as my personal ambition. I’m aggressively competitive, and when the opportunity to prove doubters wrong comes along, I am ruthless in showing them that I’m not what they think.

Maybe that’s something I shouldn’t shout about. It may come across as arrogant, or at least a little egotistical. I don’t mean it to be, and I certainly don’t want to seem like I’m out here just to prove a point or bring people down. But I do feel that when people say I can’t do something, it lights a fire inside me to prove I can.

The YouTuber, Casey Neistat, said that when people say you can’t do something, what they’re really saying is that they can’t see themselves doing it, so they project that onto everyone else around them.

When I gave up a secure job in Geomatics, people warned me that travelling would be a sure way to make myself unemployable. I was asked to consider what my resumé would look like to employers when I returned penniless from years of moving from country to country.

Seventeen years later, I haven’t had a problem finding work anywhere in the world. I guess international life experience is actually something that employers value.

I also have yet to find myself destitute and unable to escape from whatever unfortunate situation that these people had warned me I would find myself in.

Smiles for miles

“You could never do that. Only the most elite and experienced hikers in the world succeed at that!”

Many years ago, I was working in Asia with an experienced hiker from the USA. I told them about my plans to one day attempt the Triple Crown.

Their response was to say that someone like me could never do it. Only the best of the best could.

I’m sure that’s the case. But that puts me in an awkward spot. I’ve done the Appalachian Trail in its entirety. I have faith in myself that I can complete the Pacific Crest Trail and then the Continental Divide Trail, but I would never put myself anywhere near the most elite hikers. Not even in the top 10,000. I just walk a lot.

So, the only conclusion must be that they’re wrong. Normal people can do the Triple Crown. If I can, then that proves it. I’m not the best of anything. Certainly not one of the best in the world. I will do it, though. I will do it because I want to, not just to prove them wrong. I will prove them wrong, though.

But I’m not there… yet.

I have completed one of the three and am currently on the second. I’m enjoying it. We’ll see what happens in the Sierras. That seems to be the huge unknown. San Jacinto and Baden-Powell were no real problem, so I have faith I can make it through, although I know the Sierras are another animal completely. Buried under the most snow ever recorded in that region, they will be a huge challenge that dwarfs anything that came before it.

“Rumours are mostly a projection of the person who started them.”

After I got through the San Jacinto Wilderness, I felt that the whole array of horror stories I’d heard leading up to it had been fear mongering from people trying to justify their fears by presenting them as truths.

I hesitate to put comments regarding snow climbs and traverses on FarOut because I don’t want my experience to influence others. I know I’m gifted with long legs, height, and many years of mountaineering in deep snow, but I don’t have the authority to tell anyone how bad or good conditions are on a certain mountain, creek crossing, or desert section.

My perception of ease and difficulty is only a reality to me.

Yet some comments I see some are happy to give extreme opinions that are deeply personal and present them as fact.

On the Appalachian Trail, one of my tramily members spent a lot of the time in a deep state of worry about the next big climb or creek crossing. Rumours spread through the trail community that our next obstacle would be the most challenging one so far; a creation of nature just waiting to break hikers and end thru-hikes.

Whether it was any particular mountain or long hillside descent, the comments on FarOut and the whispers through the hiking community would hit new highs of negativity each time.

Then, after passing that point, we would always say, “That wasn’t as bad as people made out.”

“History repeats itself endlessly for those who are unwilling to learn from the past.

Here on the PCT, the same is true. Sat outside the Paradise Valley Café with a group of hikers, I was strongly warned l that following the PCT through the snow-covered San Jacinto Wilderness was a reckless decision; something that would either lead to my demise or the unnecessary risk to Search and Rescue as they would inevitably have to be called to bail me out.

Three days later, I was relaxing at a trail angel’s home. My only injury was a little sunburn on my cheeks.

Then the same warnings were echoed as I approached Mt. Baden-Powell. The snow would be too treacherous. This isn’t San Jacinto. You aren’t a professional mountaineer.

Two hours after starting, I was stood on the peak, watching the most incredible sunrise on trail so far.

They’re right about one thing. I’m not a professional mountaineer. But the weather report said low wind speeds, clear skies, and good temperatures for walking on snow. Also, the way had been tracked out by many, many intrepid hikers who had blazed a trail before me.

That doesn’t matter to the doubters. They’re ready with a brand new thing to tell us we can’t do.

Now, approaching the Sierras, those fear mongerers are back again; spreading negativity, telling everyone else that failure is inevitable.

The view approaching Kennedy Meadows

“One who makes no mistakes makes nothing at all”

Casey Neistat has a YouTube video called “Do what you can’t.”

It’s an incredibly inspiring 3-minute video that tells you to go out and give it a go. Whatever it is, at least try.

The truth is that you don’t know unless you try. If they haven’t tried, then they don’t. If they’ve done it, they have their experience, but their experience isn’t necessarily going to be the same as yours.

Don’t put off your dreams because someone else says, “You can’t.”

And so what if you don’t succeed? At least you tried.

To quote Casey Neistat, again, “The haters, the doubters are all drinking champagne in the top deck of the Titanic, and we are the fucking iceberg.”

So go out and prove them wrong. Prove to them you can. Show them that their fears shouldn’t be projected onto you.

“Fortune favours the brave.”

“Don’t ask, don’t get.”

And just as Casey says, “Do what you can’t.”

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Comments 2

  • Riley Simpson : Jun 8th

    I hope all goes well with the Sierras! I have seen many hikers that are not experienced do things they thought of as insurmountable tasks. With a little courage we can achieve a lot more than we think. Godspeed Lookout!

  • Julie D Mathis : Jun 21st

    I fricking LOVE this post. Thanks for writing it.


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