Be Selfish

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-by Matt Leedham

(written on Monday, February 7, 2011)

I am sitting on a bench at the scenic overlook of the Great Falls of the Potomac River in Maryland. I have my laptop out and am typing away, getting quizzical stares by the occasional hiker. I wasn’t planning on using any technology today, but the mood struck me to write. And so when it does, I must write. This post has no intent, other than to share a personal experience. It’s not particular deep in meaning, nor is it choc-full of practical tips for aspiring achievers. And I’m okay with that.

I scheduled the day off of work today on purpose. My goal was not to sit around the house and watch movies, but rather to be inspired. I should rephrase that. My hope was to be inspired. My goal was to go enjoy the day, preferably outdoors.

I learned of this “Inspiration Day” concept from my Challenge Buddy (it’s like a step up from an accountability partner). The idea is to just go out into the world (or into the wild) and explore. For some people, that may mean going to the shopping mall. For me, today, it meant driving along Clara Barton Parkway in DC up the Potomac River until I crossed the Maryland state line.

I stopped at Great Falls and hiked the trail for about half a mile. I found a little clearing off the main trail that seemed to lead down to the riverbed. I followed the trail a ways and came to a large, rocky inlet. There was a clearing of the rocks, and out of it formed what resembled a small beach. Not Caribbean by any means, but sand, water, and a beautiful scene.

I sat there for some time, soaking it all in. I reflected. I wrote some things down. I breathed. I ate some grapes, drank some water, and threw some stones into the river. Near some branches and rocks along the riverbank, foamy water had gathered and it looked like the top of a lemon meringue pie. I just watched it for awhile since I had never seen that kind of thing before. I got cold, put on my extra sweatshirt, and began to walk back up to the main trail. I was probably down there for an hour or an hour and a half. I’m not sure. I didn’t look at my watch.

I began walking back the way I had come in. This time, noticeably slower. I felt at ease. Along the canal to my right were 6 mallard ducks. When I noticed them, I stopped to watch. When I did, they began to swim toward the middle of the canal, away from me. One of the females didn’t see me and kept digging in the mud with her beak. Then a male duck came back for her and scurried her along back to the group. It was then that I realized that they were travelling in pairs, as couples. Three “married” couples were just going about their business on a lazy afternoon. I chuckled.

After some more walking, and more observing, I find myself here. Just sitting on this bench, listening to the powerful sound of white water rapids.

Did I achieve my goal for the day? Absolutely. Did I realize my hope for the day? I’m not sure. But what I can say is that I’ve written more in 40 minutes than I normally do in 2 hours. Not earth-shattering results, I’ll admit, but there’s something to be said for unplugging from the madness…from going off the grid for a day or an afternoon. It may take longer for some than others, but a clarity and focus sets in that is hard to get when your eyes are twitching from trying to keep up with your laptop, desktop, smart phone, GPS, satellite radio, and TV.

Take some time with yourself. Sharpen the saw, as Stephen Covey would put it. If you don’t put you first, who will?

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