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November 22, 1990

No Silver Bullet: A Life-Long Walk in the Same Direction

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“Endurance is patience concentrated.”
Thomas Carlyle

We’re always looking for shortcuts. Faster routes to work with less traffic. 5 easy steps to lose 10 pounds. Quick and simple meals that taste great. Even our phones and keyboards come preloaded with more shortcuts than we could ever use. Less work in less time with the same results. That’s what we want.
But shortcuts don’t work well in life, and they especially don’t work well for the things that really matter. You can’t hit the shortcut button to climb the corporate ladder or earn your graduate degree. There’s no corner to cut to fix your marriage or heal from the loss of a loved one. You can’t pull a fast life-judo move and find yourself in a state of flourishing. As a matter of fact, shortcuts are fundamentally antithetical to the flourishing life. The flourishing life takes time, and it takes work over time.
The flourishing life also requires intentionality. In the previous chapter I warned that no one magically falls into a healthy rhythm of rest in their life. The same applies to the flourishing life as a whole. You simply aren’t going to happen upon it by accident. We don’t willy-nilly run into the flourishing life. On the contrary, the flourishing life is a life of conscious choices and commitments, made and reaffirmed over time.
Be careful no to miss the ‘over time’ part of that last statement, because it’s critical. The most dangerous misconception about flourishing is that it’s a destination. It’s not. Flourishing is a state that we live in now and one that we are constantly working toward. If I want to flourish, and to do so over the long haul, then I must learn to hold these two concepts in tension: the flourishing of the moment and the goal I intend to reach or achieve.
I will never stay in a place of flourishing. I must always grow. I must always find myself in a season of pruning. I must always take time to deepen my roots in the barren times of winter that life throws at me.
A flourishing life is made up of an entirety of flourishing of moments. All the moments of my life build and compound and grow into a life resembling majestic maple tree—vast and spreading, deep and growing.
As you’ve probably already noticed, I love to fish. There are few things I enjoy more than getting lost fishing up and down a great small mouth or trout river. I remember watching great local anglers when I was a boy and immediately knowing that I wanted to catch big beautiful fish just like they did. So, one day, I showed up with all my fishing gear to a popular creek and started catching trophy fish all morning. Almost at once I achieved what I dreamt about. I was a master fisherman.
Like most fishing stories, this one isn’t even close to being true. I didn’t just show up on a riverbank and start catching trout. I intentionally set out on a journey to become a fisherman. What’s interesting, though, is that I would call myself a fisherman and I would say I am always becoming a fisherman. I’m always learning new tricks of the craft, new places to fish and understanding how to best use my gear.
I didn’t just show up with fishing gadgets and Voila! I set out with a specific goal and I continue to achieve that goal—the ever growing, ever learning fisherman.
If I desire a life of flourishing I’m not just going to show up and hope everything goes my way. I will put my hand to plow, as it were, and begin the daily intentional acts that accompany living life to the fullest.

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