"Freaking out and getting lost at Yosemite helped me find myself."
Life is about experiences. Doing stuff, seeing places and meeting people. This is what enriches and deepens who we are. It feeds the soul and adds layers to our being.
If you're working on a startup, you know how intense the journey can be. Making time to stop and breathe is paramount. Your ability to do this, particularly during crisis mode, can actually dictate whether or not your startup flies or flounders.
It takes great personal discipline to be able to walk away and take time out but we need to do this regularly - all of us. Removing yourself from the business, helps shift your perception on issues you've been dealing with at the frontline but more importantly, you also create an opportunity for adventure.
On one of my trips to the US in 2016, I found myself with the unexpected luxury of a free day. I knew instantly, it was time to tick an item off the bucket list.
I was in San Francisco in the great state of California, a land blessed with so many amazing natural wonders to explore. On top of my list was Yosemite National Park. I made arrangements, booked and paid for tickets and eagerly awaited the early morning bus.
Initially, during the bus trip, I was feverishly making notes regarding a startup concept I was playing with. For the most part of almost two hours it was head down transfixed by this latest concept. I was oblivious to the geological wonderland we were navigating through.
It was the excited tones of all the other travellers that got my attention. I put my pen down and looked up from my notebook. I was instantly transfixed by the landscape around me.
I realised I hadn't been in the moment. I hadn't given myself the time I needed to just lose my thoughts in the surrounds. This was a bucket list dream and here I was missing it. I packed my pen and notebook away and immersed myself in the surrounds.
When we arrived at Yosemite, the driver informed us we had five hours to go exploring. His instructions were clear - 'stick to the main tracks, go wandering but not too far out and watch out for bears'.
The giant granite cliffs and waterfalls were spectacular to say the least. A world away from the tech and startups that consume my day, I was now being inspired by the enormous sequoia groves and the lush forrest.
Also, as a Steve Jobs fanboy and knowing how much he loved this place [the reason why it's a wallpaper on Apple comps] I could clearly see the inspiration that drove his contemplated design.
In a place as beautiful as this and with a renewed sense of adventure, it was hard to stick on a main track. I went wandering and wander I did.
Off track, deeper into the park, through the valley and now on my own. It was some time into my adventure, I realised there was no one else around me. I could no longer hear any other tourists or see any happy campers. I had lost all sense of time [and navigation].
I was lost at Yosemite. Trying to think rationally, I tried to follow my tracks back to the starting point but they had all but disappeared - absorbed back into mother nature's fold.
My heart now pounding, my head in a spin, feeling hot and somewhat fearful, I knew I had to do something.
I chose to stop. Focus on the silence and take in the surrounds. Deep breathe. Silence. I meditated. I could almost feel the heartbeat of Yosemite. I was connected.
Freaking out and getting lost at Yosemite helped me find myself. It was at the point I realised yet again the extent of the frenetic and reactive lives we live. In the fast paced and ever changing landscape we coexist in it's more important than ever to stop and be in the moment - take it all in - no matter what the situation. Good or bad - take it in. Understand it, appreciate it and be responsive.
Lost, yet feeling strangely comforted, I knew I only had a small window of time to find my way back before the bus returned to San Fran.
With a total sense of calm and knowing, I started walking. Listening to my instincts, I continued my journey down a new path. I walked for some time before I finally, through the trees, caught a glimpse of Half Dome and it looked spectacular [I took the picture above to always remember this moment].
I knew where I was. Before not too long, I could hear the conversations of other travellers as I navigated through the camp sites again.
I found my way. I found myself.
The experience reminded me to create opportunity for adventure and always plan to realise dreams.
When the dream becomes a reality, be in the moment and take it all in - because when the moment is gone, it's gone and you'd hate to miss it.
Also, when the going gets tough - stop, breathe and work towards responding rather than reacting - it makes the world of difference.
Finally, use the Force and always trust your instincts.