“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.” ~ Muhammad Ali

June 5, 2016 — Leave a comment

It’s one of the most uncomfortable feelings in the world. It steals away your attention from anything else, and forces you to focus on its discomfort. And yet, no matter the size of the object, we press on when all it would take is a short break to remove the shoe and shake out the coarse disturbance that rattles within.

We’ve all been there. While walking, hiking, or running, we’ve managed to get rocks and other debris in our shoes. But what about that discomfort do we enjoy that seems to prevent us from shaking out the shoe? Why is it, that we cannot be bothered to pause and stop such a distraction when we know that if we do not, the rock will eventually create a blister which can lead to more intense discomfort and possible leave us unable to walk for a while.

It’s a juvenile lesson we think we learn at a young age. I remember being younger and neglecting to put my shoes on before I left the house to play. Eventually we learn that we need those rubber soles to keep our feet safe and free from injury so we can keep moving forward, yet when we get those shoes on, sometimes we don’t want to waste the effort of taking them back off, even if there is a rock in them.

This is relevant to the distractions we encounter on our path to success or while following our dream. The mountain is your dream, and the top is your desire. One would think that the actual journey would be exhausting, however, if that mountain is your passion then the work takes on a different connotation. Now, place the tiniest, most insignificant piece of stone in your shoe, and see how much fun that journey is.

That stone, similar to the pebble Mr. Ali speaks of, symbolizes the distractions we face while achieving our purpose, or following our dreams. But here’s the kicker, any distraction that hangs you up on your journey, is your fault.

That’s right, distractions will always be there. They come in many shapes and in many sizes, but it is inevitably how we deal with them that affects how we pursue our dreams.

Variations of this quote have been published since 1916 in a trade publication for the insurance industry. More commonly attributed to Robert W. Service’s quote,

It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out — it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.”

It is difficult to find when and where Ali said his variation, but one of the first uses of his variation was utilized in a satirical fashion in Bryan Burwell’s November, 2003 article; Tossing Off Pebble Costs the Cardinals Mountain of Bucks, in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Whether it is a grain of sand, or a pebble, either signifies an inevitable boulder of distraction that can send you careening off of your desired course.

So the next time you feel something rattling around your shoe, or you acknowledge the distraction ahead of you, take a moment and shake free the debris and take a few breaths. Meditate or pray and be on your way. Be ready for the next distraction and plan to take the time necessary to find the correct path around that boulder so you can continue on your way to the top.

By: David Joseph Leingang

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